PA reflects on the LCTC

We all make questionable decisions sometimes. Those of us who are parents can look back on some of our early parenthood experiences and cringe at what we didn’t know, like when my husband and I thought we knew how to babywear safely.  In terms of infant feeding, I used to set my alarm in two hour increments throughout the night to make sure my daughter wouldn’t starve. Yikes.

Recently, first time parents brought their baby to Bryan Powell, PA, CLC and his colleagues at Northeast Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. for routine newborn care. The baby had lost 11 percent of its weight, so after the medical exam, the family was seen by one of the nurse CLCs. When the nurse suggested the mother bring the baby to the breast, she laid the baby on the exam table and dangled her breast over its mouth.

“The baby is frantic and upset and dad comes and swoops baby off the table and says ‘Get ready for take off’ pretending the baby is an airplane,” Powell recalls.

The baby continued to cry, so the mother attempted to soothe the baby by putting her finger in its mouth.

“The first encounter didn’t go well,” Powell reports.

The family was seen again the next day, and the baby was up to 13.5 percent weight loss, but was otherwise well.

Powell spent the next hour counseling the new family. They talked about how newborns don’t yet understand that the airplane game is playful and fun, and how the best place for baby is at the breast. They talked about how finger soothing can sometimes cause inadvertent satiation from the sucking reflex causing secretion of hormones.

Powell learned that the mother was struggling with mastitis and explained the function of draining the breast. He learned that the dad was feeling defeated because his airplane game hadn’t been received well. Instead, Powell suggested the dad do skin-to-skin with the baby.

“The baby calmed down in two minutes listening to his heartbeat,” Powell remembers. “Dad felt useful. He had a new job and got a good snuggle.”

Now relaxed, the mother brought the baby to breast and they were able to find a comfortable latch and positioning.

The following day, the baby had gained four ounces.

Powell spends a lot of his time helping new families navigate the potentially cringe-worthy moments of new parenting. He attributes much of his and his colleagues’ ability to help to the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC). He calls it “the crucial training that I didn’t know I needed.”

It’s been such a game changer in my practice,” he says.  

Like most medical schooling, Powell received very little breastfeeding education. It was when he started shadowing his colleagues at Northeast Pediatrics that he finally became acquainted with what breastfeeding support looks like.

And it was during his LCTC that he gained one of his most effective tools to help parents: skin-to-skin.

Powell also says that the attention to science and evidence-based information presented in the course has helped him connect with his patients’ parents.

“Everybody wants to know ‘why’,” Powell begins.

He goes on to explain that his community is highly educated and often participates in their own research; the LCTC has helped him to share credible resources with inquiring minds.

Powell explains that living in a community with relatively high breastfeeding rates coupled with working in a setting where formula feeding is not the norm, he was shocked to learn about the infant feeding culture in other medical establishments and nationally.

“Nationwide, we are really failing at providing lactation support,” he explains.

At Powell’s practice though, many of the providers, having completed the LCTC, are equipped to support families with healthy infant feeding, and whenever they hire new staff, they’re  strongly encouraged to complete the LCTC.

In terms of being a male lactation provider, Powell says it’s a double edged sword.

“In certain populations, I definitely feel like [being a male provider] is a drawback,” Powell begins. “[In some cultures,] they tend to be less comfortable and more reserved with a male provider, and I totally get it.”

For others, Powell finds that they appreciate his support is solely based on his training and not influenced by a personal experience breastfeeding.

No matter how they identify, Powell encourages all care providers to create an environment where patients aren’t afraid to ask questions.

On the other side, he hopes parents will ask a lot of questions.

Get to know more about Powell and lactation support at Northeast Pediatrics here.

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