Clinical Day.

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.

Facebook Comments
  • Sounds like an amazing, awe-inspiring day. I’d love to be a LC one day. Helping mothers feel comfortable and confident in their ability to breastfeed their baby. I’m excited to read more about your adventures as an LC.

  • Mandy, I am so happy for you that you’ve found such a wonderful, fulfilling career path!

  • Stacy

    I find it odd that women that really want to nurse even use formula in the beginning. My friend just had a baby, wants to nurse, but also uses formula. I was extremely confused. She is starting to complain that her milk is going away…and I suggested she should stop feeding him formula. She had no idea. I don’t know if it’s the nurses that shove formula down the babies throats, because they think they aren’t getting enough or what. I had a positive experience in the hospital with both of my babies. I told them I was going to strictly nurse…and that was the end of that. They never mentioned formula again. So glad you are doing this. So many women out there are so misinformed about breastfeeding. I’m sure it feels great to know you helped someone achieve something like that. 😉

  • I have a special place in my heart for IBCLCs. Promise to think of me if/when you have clinical hours in the NICU. <3

    • You know I will. You amaze me. <3

  • anon

    If you’re going to be an IBCLC, why would you go into these hospitals with such a judgmental attitude towards mothers who choose to formula feed. Coming from a mother who had trouble not only with the latch, but with a ton of other problems I needed help with and didn’t get, as you stated in this post as well, I find your tone very judgy towards mother’s who ACHE to breastfeed their infant and just need that relief from the stress and jsut getting their baby fed, even if that means using formula. You’re not big and bad because YOU breastfeed. A breastfeeding Momma is not greater than formula feeding Momma and vice versa. Check your attitude and be sensitive to what other mothers might have going on. Breastfeeding doesn’t work out for everyone and that is OKAY.

    • Alright, I’ll bite.

      First, sweetheart, you clearly don’t read my blog. It’s perfectly fine for you to stop by and read one post and make a judgement, as that’s quite obviously what you’ve done, but you must be prepared for your judgement to be wrong. I do not breastfeed. I have been trying to breastfeed Ruby since she was 6 weeks old, and continually fail. Ruby is purely bottle fed my breastmilk, as (NOT JUDGING) I believe my own milk is the next best thing to breastfeeding. If I couldn’t get enough milk, my next option would be donor milk. If I couldn’t get donor milk, I would then give my child formula. I am not judging anyone for giving their child formula, as I think the only bad mother is one that DOESN’T feed her baby. Were I not lucky enough to have a good milk supply, Ruby would be on formula.

      If you re-read my post, as I have, I wasn’t judging or maligning these mothers for giving formula. I was simply surprised at their choice to formula feed (within 24 hours of birth) when they had specifically stated they had chosen to breastfeed. Beyond that, none of them were aching to breastfeed. They had chosen to have the baby stay in the nursery, be fed formula so they could get sleep, and then continued to give formula in the morning. None of this is a judgement. It is simply an observation of the facts. I did not call these mothers terrible, nor express disdain in any way. You inferred that attitude on your own.

      Miss anonymous, I have ACHED to breastfeed. I have spent hours and HOURS crying over my inability to teach Ruby to latch, to make our relationship successful. I have seen every expert, spent hundreds of dollars, begged and begged for help, to no avail. I have cheered on mothers who pump for hours and hours a day only to get 4 and 5 ounces for their children, and have to make up the difference with formula. I have hugged mothers who spent days after their births in the hospital due to life threatening illnesses and have lost their milk, raising beautiful, happy, formula fed children. I am judging no one. I support ALL mothers.

      I have no attitude. I have sensitivity in spades. I’m sorry that you came here, however it was that you did, and my blog rubbed you the wrong way. You may want to check your own motives, sweet mother… not everyone out there is trying to attack you for your choices. I certainly wasn’t.

  • Maria

    As I have said before Mandy, you are an inspiration to all mothers, despite the fact that you had such a hard time with breastfeeding Ruby, you continue to pump and give her your breast milk. I have been lucky in having very few problems with breastfeeding other than a bit of mastitis when babes were young, however, I am not sure I would have had the energy to pump should it have proved necessary. It is so much more work than formula feeding. Breast is of course as easy as pie once established with no major problems. So glad there will be ladies like you becoming breastfeeding counsellors. You have a great attitude to it all. Continue what you are doing mama. Love you for it! Your bud across the pond. X

  • Lesley @luckycloverchic

    Mandy, I have applauded your breastfeeding efforts through this whole process and think you are an amazing person for continuing to take the steps you do in breastfeeding. You are an awesome mother and will make a wonderful IBCLC!

  • Alyson

    For various reasons, my second daughter is now formula-fed. Even though we are only friends through the Internet, I’ve never been offended by your thoughts on breastfeeding and know you wouldn’t judge me for the way I feed my sweet Hannah. Thank you for your continued honesty, it is an inspiration. Good luck with your clinicals, Mandy!