Welcome to the Women’s Health Blogfest featuring posts from registered dietitians and lactation professionals. First I want to share how breastfeeding counselors use their unique skills to help support breastfeeding mothers. At the end of this post, watch for links to other participating bloggers!
It’s true of nearly any profession. The keys to success are not technical knowledge or even years of experience. As I law student, I was not asked to memorize all the rules of federal, state, and local law. That would be impossible! Instead I was taught how to get at the heart of an issue and how to research and interpret the applicable laws. As a parent, I don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology or years of mothering under my belt. Mainly I need a sympathetic ear and a few resources, friends, and experts to consult. The same is true as a breastfeeding support professional. The most important skills for breastfeeding support are listening, identifying the real issue, and knowing how to find the answers. Sure it would be wonderful to have an encyclopedic knowledge of lactation, but such knowledge won’t get a lactation professional very far if she cannot discern that when a mother says:
“I don’t have enough milk” she often means “My family members want to feed the baby a bottle.” or
“I need to know how to wean my baby” she often means “I’m [going on a trip/need to take a medication/am in pain] and want to continue breastfeeding if it’s possible.” and
“Are there just some women who cannot breastfeed?” she often means “I want your permission to wean.”
ListeningA good lactation consultant, volunteer breastfeeding counselor, or medical professional knows to ask lots of questions and actually listen to the answers. Before jumping in with advice or information, it’s best to offer sympathy, reflect back what the mother is saying so that she knows she is being heard and understood, and make certain what it is the mother really seeks. Only then can the right kind of support, information and advice be offered.
I might not know off the top of my head whether a specific antibiotic can be taken safely while breastfeeding, but I know how to consult LactMed and Medications and Mothers Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology. I also know how to share the correct information with the mother, reassure her that the doctor who told her she needed to wean in order to take the medication was mistaken, and offer ideas on how the mother can talk to that doctor about continuing to breastfeed while taking the medication.
Offering Empathy and Guidance
Sometimes the best response is not:
“Here is my advice.” but “That must be so difficult.” and not
“The answer is….” but “I will be happy to find out for you.” and not
“You should….” but “Here are some of your options.”
Only when a mother feels heard and understood has the lactation counselor succeeded at breastfeeding support.
Was a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor particularly helpful to you, and if so, how? If you are a lactation professional, what do you consider your most valuable skill?
Other Carnival Participants
Angie Tillman, RD, LDN, CDE – You Are Beautiful Today
Anthony J. Sepe – Women’s Health and Migraines
Ashley Colpaart – Women’s health through women
Charisse McElwaine – Spending too much time on the “throne?”
Danielle Omar – Yoga, Mindful Eating and Food Confidence
Diane Preves M.S.,R.D – Balance for Health
Joan Sather – A Woman’s Healthy Choices Affect More Than Herself
Laura Wittke – Fibro Study Recruits Participants
Liz Marr, MS, RD – Reflecting on Family Food Ways and Women’s Work
Marjorie Geiser, MBA, RD, NSCA-CPT – Healthy Women, Healthy Business: How Your Health Impacts a Powerful Business
Marsha Hudnall – Breakfast Protein Helps Light Eaters Feel Full
Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD – A Nutritionista’s Super Foods for Super Skin
Monika Woolsey, MS, RD – To effectively work with PCOS is to understand a woman’s health issues throughout her life
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog – How breastfeeding helps you, too
Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD – Four Keys to Wellness, Just for Women
Renata Mangrum, MPH, RD – The busy busy woman
Robin Plotkin, RD, LD – Feeding the Appetites of the Culinary, Epicurious and Nutrition Worlds-One Bite at a Time
Sharon Solomon – Calories, longevity and do I care
Terri L Mozingo, RD, CDN & D. Milton Stokes, MPH, RD, CDN of One Source Nutrition, LLC – Crossing the Line: From Health to Hurt
Wendy Jo Peterson, RD – Watch Your Garden Grow