I always knew somewhere deep down that an IBCLC does more than help mothers and babies with breastfeeding. I saw my mentor teaching nurses, participating in our local Coalition, working both in and outside of a hospital, writing policies, writing letters to our local paper and calling in to local radio shows to defend breastfeeding women’s rights. I tried to pick up the baton slowly over my first few years, but I had young children, a lot of work on my plate as a hospital-based IBCLC, and only a budding sense of confidence in my knowledge and ability to be an advocate.
The big moment happened at an ILCA Conference that I worked very hard to financially afford to attend. I didn’t want to miss out on a single opportunity at that conference, and I attended the plenaries, the breakouts, the special interest meetings, the USLCA Annual General Meeting, and introduced myself to many strangers/fellow IBCLCs. USLCA also hosted a Members Reception at that conference, and I made sure to be there as soon as it began. I mingled and found myself talking about the issues of our credential with several Board members. I recall standing with Alisa Sanders, then President of USLCA. She was dressed to the nines as always, a professional with confidence and kindness wrapped into a Southern drawl. I said something about working in the hospital, and she replied with something like a “Me, too, sister, amen” – and a light bulb went on in my head. I remember thinking, Wait a minute. All these Board members walking around here, representing what I do, making decisions about the future of my profession – they are leading from WITHIN. They are also here on their “Off” time – their “Real” jobs are in hospitals, too, and in private practice, and in physicians’ offices, leading support groups, helping sobbing women latch their babies and pour their breastmilk into tiny syringes to be taken to the NICU. They are just like me, and I am just like them.
I started really paying attention to my USLCA emails and newsletters. I looked for opportunities to contribute to the field and to the organization, and when a USLCA Board position became available, I mustered up every bit of confidence and courage and submitted my application. I am humbled every single day by the reminder that our membership put their trust in me, elected me to market not only this organization, but our whole profession, and I work hard to meet those responsibilities, fitting them in around my “Real” job and my family and my regular life. This is very much a working Board, where everyone is still “in the field” every day, teaching, latching, writing, researching, advocating, lecturing, and doing all the many things which make up the credential that permits us to pursue our passion for breastfeeding families. Every single member of USLCA has something unique to offer, and there is plenty of work to do to grow our profession. If this story inspires you to get involved, get in touch! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a message on Facebook (USLCA), tweet us a quick note @USLCA, or even pick up the phone and call (202)738-1125 Ext 710. We’d love to hear from you, and we appreciate all that you do to represent the IBCLC in your daily work!