Last Thursday, I had my first clinical day on my path to becoming an IBCLC.
For those of you not acquainted with the breastfeeding world, that stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I spent from 7:30 am until 5 pm helping new mommas learn how to breastfeed their babies. It was incredible.
There were so many things I took away from my first day. I wish I had written this the same day, but I didn’t get home until after 11:30pm, and I crashed into bed.
First, it surprised me how ambivalent some mothers were about breastfeeding. They are ONLY on the lactation schedule if they have specified that they are choosing to breastfeed. However, several of the mothers we went in to see first thing in the morning were happily feeding their new infants formula. One mother in particular, when asked why she wanted to breastfeed, remarked “Because it’s better for my baby than formula.” Meanwhile her little one was sucking away at a bottle. A few moments later, the baby began coughing, choking on the formula, and spit out the nipple. The LC I was shadowing took that as an opportunity to offer to help the woman latch the baby on to breast. With very little effort, they achieved a perfect latch and the woman stated she had no pain. She was being discharged that day. Who knows if she will continue nursing when she leaves.
Second, it surprised me how much more there is to lactation services in the hospital than simply helping mothers breastfeed. So many of the patients we saw required something more than just help latching – supplementation of their babies who had lost too much weight, help learning to pump, help using a nipple shield, discussions about what to do when their hospital stay was over. It struck me how such a huge percentage of women had to have more than just latch support.
We saw the mother of a baby that was about 30 hours old. She had lots of trouble keeping the baby awake enough to actually nurse. She would achieve a good latch and her infant would promptly fall asleep. We spent nearly an hour with her showing her techniques to wake the baby, and still felt like the baby needed constant or near constant stimulation to stay awake enough to nurse. We offered to go back for her next feeding to assist again so she would have two good feedings before discharge. At the next feeding, her baby remained sleepy and difficult to rouse. She was offered a nipple shield as a tool to help the baby feel the nipple in her mouth… and it was suddenly a different baby! In a matter of seconds, the sweet newborn sucked with vigor and energy, and appeared to be transferring milk as there was colostrum left behind in the shield when latch was broken. It was incredible to see this mother’s confidence suddenly soar; previously she had been unsure and already contemplating formula, where now she was again excited about her ability to feed her baby.
There were so many more. I wish I could write about them all, but this post would span pages. At the end of the day, I felt so consumed by my emotions. Humbled by these mothers that open themselves up to our help, and trust us with their breastfeeding relationships. Unsure of my ability to rise to the needs of these mother-baby dyads. Overwhelmed by the struggles that women face despite the urgent, desperate desire to nurse their children. And so, so excited for what the future holds for me. I’m so terribly thrilled about the passion I feel to do this job, to make this work. I can’t wait.