The field of lactation just gained another amazing care provider. Kenya Malcolm, PhD, CLC is a child psychologist, consultant, and trainer in Rochester, New York. Dr. Malcolm’s work focuses on programs and interventions in early childhood in mental health settings, preschools and pediatric offices. Among her many responsibilities, Dr. Malcolm is the HealthySteps program coordinator at a large pediatric practice.
Dr. Malcolm says, “The research is pretty clear that working with caregivers early to support children is the best way to promote optimal family and child health. So, that’s what I do!”
In fun, Dr. Malcolm is not only passionate about mental health, but she’s a self-described stationery nerd.
“I think that color coding is a great way to take notes and stay organized but I’ve been mocked for my pen collection!” she begins. When her LCTC instructor Dr. Anna Blair recommended using multiple ink colors on the Lactation Assessment & Comprehensive Intervention Tool (LAT), Dr. Malcolm says she felt validated.
She was again validated during the first few sessions of the course while learning about the benefits of breast/chest feeding not only for the baby but for lactating people.
“That’s when I knew I’d made the right decision to sign up for the course,” she reflects.
Because Dr. Malcolm is new to lactation counseling, she says that “every successful chest feeding story is my favorite right now.”
“All the moms have been so happy that they’re successful!” she explains. “I was not supported in breastfeeding my own kids when they were born and honestly, being a CLC is like an opportunity to be the superhero I wish I had 20 years ago.”
In becoming that superhero, Dr. Malcolm subscribes to reflective practice as a guiding principle in her work, and more specifically, in her leadership roles.
Dr. Malcolm remembers the words of one of the founding members of ZERO to THREE Jeree H. Pawl: “How you are is as important as what you do.”
Here’s more of what Dr. Malcolm had to say:
“Reflective supervision is a special kind of supervision that focuses on the practitioner’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to support their ability to provide good care to the folks they are working with. Working with caregivers and children is tough work and usually includes navigating systems that are very siloed with rigid expectations. As humans, we often respond in ways that are just as much about ourselves as about the family in front of us. Reflective supervision is a necessary space for slowing down and looking at our actions to improve care, reduce bias and disparities, and improve the well-being of everyone involved. Reflective capacity is a skill and reflective supervision is considered a necessary component of support for people who are working with young children and families by most major organizations working toward the health of families.”
In Dr. Malcolm’s side gig with The Society for The Protection and Care of Children, participants introduce themselves with their baby pictures “as a way to hold in mine our own younger selves who continue to show up in our work.” The work focuses on training staff in Infant Mental Health (IMH) principles, Reflective Supervision, and infant/early childhood mental health conceptualization and diagnosis using the DC0-3 across New York state.
“One IMH principle is that we always hold the baby in mind,” Dr. Malcolm begins. “But it’s not just the baby in front of us. We also have to be aware of the baby whose needs are still present in our own selves. That’s why reflective spaces are so important. Our own biases and histories are present in all of our current interactions–another IMH tenant is that our early experiences matter– and we want to be mindful of how those are showing up in our work in both helpful and not so helpful ways.”
Dr. Malcolm tackles another big idea. Responding to an article on moral injury she wrote on social media, “I… think there’s a savior fantasy that many health professionals have that is sometimes traumatic to lose while in the field.” This phenomenon often rings true for lactation care providers. Dr. Malcolm advises doing the self- work it takes for true humility and reflection.
She shares this anecdote:
“I was observing a lactation counseling visit last week and a mom came in with questions about a possible tongue tie and some nipple pain with feeding. Since the latch was poor, the LC provided some strategies for improving latch that helped to address some of the pain. Like, mom agreed that there was less pain with position changes. But mom was not actually interested in working on latch; she was focused on the possibility of the tongue tie. The LC did a great job of talking through her observations and assessment and providing next-step ideas to Mom. But the LC and I really wanted mom to want to improve her latch. It would be easy to feel like that was an unsuccessful visit because we didn’t save the day in the way we wanted. But mom left feeling heard and supported. Many of us go into human services work to be a hero (I actually used the words “being a superhero” two answers ago!! I’m tempted to change that answer now, but I’m not going to.) of our own design. Families don’t need that. They need support to be at their own best.”
You can connect with Dr. Malcolm here.