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Lactation Education Resources has conducted it second annual Scholarship competition and we are pleased to congratulate the winners!

Drum roll here please………….

Shlonda Smith  Augusta GA

“After obtaining my IBCLC, my goal is to help all moms with breastfeeding support with a special emphasis on protection/promotion/support among women of color.  My goal is to continue working with low income women normalizing breastfeeding.”

Angie Natero  Dover, TN

“I am so thankful for this scholarship, and my goal is to use my future certification to become a lactation consultant, which will allow me to hopefully help many moms and babies have the most successful breastfeeding experience as possible.  Angie will be the only IBCLC in her hospital and in her area.”

Josephine Silversmith  Gallup NM

“I am a nurse working at the Indian Health Service Hospital.  I will be better able to help moms with difficult situations.”

Megan Kahlich  Hereford TX

“I would love to normalize breastfeeding among my staff and patients.”  Megan will be the only IBCLC in her hospital.

Tamika Simpson  Moreno Valley CA

“I plan to work with and support pregnant and parenting teens at Planned Parenthood and WIC in Orange and San Bernardino Counties and educate them on the importance of breastfeeding.”

The winners were selected on their commitment to work in breastfeeding support positions in underserved areas as well as their commitment to breastfeeding mothers and babies.  In addition, their previous experience, previous education, how involved they  are already in their community protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, was considered.

Best wishes to these women as they begin the training to become an IBCLC!

Cymbal crash here…..

Tagged in: IBCLC IBLCE scholarships
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You have seen it, a mother who runs into every problem possible as she attempts to begin breastfeeding.  One problem is solved, another one pops up.  How do these lactastrophies happen?

Usually it is related to a series of unwitting and unintentional circumstances during the newborn period in the hospital.

Perhaps it was no skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth

Or no initial feeding during the first hour after birth

Or separation of mom and baby for the initial bath, routine newborn care, or temperature stabilization

It could be a sleepy and sluggish baby due to maternal anesthesia during labor and/or surgical delivery

Maybe it was a lot of intrusions from visitors, cell phones or care providers interrupting the privacy of mom and baby

Maybe it was separation with the baby in the nursery so mom could sleep

Or a bottle of formula due to the infant’s excessive weight loss

Sometimes it is excessive IV fluids during labor causing both pathological engorgement and excessive infant weight loss

Sometimes is it a poor latch that leads to cracked nipples that leads to mastitis

Or a pacifier used to calm a baby when all he really wanted was to be held and fed

Perhaps to mother requests formula feeding due her misperception she has “no milk “ and  then her baby learns to prefer the bottle nipple

Or the mother’s confidence is shattered in her ability to breastfeed by inconsistent or even incorrect advice from her nurse or physician

We can stop this from cascading into a lactastrophe by getting mom and baby together right from the beginning, avoiding separations and the need for supplementation.  If we as a team of health care workers get most of this right, we can help avoid the next problem. 

But if many of these events occur, it is a lactastrophe waiting to happen!

Thank you to Alison Stube MD for coining the term lactastrophe and for inspiring this blog.

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I read recently the article on how difficult it is to get new research into practice.  (Pravikoff DS, Tanner AB, Pierce ST.  Readiness of U.S. nurses for evidence-based practice.  Am J Nurs.  Sep;105(9):40-51; 2005.).  The author says it takes 17 years for research to make an impact on practice.  And that change in maternity settings takes the longest.  Why is that?

I did it that way

For the most part, nurses working in maternity are already mothers.  They have made their choices about feeding and caring for their infants, long before they are confronted by research that perhaps shows that they did not make the best evidence based decision.  Who would want to think that they did not do the best for their own children?  So, the “my kids turned out fine” argument supersedes the research that shows otherwise.


Sometimes it is a matter of habit.  We are learning that habits are neural pathways that have become hard wired in the brain.  They are ways we have done something so often that the thought or the act of doing something different is difficult to change.  It requires real effort.

Take the example of doing the baby bath.  You learned to do the initial baby bath during the first hour or so of life.  You have done it that way for so long that it is “hard wired” into your brain.  That is how the bath is done.  Neural pathways are set and it takes some effort to get the brain impulses to travel over different pathways. 

Maybe it is even hard wired into your institution.  There are policies and procedures that mandate that the first bath be done during the first hour of life.  Even before the family has had a chance to really bond or breastfeed their baby.  Now, that is going to take some effort to change the hard wiring in your institution as well in your practice.

It is possible to change.  We used to think that neural pathways were set by adulthood and the brains physical pathway was permanent.  Modern research has demonstrated that the brain continues to create new neural pathways and alter existing ones in order to adapt to new experiences, learn new information and create new memories.  Here are some suggestions for unlocking the neural pathway rut and changing your thinking.

  1.  Identify the habit
  2. Observe the consequences of the habit
  3. Shift your focus to create a new neural pathway.  The brain is plastic and can change
  4. Use your imagination.  How could it be better?
  5. Interrupt your thought patterns when they arise.  Turn that mental corner towards your new behavior.
  6. Create a plan about what you will do in the future
  7. Transform the obstacles.  Talk to co-workers about the routine of bathing, change the policies and procedures
  8. Connect with others
  9. Make the shift

Diffusion theory

There are some who see a new idea and accept it readily (Innovators).  There are some who see a few people doing things a new way and see the advantages (Early adopters).  The Early Majority will adopt the new idea more slowly, but they will get there. Then there is the group of people who follow along what most people are doing (The Late Majority).  And the final group is the Laggards.  They will adopt the innovation after much resistance and social pressure. 

So the trick is to engage the innovators and the early majority in making the change you want to see.  Then allow them to spread the change throughout the staff.

Fear of the unknown

Changing a practice or policy leads the staff into the unknown.  What could possibly change as a result?  Could there be unintended consequences?  Address concerns that change will bring.  Who would change when they don’t see what the future will bring or that they aren’t sure they know how to do the new task.  Talk about what can go wrong and have a plan for addressing it.   Training will be the key in addressing the unknown and making it a “known”. 

So if you are the change leader, plan how you can best accomplish your change.  Gather your innovators and those in the early majority to assist you in planning and implementing your change.  Address the staff concerns and determine ways to break old habits.  Provide training to address the unknowns and make the change safe.

Good luck!  ;-)



Tagged in: breastfeeding
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The biggest challenge facing many aspiring lactation consultants is where to obtain their clinical hours.  Those who have the easiest path for this are RNs working in maternity, nursery, labor and delivery, or other maternity setting.  They can collect clinical practice hours at work as they focus on Pathway 1.

But for those who are not in this situation, finding an internship setting can be frustrating, discouraging, if not down-right impossible.  I hear from potential IBCLCs on a regular basis about how difficult it is to find a mentor.  This may be the stumbling block for many who throw in the towel at this point and give up on a career in lactation.  What can we all do to help?  We need as many workers in the field as we can find.

Do you want to retire at some point?  Do you want to leave the lactation world in a better place than when you came into it?  Then volunteer to mentor an intern.  Or better yet, seek out a potential IBCLC and offer to assist her through her journey.  List yourself on the ILCA Clinical Instructor map so people can find you. using the application found here

If you are not sure how to be a mentor, ILCA offers several modules on mentorship:

Lactation students look to mentors to provide that real-world component to the “book learning” they have been doing.  Interacting with a variety of mothers, navigating “the system”, problem-solving in difficult situations: these are all skills best learned one-on one.  Remember the old saying “iron sharpens iron”.   Interns keep you sharp.  They ask questions that make you think.  You search the resource books together.

Mentors gain as much from the experience as the intern!  It is so rewarding to see one of your “fledglings” fly off and do good work on her own.

Tagged in: IBCLC
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Our current acting Surgeon General, Boris Lushniak MD MPH, gave a rousing address to the attendees at the United States Breastfeeding Coalition conference held in Arlington, VA on August 4.  His main message?  Let’s go retro!

Dr Lushniak spoke about 3 “retro” actions that he believes will improve the health of the nation:

Walking, Cooking at home and Breastfeeding

Walking: What is retro?  We used to walk everywhere we went: to school, to shop, to visit friends.  Cars were for long trips.  Not anymore.  We tend to get in the car and drive everywhere we need to go.  We might even drive our car from one end of the shopping center to the other if we go to both ends for the stores we want to visit.  We could walk.  Americans need to get out of their cars and walk more.   And we can walk more just for fun and recreation. 

Cooking:  What is retro?  Home cooked meals.  And back in the day they were prepared from local ingredients.  Not anymore.   Americans are relying more and more on fast foods, precooked foods and convenience foods.  These often have been processed so they have minimal nutritional content and fiber.    They also often contain unhealthy amounts of salt, sugar and fat, and they cost more.

Home cooking affords the family the benefit of fresh foods prepared at the time of the meal to preserve the most nutrient value.   It also usually means that the family sits down to eat together.  In a busy family this may be the only time in the day that the family unit is together to talk and share. 

Breastfeeding:  What is retro?  Every baby was breastfed for extended periods of time.  The only alternative was a wet nurse.  Not anymore.  Artificial baby milk is everywhere.  We are coming out of a period when breastfeeding was in severe decline.  Thankfully, that has turned around and national breastfeeding rates are climbing to over 77%.  We know well the benefits to the health of the baby and mother.  There are also benefits to the family and cost savings to the health care system.

So let’s go retro by walking more, cooking more at home and breastfeeding!

Tagged in: breastfeeding
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Let your imagination go wild!  What would the world look like if breastfeeding was ultimately supported?

  • Every mother has breastfeeding education during pregnancy
  • Pregnant women are encouraged to breastfeed by their friends and family and are offered positive stories
  • All health care workers mention breastfeeding in a positive light
  • Every maternity shop promotes breastfeeding bras, tops and night gowns
  • All new mothers chose to breastfeed and plan on it for at least a year
  • Every hospital makes skin-to-skin care the norm after vaginal and cesarean deliveries
  • Rooming-in is standard in all hospitals
  • Formula and pacifiers are not available in hospitals except for true medical need
  • Visitors are limited in hospitals to “immediate family” only
  • Every mother has erect nipples that are easy for latch
  • Every mother’s milk comes-in in 24-48 hours
  • No breastfeeding mother has sore nipples
  • Mothers are able to breastfeed around the clock as long as their baby requests that and are not tired the next day
  • Engorgement is mild and viewed as a good sign that the milk “is-in”
  • Breastfeeding mothers do no need a support group because everyone is supportive
  • All mothers have an abundant milk supply
  • No mother ever leaks, especially when she is in the company of strangers or co-workers
  • Slings and carriers replace “baby buckets”
  • Most employers have day care facilities in-house and encourage mothers to feed 2-3 times per day
  • Other employers offer private breast pumping facilities
  • Every store, restaurant, office, airport and airplane the breastfeeding mother visits, encourages her to stop, relax and feed her baby
  • All babies gain weight at an appropriate rate (WHO standards)
  • Everyone who encounters the breastfeeding mother says “You are still breastfeeding, aren’t you?”
  • Formula manufacturers are in danger of going out of business
  • There is a rainbow over every breastfeeding mother’s residence

And all babies get the benefit of breastfeeding for at least a year

What would you see in Lactopia?

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I just got home from the AWHONN conference in Orlando.  We heard speakers talk about their plans to have an all IBCLC staff on their maternity units.  Now that is an exciting idea and what a great benefit for all of the breastfeeding mothers.   Expert help, at hand, whenever needed!

Other speakers talked about a mix of skills.  Some Breastfeeding Resources Nurses, some IBCLC’s.  But these managers recognized that everyone needs to have beyond the basics of lactation management training.

Recommendations from USLCA (and endorsed by AWHONN) have calculated the following recommendations for IBCLC staff:

Tertiary Care Facility (Based on 20% preterm delivery rate) - 1.9 FTEs/1000 deliveries

Hospital with Level II Neonatal Service - 1.6 FTEs/1000 deliveries

Hospital with Level I Neonatal Service - 1.3 FTEs/1000 deliveries

 The Joint Commission Accreditation Surveys now include Perinatal Core Measures that every hospital over 1,100 deliveries per year must monitor.   Through experience with high preforming hospitals, the Joint Commission believes that hospitals can achieve a 90% exclusive breastfeeding rate.  As more and more hospitals adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, they also are challenged to improve exclusive breastfeeding. 

The role of the hospital IBCLC is not only to provide care to breastfeeding mothers wherever they are in the hospital (maternity, pediatrics, emergency suite, surgical or medical units), but to train, coach and motivate the rest of the nursing and medical staff.  The other key role for the IBCLC is to influence unit policy and procedures.  The best way to improve breastfeeding exclusivity is to have an abundance of staff well trained in lactation support. 

In order to meet the mandates to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, it is imperative that expert lactation support be readily available during the hospital stay.  The best way to achieve this is with an all IBCLC staff!


AWHONN  Guidelines for Professional Registered Nurse Staffing for Perinatal Units.2010.  p.31  Accessed July 2014.  Accessed July 2014.  Accessed July 2014.

Tagged in: IBCLC IBLCE
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I recently spent 3 days in Omaha Nebraska doing a 3 day Train the Trainer Program for the Lactation Consultant leaders in the hospitals.  It was designed to improve the breastfeeding support in their hospitals and move towards Baby Friendly Hospital status.  This was a group of exceptionally well prepared IBCLCs whose passion for the success of breastfeeding for the mothers and babies was evident.  

The evening after our second day, tornadoes moved through Omaha, with torrential rain, flooding and baseball sized hail causing widespread damage in parts of the city and surrounding areas.  None the less, everyone was present for class the next morning.  It didn’t matter that for one student all of her windows were broken by the hail.  Now that is commitment!

Each of the students in the Train the Trainer class taught two of the modules comprising the 15 hour Baby Friendly Hospital training.  In addition, they each taught an aspect of the skills fair preparing  to lead the 5 hours of hands on clinical experience.

Bravo for the Lactation Consultants in Omaha and the breastfeeding mothers and babies in the Omaha hospitals!

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Welcome to the 10,000th student in our Baby Friendly Hospital Training Programs!

Lactation Education Resources has successfully trained over 10,000 nurses and physicians to provide excellence in hospital breastfeeding support.  Our 10,000th student is from Northeast Georgia Health System, Gainesville, GA!

Hospitals using LER’s training program range from Port Townsend, WA to Homestead, FL.   From  Palm Springs, CA to St Johnsbury, VT.   From Waimea, HI, to Beijing, China.

LER’s Baby Friendly Hospital Training program is 15 hours of online training that is accessible 24/7/365 at the student’s convenience.  Five hours of hands-on training is also required and templates for accomplishing that locally are included.

Congratulations and best wishes to over 100 hospitals that are using Lactation Education Resources/FirstLatch to achieve their Baby Friendly Hospital status.

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Those of you who are sitting for the IBLCE exam for the first time this year, the countdown has begun.  There are 76 “study days” left.    So how will you spend your time?  You may think, I don’t have to start yet, there is plenty of time.  Or some of you may be panicked thinking there is so much material and so little time.   Deep breathe. 

And if you have taken the exam previously, but are at your 10 year or 20 year mark and have to re-sit the exam, take heart.  Remember, the exam is an entry level exam and if you have been actively practicing as a lactation consultant, then you have the advantage.  You have passed the exam at least once and you have experience.  Those case study questions will make more sense now.  ;-)

Here are some suggestions:

Start now

Plan a strategy for how you will review all of the material.  Use the IBLCE Exam Blueprint to categorize the topics and plan to study one each week.

You will be more confident during the last week before the exam, if you have reviewed everything and feel in control.

Gather compatriots

Group study is always more fun, so gather some local people who will be studying also.  Plan to meet a few times to go over strategies, practice test questions, and share anxieties.

For those of you who have taken the LER Lactation Consultant Training Program, we have a FaceBook page for the IBLCE Exam 2014.  If you did not get an invitation, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for access.

Make flash cards

Jot down facts that you feel are important and “testable”.   Writing helps you remember, and you can also review them later.

The ones developed by Lactation Education Resources are good for medical/lactation terms.

Study in short bursts

Don’t study for hours on end.  Things begin to fall out of your head after long stretches with the books.   Take a break and get your blood moving again.  Do some stretches, drink something.  Study for a few hours, review what you studied and do something else, or sleep.

Choose a quiet place

Make sure you have a place conducive to study: quiet, good lighting, comfortable, snacks if you like.  Sometimes going to someplace helps, like a library or coffee shop or a friend’s quiet space

Set up a place that is your study nook that has all of your reference books, paper, pens, etc. so you don’t have to waste time searching for study materials each time.

Some people find studying with soft music helps, others find it detracting.  A headphone or earplugs prevent bothering others and keep out distracting noises, even without the music.   If that quiet hum of background noise helps you block out distractions, but a coffee shop is not handy or is too busy, try listening to   You can choose your favorite “noise”.

Negotiate with your family

Plan for study time where everyone agrees to not bother you – for anything.  You will be able to concentrate better knowing you have uninterrupted time ahead of you.

Positive affirmations help

“I can learn this material easily”, “I remember everything I read”,  “This material is interesting to me”,  “I am good at taking tests”, “I recall everything I study”, more….

Feed your brain

Skip the junk food and eat foods known to aid concentration and memory such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurt and blueberries.   Have lots of water available to sip on.

Have good reference materials

There are several good books useful for studying for the IBLCE Exam. 

  • Your class power point handouts of each lecture
  • Breastfeeding & Human Lactation by Riorden and Wambach

The lactation consultants “bible”

  • The Core Curriculum by ILCA

Excellent, comprehensive book in outline form

  • The Breastfeeding Atlas by Hoover

Great for pictures

If you have, or have access to, other books use them all.  Look up controversial topics up in several references so you have the consensus of the authors.

Practice exams

Take the exam at the end of your lactation consultant Training Program, again.  First time, do it as an open book exam and look up what you need to.  Then time yourself and see if you can do it faster.  Push yourself a little.  The IBLCE exam is not a “speed” test, but practicing with a little pressure makes it more realistic.

If you want additional test questions to practice with, consider signing up for the IBLCE Exam Review program

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Some people you encounter for a day, others you remember for a few months, and others influence you for a lifetime.  I have been blogging recently about “making change” in your own practice and in your institution, “leaning in” to your career, and “finding a way” to accomplish things even though the odds may not be in your favor.  All of those things Barbara did daily in her practice as a lactation consultant, a woman's health nurse practitioner and integrative medicine specialist.   She was always up to date on the latest research, willing to go the extra 10 miles for her patients and had a cheerful word for everyone.

Those of us who worked at Georgetown University Hospital in the Lactation Center and Milk Bank in the 1990’s formed a special bond: Barbara Boston, Silvia Ochs, Karen Rechnitzer,  Maire Hewitt and I.   Though none of us are still working at Georgetown, we have worked together in various configurations at several local hospitals and lactation centers.  Some of us have moved away and come back during the intervening years.  But our group endured.  When Barbara lived in Switzerland or Denver, she always returned to speak at the Lactation Consultant Training Program.

Perhaps many of you reading this remember Barbara and her lectures on sexuality.  Always funny and always right on point with a deep understanding of the impact on the family.  Thank you, Barbara, for all you have given to everyone you have influenced.

Barbara died April 28 after more than a year of cancer treatments.

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Why is change so hard?  Whether it is something as simple as adding a new skill to our “tool box”, or a big project such as Baby Friendly Hospital designation, it can be hard.  It puts us outside of our comfort-zone.  That safe feeling of confidence, security and being free of risk.

For some of us, adapting to change is easy.  It may be uncomfortable for a short time, but basically not a big deal and we move on doing things the “new way”.   We are sometimes called the “innovators, or the early adopters”.   We view a new way of doing things as a challenge and we find it exciting.  We welcome the change.

For others of us, adapting to change is difficult.  And down-right scary.  We find any and every reason not to make change.  We are in the group called the “late adopters or the laggards”.  We dig in our heels and won’t listen to reason. 

There is, of course, the group in the middle who see the majority of people making the change and who will go along with the crowd.

My mother-in-law was a late-adopter.   Microwave ovens have been common place in kitchens since the 1960’s.  She refused to have one.  Even when her adult children bought one for her at Christmas years later, she refused to use it.  It sat in the garage.  “I can’t see any reason for it.  The stove works just fine”.    No way would she explore what benefits it might have for her.

So when change is thrust upon us by our supervisor, or maybe by the management’s decision to become Baby Friendly, how do we handle it?  Embrace it or resist it?  Or maybe wait to see what everyone else thinks first.

Getting un-stuck

  • Know why you are making the change
    • Gather the relevant research and review it.  Discuss it in a committee meeting.  Decide how the research aligns or doesn’t align with your current policies and procedures
    • What could be the upside of making the change?
  • Know how to make the change
    • Let people vent and grieve the loss of the old way
    • Change policies and procedures based on your analysis of the research
    • Get needed resources whether those are people resources or equipment
    • Orient staff to the new policy and procedure
    • Start small – make a small change, then several small changes, then you will have a big change
  • Avoid failure.  Nothing is more discouraging than working on a project just to have it fall apart.
    • Plan carefully to avoid unintended consequences
    • Be ready for set-backs whether in the form of the laggards who give you resistance or the administration who change their support/resources.
  • Making it stick
    • Keep the enthusiasm going with staff meetings, supervisory sessions, posters,
    • Use peer support for those who need coaching
    • Use peer pressure for those who are resisting


Let’s look at the concept of delaying the newborn bath that is usually done soon after delivery.   I have heard nurses say, “We do the bath when the mom is transferred to her post-partum room.  She can’t hold her baby then anyway”.  Or, “Moms don’t want to hold a gooey baby”.  Or, “how could a bath make any difference in initiation of breastfeeding?”

Why should a hospital make the change to delaying the bath?  Search up the research.  Here are a couple of specific articles, but there are many more on the consequences of delaying skin-to-skin contact for mom and baby.  Skin-to-skin is essential for a good start to breastfeeding and it is often delayed or interrupted for the baby bath.

A delayed newborn bath was associated with increased likelihood of breastfeeding initiation and with increased in-hospital breastfeeding rates.

Preer G, Pisegna JM, Cook JT, Henri AM, Philipp BL.  Delaying the bath and in-hospital breastfeeding rates.  Breastfeed Med. 2013 Dec;8(6):485-90.

In this review of the literature, procedures beneficial to initiating breastfeeding such as drying, skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord clamping, and delayed bathing were either omitted or inappropriately sequenced in the time immediately after birth in a significant number of institutions.  Sobel HL, Silvestre MA, Mantaring JB, Oliveros YE, Nyunt-U S.  Immediate newborn care practices delay thermoregulation and breastfeeding initiation.  Acta Paediatr. 2011 Aug;100(8):1127-33.

Does the research support the policy and procedure on the timing of bathing?  If not, what is the best way to modify it.  Delay the bath for two hours or for four hours, wait until the baby wakes up from his first deep sleep, wait until the nurses routine bathing time, wait for 24 hours, or wait until hospital discharge?  A bath demo could be done with the parents in the discharge teaching.  What will work for your hospital?  Maybe little steps would be a good start.  So start with a delay of 2-4 hours.  When that is working well, make it 24 hours or at hospital discharge.  Explain to parents what the policy is and why you bath babies the way you do.  Enlist their support.  The vernex is good for the baby’s skin and can be massaged in.

What could be the upside of changing to delayed bathing?  It saves nurses time, babies don’t have to spend extended periods of time under the radiant warmer warming up after the bath and the bathing procedure can be used as a teaching tool with new parents.

If there are several people who are not embracing this new procedure, let them vent.  Acknowledge that change is difficult and the old way of doing things seemed to be working well.  Help them move past this.

Have your pediatric committee or breastfeeding committee review the policies and procedures based on the research that was reviewed and make the needed revisions.  Communicate the revision to the staff so everyone is aware of the change.

Think about what resources might be needed.  Are there any?  How can in-servicing of the new procedure be done most effectively?  Will you use staff meetings or have a skills station?  Posters?

What unintended consequences may happen?  Do your homework.  Know what pitfalls there could be and plan to avoid them.  Will babies become chilled?  Make sure that babies are dried and placed skin-to-skin immediately after birth.  Are warmed blankets available?  What other unintended consequences might arise?

Involve everyone in evaluating how the new procedures are going.  Make any adjustments that are necessary.   Maybe you can give your laggards a key role in supporting the new procedure.  That just might help them become your strongest innovators.

Keep the ball rolling!  Who are your innovators who can give encouragement and training to the rest of the staff?  Have them lead by example.  And then you can use a little peer pressure to bring around the rest of the staff.

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I have been alternatively aggravated, inspired, confused and exasperated since listening to the TED talk by Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”.  I bought her book to understand better her concepts for women in leadership careers.

“Lean in”.  As lactation consultants it seems we do this daily.  We “Lean In” with our clients.  We give attention and we show interest.  We help problem solve and create strategies.  That seems natural.

I think most of us went into lactation consulting thinking that our role would be to help new mothers be successful with breastfeeding.  Our main challenges would be difficult latch-on, flat nipples or helping moms with engorgement or previous breast surgery.

But once we get into our work, we learn that those clinical challenges are what we prepared for in our lactation consultant training.  They are no less difficult for the mother and no less of a challenge for us, but they are usually solvable.

The bigger challenge is managing a career with all of the other responsibilities that working women generally have, juggling children, work hours, partner’s needs and social obligations.  And we all need a little fun and relaxation from time to time.

But the biggest challenge we encounter is influencing change among co-workers in our hospitals, agencies or communities.  No matter where we work, we likely don’t experience optimal support for our skills and expertise.  We may even experience disparaging comments, unrealistic workloads, or out-right resistance.

Let’s “Lean In” to our careers.  What does that mean?   

  • Make suggestions for change
  • Do library research to share with others
  • Speak up even when not asked ;-)
  • Quote reliable authorities, (The Surgeon General, The Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, The Joint Commission and others)
  • Volunteer for committees
  • Learn something new, teach something new
  • Do a quality assurance project, survey or a research project
  • Sit at the table and actively engage (as Sheryl would say)
  • Pick an informal mentor for yourself
  • Accept leadership positions in lactation related organizations
  • Mentor (formally or informally) aspiring lactation consultants
  • Grow in your abilities to influence others

I have known many lactation consultants over the years, working in many different settings.  Most did their jobs and went home.  They were good at assisting breastfeeding moms and passionate about the importance of breastfeeding.  They weren’t engaged in moving the breastfeeding agenda forward – whatever that may mean for the setting.  They had a lactation job, but the primary focus was their children and family, not career.  

Lactation Consultants CAN balance their family goals and needs with a career where they “Lean In”, whether working full time or part time.  And the future of breastfeeding support in our country needs these kinds of lactation consultants!

Watch Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk to get inspired about how you can “Lean In” to your career.

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The Baby Friendly Hospital Conference is an annual event sponsored by the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force held in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The over 150 delegates attending the conference were eager to hear KimMarie Bugg, Jane Morton, Molly Pessell, Kittie Frantz and others as they informed us of current research and helped build enthusiasm for the Baby Friendly Hospital movement. 

As an exhibitor at the conference, we at Lactation Education Resources, were pleased to present our online training to hospitals looking for training resources.  Representatives of interested hospitals were thrilled to hear that online training can be very affordable, is easy to use and streamlines the tracking process.

For hospitals using HealthStream, the program files can be loaded and run on the hospital system.

For further information, please go to or contact Juanita at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  A free course trial is available here

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Well no, after ducklings hatch from their shells, they usually don’t eat for the first 24 hours, and then they start on small pieces of food and sips of water.  But as we see from this charming video of a mother cat turned mother to ducklings and kittens, unusual things can happen.

That oxytocin circulating right after birth is certainly powerful for bonding for both mothers and their off-spring.  Those newly hatched ducklings arrived just at the peak of the mother cat’s post-partum oxytocin surge.  Lucky for them, she took them “under her wing”, kept them warm and even offered them the only food she had, mother’s (cats) milk.  Oxytocin lives up to its nickname, “the mother love hormone”!

Successful reproduction in mammals demands that mothers become attached to and nourish their offspring immediately after birth. It is also important that non-lactating females do not manifest such nurturing behavior. The same events that affect the uterus and mammary gland at the time of birth also affect the brain. During parturition, there is an increase in concentration of oxytocin in cerebrospinal fluid, and oxytocin acting within the brain plays a major role in establishing maternal behavior.

It may be best to view oxytocin as a major facilitator of parturition and maternal behavior rather than a necessary component of these processes.  

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Legislation to mandate exclusive breastfeeding?!?  Yes, in the United Arab Emirates.  A new law has been passed mandating women to breastfeed their babies for 2 years, and if they are unable a wet nurse will be provided for them.

The BBC published an online discussion of many leaders around the world about this topic., click on the icon next to the picture.

Of course there are supporters on each side,

  • women should not be coerced to do anything with their bodies that they do not choose to do, including breastfeed
  • those who feel that it is such an important health issue, it should be mandated.  There certainly is enough research to back this up.

I agree with both sides.  Law is probably not the best way to promote maternal infant bonding and make women want to breastfeed.

Unfortunately, the discussion left out the important aspect that the birth process plays on initiation of breastfeeding.  Numerous research studies show the impact of immediate skin-to-skin.  Skin-to-skin contact can unlock the new mothers’ desire to nurture her baby and to breastfeed.  Mothers who hold their newborns skin-to-skin after birth have increased maternal behaviors and show more confidence in caring for their babies.  Women, with uninterrupted access to their babies, WANT to be with them and they find separation distressing.  This closeness fosters a good start to breastfeeding and we see that these mothers have a better breastmilk supply and breastfeed for longer duration.  They are more committed to solving any difficulties along the way. 

Skin-to-skin holding at the time of birth helps the transition from fetal to newborn life with greater respiratory, temperature, and glucose stability and significantly less crying indicating decreased stress.  Being skin-to-skin with mother protects the newborn from the negative effects of separation, supports optimal brain development and facilitates attachment.

Let’s start by making the birth process ideal for all mothers and for infants and see what that does for improving breastfeeding initiation and duration rates.


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I recently listen to a TED talk from Diana Nyak About her swim from Cuba to Key West at age 64. On her 5th attempt to swim the channel she succeeded after 54 grueling hours. 

For those of us who have been working in the lactation consultant field it can feel no less grueling.  Not as dangerous to be sure, but just as challenging.

Her challenges:   Jelly fish with vicious stings

Our challenges:    Unsupportive coworkers who can undermine our efforts

Her challenges:    Sharks

Her challenges:    Hypothermia

Our challenges:  Working alone with no support from colleagues

Our challenges:   The formula industry

Her challenges:    Exhaustion

Our challenges:  Years of struggle to make even the smallest policy change

Her challenges:    Navigation

Our challenges:  What is the best strategy to make change or educate co-workers?

Her challenges:    Food and drink 

Our challenges:  Recharging with suggestions from coworkers or conference attendance.

The prize for her.   Walking up on the beach in Key West

For us it might be finally becoming certified as an IBCLC, or helping a mom with a particularly difficult situation or bringing your hospital through the Baby Friendly Hospital designation process

Don't give up when the difficult seems impossible. 

Find a way

By the way, if you are not plugged into the TED talks, you will find them fascinating




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Time to plan for what your intentions are for 2014.  What are your dreams?  You have been thinking about it for a long time - Is it finally time to step up and become an IBCLC?  Is it time to look for that ideal Lactation Consultant job?   A job that will challenge you or a job that will give you experience in an aspect of lactation consulting that you haven’t tried yet.  Maybe it is time to return to school for your RN or advanced degree credential.  Maybe you are ready to hang out your own shingle and start a private practice.

We all need to move forward.  They say, “if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward”.  It is easy to do the same thing day after day, in a groove that is comfortable to you.  Let’s move out of our comfort zone this year and move forward.

They also say put your intentions “out there” and they will be realized.  So put your goals out there by telling friends and family, write a note to put on your mirror or make a picture of yourself in your new work setting.  Join an organization or online community that will help you get closer to your dreams through volunteering or helping you to build skills.  Get involved in your local ILCA chapter or US Breastfeeding Coalition Directory.  Meet the movers and shakers in your area.  Just see what happens in 2014!

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As I look back on an almost 30 year career as a lactation consultant, I have witnessed a huge amount of change for the support of breastfeeding. It is heartening to see support from every corner; the federal, state and local governments, professional organizations, workplaces, and the Affordable Care Act. Even new mothers are better informed and more are choosing to breastfeed. But we still have a ways to go before we reach optimal breastfeeding nationwide.

There are pockets where breastfeeding rates are low and exclusive breastfeeding rates are even lower. Historically, areas that have the lowest rates are the US southeastern states. Also areas where African American, Hispanics and Native Americans live, rates are low.

Lactation Education Resources trains about 350 students to take the IBLCE certification exam each year. But we realize that often the areas that need it most do not have access to a certified lactation consultant. This year we have given four scholarships for our Enriched Lactation Consultant Training Program to individuals who indicated they intend to work in underserved areas once certified.

The winners of this year’s scholarships are:

  • Gloria Bauta, Miami, FL who will be providing low-cost lactation services to area mothers at MilkWorks

  • Jill Olds of Monroeville, PA who will be providing lactation services through her WIC clinic

  • Charlene Parrish of Whiteriver, AZ will be on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Whiteriver, AZ

  • Chanel Porchia of Brooklyn, NY will continue to offer infant feeding classes and free/low cost lactation services in her area.

Best wishes to these four winners who will be part of the next generation of Lactation Consultants.

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