Why Communication Helps Breast/Chestfeeding Families.
By: Angie Whatley RN, IBCLC, CLD
Do you remember this first time you talked with a family about breast/chest feeding? Were you nervous? Did your suggestions help them succeed?
Education and learning how to overcome challenges in the early days helps to increase the initiation and duration rates of breastfeeding in the United States. Our work is so important throughout the prenatal phase to normalize breast/chest feeding and equip families with knowledge and skills before the baby comes. I can remember how nervous I was the first time I taught a breastfeeding class…. I had so much knowledge in my head from my own education, my own experiences, and the courses I took for certification in breastfeeding education that I wanted them to know it all!!
I started my lactation practice about 15 years ago and have helped new parents learn to breastfeed both in hospital settings and in their homes. Each setting offers a very different perspective on families’ challenges, support systems, and disclosures. I have seen in my own practice that when breastfeeding is not going well, parents may feel depressed and not know how to deal with the emotions of guilt for not being able to feed their baby the way they hoped. Breast/chest feeding is made even more difficult when new parents face challenges in our healthcare system. Many parents may not even try breastfeeding due to fear of guilt and negative stories they hear from other families.
How can we help these families be more successful and feel ok about their decisions to breastfeed as long as they can? I have learned along the way to condense the knowledge to focus on the family’s concerns and priorities, share only positive stories, and give practical suggestions and options for what they need to survive and still feel successful.
My own breastfeeding experiences with my 3 pregnancies were all very different. Even though I was a nurse with my first son born 32 years ago, I knew very little. When I had pain with breastfeeding there wasn’t an IBCLC or CLC around me to help, and there was no one knowledgeable about latching even in my pediatrician’s office. No one in my family that I knew breastfed, so I wasn’t very successful and quit nursing around 2 months due to nipple trauma and infection. I struggled with guilty feelings around this, but now I know I did the best I could with what I knew and had access to at that time. My other two babies were also breastfed, but I was more equipped and had resources for support. This is the case for many parents that either have no support in their families or communities or are too afraid to reach out for help for whatever reasons.
I like to share my knowledge and stories to help other educators support birth families to help them succeed and feel comfortable about their decisions without guilt. You can make a difference in a family and infant’s health and life just by offering encouragement and support the best way you can with the knowledge you have, being non-judgmental, and giving resources to help.
Come learn more about this topic in the Breastfeeding Talk – “Making the Case” webinar on July 7th from 10:30AM to 11:45AM ET to learn how you can be a better communicator and educator to help families set and reach their breastfeeding goals. Register here!
Angie has worked the last 30 years as an RN in Maternal Child health previously retired in September 2022 from 28 years in Public Health through the Arkansas Department of Health, the last 5 years as WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Coordinator. She achieved IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant) in 2014 and started her own lactation consulting business to provide in-home breastfeeding consults. Her own childbirth/breastfeeding experiences lead to this passion to educate, support, and encourage families on their journeys as new parents. Angie offers lactation education to rural hospital settings for nurses and providers to learn more on how to support breastfeeding in the hospital to get the best start. Angie has close relationships working with many medical providers in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Memphis Tennessee areas and mentors aspiring doulas/childbirth educators and lactation counselors working toward certification. Angie also is a member of Toastmasters International. She serves on several State Breastfeeding Coalitions and the Arkansas Breastfeeding Taskforce. Previous public speaking engagements include National Area Health Education Conference – Las Vegas, NV in 2010, Arkansas Public Health Association Annual Conference 2017, Arkansas Breastfeeding Coalition – Lactation Symposium 2018 & 2019, Arkansas Home Visiting Network Annual Conference 2017 & 2019.