Mother’s Story: How I Got to Where I Am Today (My Personal Story)

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Photo Credit: Ina Reed Photography
     I’m so proud to announce that I am now an IBCLC, RLC!  I received my results on Wednesday and I’m so happy to share that with you.  In honor of my results I wanted to share my story of why I chose this path and how I got to where I am today.  This is my story and some is pretty personal but this is the point of mother’s stories project.  This is a story with just a few edits that I shared on a Facebook group when a mother was asking for how we had gotten in to breastfeeding education or doula work.  I decided to share my full story with her because every puzzle piece is important to my path to get here.
     For those of you new to my blog or story, I just sat for the IBCLC exam in October-it’s been my goal since 2008.
I walked with my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2008. From the time I was young I wanted to work with babies and/or children. I went from wanting to be a Pediatrician (until I decided I didn’t want to go to med school because I knew that would be hard to do and be a mom because I wanted to be home with my kiddos and didn’t think that would be easy to do) to a Neonatal Nurse (until I got rejected the two times I applied to an extremely competitive and highly sought after program in Utah with almost a 4.0 GPA out of high school and with the required college courses). I learned that to keep my RN current I would likely be stuck working holidays, weekends, overnights to work just enough hours if anyone even wanted to keep me on just for those. I didn’t like that idea at all so that was one of many reasons I decided that wasn’t for me. When my son was born I had 2 weeks left of school (I believe a week or maybe two and finals week). He wasn’t able to latch at all. We had major breastfeeding issues and no one really knew how to help us but everyone had a few different ideas. Finally we had a nurse that recognized he was tied almost to the tip of his tongue (knowing what I know now I don’t know for sure WHERE it was located so I can’t say what class of tie it really was but I wish I knew!)-he had a classic heart shaped tongue. The pediatrician refused to clip him saying I must be doing something wrong because he had seen babies with worse ties latch just fine. It was at that time that I started being more skeptical of the medical system and began to learn about where the lack of knowledge was with breastfeeding with medical professionals. We went through absolute hell. I was discharged 2 days postpartum from the hospital with absolutely no way to feed my baby but hope that an ENT would release his tie the next day. I had no pump at all, nothing. My parents went out and bought me a hand pump and I pumped near constantly to try to get something (I believed I had no colostrum because I never saw any when I was forced to bond with my pump every hour while someone else fed my baby). He got clipped and latched once and then never again. The following day we saw an IBCLC that gave us a shield after trying a few things and I cried so many tears of joy because I could FINALLY feed my baby after a very horrible night before when I pumped for hours straight stopping to give my husband a bottle and begin pumping again because he refused formula after he got my milk.
     I became VERY passionate about wanting to help other mothers. When my son was a year old a very wonderful LLL leader asked me if I wanted to explore becoming a leader. I started attending meetings when he was a couple of months old (he always nursed with a nipple shield until he self weaned at 14.5 months). I started the process to become a leader and was done within 2 months. The leader that was helping me beyond that first one to go through the process told me it was a little too fast and to back up and go over a few things with her and wait for a few months. A few months passed and I wasn’t able to become accredited because I didn’t have any extra money to pay my dues-my husband was working and attending school and we had just enough to barely cover our bills and a small amount of groceries, just enough but no extra. My group offered to pay but that wasn’t allowed. I had to sit on things for a while and in the meantime experienced my second loss and third loss while trying for another baby. It took us nearly a year to keep a pregnancy but I found out I was expecting a little after my first son’s second birthday.
     Things got REALLY tough financially and we didn’t even have money to buy food for several months-fortunately I had bought extra here and there and it got us through until we had to reach out for additional help from our church for a month. We were blessed after the birth of our second son for my husband to decide to pick up a second full time job so we could pay down a little bit of our debt from being without my paycheck leading up to our first loss and pregnancy with our first son when I had gone to work as a loan officer on commissions. It was at that time that I was able to pick up and continue with my application. My husband got accepted to graduate school which took us from Utah to Oregon and right after we moved the paperwork was finally finished and I became an accredited LLL leader.
    I was blessed to be able to help many mothers in Oregon through lots of difficulties. It grew me as a mother too being able to continue learning and growing. My daughter came along just before my middle’s 3rd birthday. She had major breastfeeding issues (all 3 of my children were tied-my middle had difficulties for the first 8 weeks but breastfeeding was always uncomfortable). She had a very thick class 4 lip tie and a very tight posterior tie with a little bit of an anterior tie. She was revised by Dr. Ghaheri in Portland where I had been sending moms for a couple of years at that point. Between him and the IBCLC that worked with me and the extent of their passion and knowledge I was driven to complete my requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam. 2017 was my goal. I was able to surpass that goal but it wasn’t without challenges. I saved every bit of my birthday and Christmas money as well as my fees I got from doing babywearing consultations in Oregon to complete my 90 hours of lactation specific education (I had taken my health science classes in college thank goodness because I was on the path to go to nursing school). I did my first half just before my husband graduated with his PhD and he got a job that brought us to Oklahoma last October. I finished the rest through conferences and a couple of webinars (I’ve now far exceeded the required 90 hours because I’m so passionate about learning what I need to know to be the best possible lactation consultant that I can possibly be).
     I began my private practice this year as a Lactation Educator mainly teaching breastfeeding classes to help me get the last bit I needed. I had hoped for and planned for a scholarship to help me with the exam fee ($660) because my daughter has some medical issues that should have been caught soon after her birth. Every extra we’ve had this year has gone to medical bills for her and 3 ER visits for my children and I was super defeated when I found out I didn’t get the scholarship or even a partial one. I tried to come up with a plan but I only had 2 weeks. My husband encouraged me to set up a crowdsource fund which I wasn’t super comfortable with but he really encouraged me as well as a couple of friends. I decided I would try. I received an outpouring of love from some amazing women in our community and many I didn’t even know and my goal for my exam was raised in 2 days!
     Due to some differences in beliefs with some ways that LLL was going I regrettably had a strong feeling to resign from LLL this summer after being a leader for 4 1/2 years. It shattered me. I felt like it was a test though to stand for my beliefs. I received some threats and some verbal nastiness and some other issues that I won’t get in to due to my decision to resign. It has near broken me. I began my own breastfeeding support group to continue the work of giving back for the help that I have received, especially to the low income women that I’m unable to just give my services to at this time (I’m really hoping to set something up though so I will be able to someday), and the mothers that just plain want support. I’ve been pushed back by several barriers but I will continue in that work.
     I have offered limited consultations this year so that I could study and prepare for my exam. I also teach breastfeeding and babywearing classes. My hope is that we are able to buy a house this next year. I will have to raise my prices next year so that I’m able to stay current on requirements and be able to make a small amount to be able to help my family be able to get out of debt except our big student loans and a house. When we can get in to a house I intend to take clients a couple of afternoons each week-my top priority is to my children who are homeschooled (and that’s especially the best thing for them learning about some psychological issues that we’re trying to get answers for and tools to help us be the best possible parents through understanding how their brains are wired differently). I will still do some home visits but I hope to be able to see some more mothers each week in my home office that will be set up just for breastfeeding and babywearing classes and consultations. Every mother I work with makes me fall in love with this work even more. I want to be the best possible lactation professional and hopefully soon consultant that I can be for them. I sure won’t be able to support my family from it but that’s not my goal! My goal is to be knowledgeable and support breastfeeding issues, but especially infant sucking issues and disorders.
     This journey wasn’t easy and it has taken 8 hard years of work to get here. I’m so grateful for my hard working husband that is able to support my family so that I can do this work.  I hope to also be able to eventually help our family out a little bit so we can get to a better place financially and get the help for my boys that they need. Working in lactation is a total uphill battle because it’s a constant fight against the norm and constant defense of why this field is so important. The hope is though that someday my profession won’t really be needed because we’ll all have understanding of breastfeeding issues to the point that no mother will have to fight for a tongue or lip tie revision for her baby, or for extra sucking help from a speech therapist, or help with many of the other special circumstances that I have been trained to work with clinically, and that all mothers will pass knowledge down to their daughters that breastfeeding is normal and good (avoiding many of the common difficulties). If you want to chat about breastfeeding I’m always open to chatting! I also created a group for people who are interested in sitting for the IBCLC exam someday that live in Oklahoma-no matter where they’re at on their journey.

Lactation Cookies, Drinks and Galactagogues

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There is NO “magic” food or drink that will increase your supply.  Your breasts make milk based on supply and demand-the more milk removed, the more you make.  Most mothers can and should trust breastfeeding and watch for the cues that baby is getting enough (for more information see this post).  That said, there are mothers that struggle from hormonal issues, PCOS, diabetes, Insufficient Glandular Tissue, and some other issues that can cause low milk supply.  If after you have read the post linked and baby is not gaining weight sufficiently and/or isn’t having 6-8 wet diapers and 3 poopy diapers each day (24 hours) in the first 6 weeks (may have less poopy diapers after 6 weeks possibly) this would be a good time to:

  • Call an IBCLC and have a thorough assessment of baby’s anatomy and your breasts.  Issues can be ruled out and pre-feeding and post-feeding weights can be taken to get a glimpse of how much milk your baby is taking at that particular feeding.  This is just a glimpse and shouldn’t be used to determine absolutely how much milk your baby is removing from your breasts over a full day.  An IBCLC can also check on any possible positioning issues that may be going on-I’ve found with many of my clients very tiny changes can make a huge difference!
  • Pick up Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk before making any decisions about any extra foods/supplements to take.
  • You may also want to contact your doctor to have prolactin levels checked through some blood work.
  • Finding a cause of the issue is more preferable option because if you’re treating the symptoms rather than the cause you’re just putting a bandage on the problem.

A wise lactation consultant (Christy Jo Hendricks at the GOLD 2016 Lactation Conference) shared a story that really stuck in my mind that I will relay to you now.  We all have that one pair of shoes in our closet.  You know the ones I’m talking about-those ADORABLE pumps that you had to have.  They were a little more than we usually pay for shoes but they were just cute and you had to have them.  You got them home and tried them out for a date or an evening out.  OUCH!  Those adorable pumps aren’t as comfy as you thought there were in the store.  You get home that night and find a blister.  They’re so cute though and a little expensive so you put a bandage on and wear them again the next day to work.  You realize they’re a little too small and they really just don’t feel great on.  Every time you wear them you know you need to wear a bandage.

Closeup of a woman's heel with a blister plaster on

Ultimately, the problem is the fit of the shoes.  Instead of tossing them out and getting a different pair you put a bandage on and keep going though.  Galactagogues work much the same often.

Some mothers do find that certain foods or drinks have boosted their supply.  Some of these work because they’re acting on some type of discrepancy or some mechanism in your body that may need a little extra boost or they’re just helping mama limp along a little (like a bandage).  These are all very individual-Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk AND working with a knowledgeable IBCLC can help you figure out the possible problem together.  Taking the wrong supplement can actually reduce your supply or cause some serious medical issues (remember that herbs are medicines and just like taking the wrong prescription they can cause some major problems or possibly interfere with medications you are already taking).

A few “lactation boosters” that I have seen throw out a lot online:

  • Blue Gatorade (MUST be blue for some reason)-my guess is that this helps if mom is slightly dehydrated or has imbalanced electrolytes.  Oddly enough, I had issues as a child with “fainting spells” and a neurologist said I had issues keeping my electrolytes balanced.  I wonder if this is somewhat common and this is why it may work for some women, especially a new mom that isn’t able to take as good of care of herself as women in other cultures with laying in periods and lots of help from friends and family from their village.  Other options you could try are coconut water or homemade “laborade” drinks that have less sugar and less sodium.

Sports Drink Set Isolated

  • Lactation cookies/bars/smoothies-these often contain oatmeal, flax seed, and can even have some nuts, brewer’s yeast, and fenugreek (from imitation maple syrup).  Some of these ingredients work on the digestive system or just give a calorie boost.  They are often high in sugar though and can really upset a mom’s system with pre-diabetes (many mothers don’t know that they’re pre-diabetic).  Fenugreek also is known to interfere with some medications as well as cause issues with blood sugar.  If you want to eat a cookie-eat a cookie!  It probably isn’t a good idea for many mothers to eat the 3+ cookies each and every day that many cookie makers recommend.  Instead, try eating oatmeal in the morning or try some of the other digestive system aids mentioned in Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.

American style oatmeal rising cookies

  • Lactation Teas-often contain some or all of the following: fenugreek, marshmallow root, nettle leaf, alfalfa leaf, fennel seed, red raspberry leaf, milk thistle, anise seed, or others.  Most of these are considered safe for breastfeeding depending on the source (it’s a good idea to use trusted brands if you chose to use herbal supplements or teas) according to Nursing Mother’s Herbal.  Many of these aren’t in sufficient quantities to really make a difference though or some are contraindicated long term (more than a few weeks)

Some of these may give you a little boost to help you get through a growth spurt along with nursing frequently and following baby’s cues.  They may also help if you need a little extra boost on occasion when you’re pumping if you notice a little supply dip.  They aren’t necessary though, and are just an extra expense that most mother’s can avoid.  Ultimately though, the best way to increase milk supply is to remove milk more frequently.  If you want to eat a cookie or drink a smoothie go for it!  It’s probably not a good idea to have some of these every day without finding a cause for low supply though.  If you genuinely have low supply issues, working with an IBCLC is the first and best thing to do.  If you don’t find the answers you’re seeking, just like with a doctor or other professional you can always seek out a second opinion.

What “lactation boosters” have you heard about or tried?

 

December Classes

Happy Holidays and Happy December!  Here are my class dates for December.  Registration is available on my website here.  More information about what is taught in the classes here.

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Tuesday, December 13th: 7-9 PM at Cardon Family Chiropractic in Mustang

and TWO FREE mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group meetings:

Friday, December 7th at 6:30 PM.  This is a meeting for mothers and children not comfortable being away from mom (nursing children are always welcome).  Fathers are also welcome at our evening meetings.  Please bring some toys for your older children to be entertained.

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Friday, December 16th at 3:30 PM.  This is a meeting for mothers and children not comfortable being away from mom (nursing children are always welcome).  Please bring some toys for your older children to be entertained.

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Don’t Put the Car Seat on the Cart!

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Photo credit: Niki Miller

It’s been publicized that the practice of attaching a car seat to a cart is not considered safe but when I go to a grocery store in Oklahoma City I usually find at least one baby in their car seat “snapped” in to the cart.  I would like to remind any parent reading this that if they are doing this currently to stop right away but don’t feel bad or guilty for doing this.  Many parents have “snapped” their car seat to their cart (myself included!) before knowing the dangers.  When we know better we do better!

So why is it dangerous?  Car seats were not designed to sit on carts.  All carts are differently shaped.  Even if the seat will “snap” on to the cart this practice is dangerous because it may break the part that clicks in to the base in your car which will render the seat ineffective in an accident.  Putting a car seat on a cart in this manner also makes the cart top heavy.  A small shift of weight by baby or even a shift of the cart can make the whole cart tip or the baby and seat to tip off of the cart which can seriously injure baby.  Another cart flaw can cause baby to fall through a cart and become severely injured as shown in this video.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Injuries associated with shopping carts are an important cause of pediatric morbidity, especially among children younger than 5 years. An estimated 24200 children younger than 15 years, 20700 (85%) of whom were younger than 5 years, were treated in US hospital emergency departments in 2005 for shopping cart–related injuries.

Among their recommendations to prevent accidents (including education for parents and possible redesigning of shopping carts) they state:

Providing adult caregivers with alternatives to placing a child in a cart while they shop can effectively prevent shopping cart–related injuries. Some stores provide supervised play areas for children. Parents may be able to arrange for another adult to accompany them and watch the child during a shopping trip. Other parents may be able to transport a young child in a stroller, wagon, frontpack, or backpack. An older child can be asked to walk. Some parents may be able to leave their child at home with an adult while they shop, but this is not an option for many others. Some stores offer shopping via the Internet with or without home delivery.

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Photo Credit: Carissa Traut

Many carts now also include warnings to not put an infant in an infant seat on the cart.  Even if the cart includes a rest for a car seat it still isn’t recommended to do this because it can cause the cart to be too top heavy and tip or the seat to tip out, especially if a parent forgets to buckle the seat in to the cradle.

Car seat manufacturers also caution against this use of car seats.  It’s in your manual.  If you don’t read other instruction manuals do read your car seat manual!  Your baby’s life could depend on it since a car seat is a potential life saving device in a car accident.  Read the manual!

Photo credit: Kissably Close, Aimee Park

I suggest that parents have a soft baby carrier that they can put baby in while grocery shopping if there isn’t a built in infant seat in the car seat (but again, these can cause the cart to become top heavy so use with extreme caution and always buckle baby in!).  For more information on types of carriers and carriers that are good for different stages please check back to earlier blog posts.  When baby is old enough to sit alone it’s safe to put baby in the toddler portion of the cart (about 6-8 months).  Until then, consider wearing your baby at the store.

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Photo Credit: Carissa Traut

For more information please see:

If you need help choosing and using a baby carrier in Oklahoma City, Mustang, or Yukon please visit my website or contact me.

What is your favorite carrier to use while at the store?

 

Wearing an Older Infant

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This post continues the ages and stages babywearing series.  If you would like to learn more about newborn babywearing or wearing an infant until they’re able to sit up on their own check out my earlier posts.

The spread squat position is still very important at this stage.  Be sure to read more about this in my newborn babywearing post.  When baby is in the carrier you are looking for this position (notice the curved spine and the knees higher than the bum (capital M position).

Carriers that are great to use at this stage:

  • A ring sling for shorter periods of time.  You may begin considering a wrap convert ring sling if this is your favorite carrier and you want to wear for longer spurts because the heavier weave helps distribute weight better.
  • Woven Wraps
  • Gauze or Hybrid wraps may become a little less comfortable as your child grows.
  • No stretchy wraps-they will not support the spread squat positioning at this point.
  • Mei tais start becoming a great option at this stage!
  • Soft Structure Carriers are also a great option for quick up and downs.

As babies grow and become older they will begin to like quicker up and downs (especially as they begin to walk).  Babies will also grow heavier but if you’re used to wearing your muscles will grow along with baby.  There’s no need to restrict wearing based on your child’s size/weight unless you have a medical condition to consider.

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Wearing my oldest son at 12 months in a ring sling when he got overwhelmed by a play date

 

You may also begin to be interested in back wearing.  Back carries can help you wear for a longer period of time more comfortably as your child grows but remember that babies like to snuggle too and knowing how to nurse in a carrier is a good skill (not every mom is able to nurse in a carrier but if you can practice in several different carriers most mothers can find a way to comfortably nurse while wearing).  You may spend more time out of the house and at this point you may almost mourn if you have forgotten your carrier at home.  It’s a good idea to have an inexpensive back up carrier in your car or diaper bag or keep a carrier in your car all the time so your arms and back don’t ache when you’re out and forgot the carrier.

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Boba Selfie! Back carries help baby interact with the world (including staying safe while watching older brothers ride bikes).

Back carries can also help baby interact a little more with their world.  When baby can see over your shoulder they can see and experience what you see but also be able to snuggle in when they become overwhelmed or shy.

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My daughter at about 7 months “helping” me clean the house

At this stage you may experience a baby that wants to nurse and then doesn’t fall alseep nursing any longer.  Wearing your baby down may be a very lovely skill to have in your toolbox of parenting tricks.  With practice you can wear your baby and take a walk around your house or neighborhood (make sure to have a flashlight and stay safe at night!) or just snuggle and rock.  The tightness of the carrier often works better for this then just sitting in a rocking chair.  Make sure when you put baby down to remove the carrier so there are no suffocation hazards.

Back wrapping tips and tricks:

  • When you’re beginning back wraps practice while kneeling on your bed or a soft surface and/or start low.
  • Get help, have a spot
  • Practice getting a good seat in a front wrap cross carry before attempting back wrapping.
  • Use a mirror or your computer camera to help you see what’s going on on your back.
  • Get hands on help!  It makes a huge difference.

I recommend doing the “superman” method for getting baby on your back because you stay in full control and contact of baby while putting baby up.  Here’s a video that shows this technique.

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Hiking with a toddler in Newport, Oregon

I teach best practices for positioning for all babies because suboptimal positioning puts baby at risk for possible hip/spine issues down the road.  Like how drinking alcohol doesn’t ALWAYS cause liver disease or smoking doesn’t ALWAYS cause lung cancer the benefits and risks should be weighed when making decisions.  The risk is there and I recommend minimizing that risk.

If you’re in the Oklahoma City area and would like some hands on babywearing help please contact me or visit my website.

What is your favorite carrier for an infant that can sit on their own?

November Classes

Hope you all had an excellent Halloween-happy November!  Here are my class dates for November.  Registration is available on my website here.  More information about what is taught in the classes here.

Classes are cancelled for this month due to change in location.

FREE mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group on Friday, November 18th at 3:30 PM.  This is a meeting for mothers and children not comfortable being away from mom (nursing children are always welcome).  Please bring some toys for your older children to be entertained.

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