In celebration of World Breastfeeding Awareness Week I wanted to share why I decided to become a Certified Lactation Educator & Counselor (CLEC), what it entails and provide information to those who are interested in pursuing this path.

I believe we go through challenges in life to overcome them, learn from them, and use those experiences to help others who are going through a similar process. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. I thought because I read a breastfeeding book while I was pregnant and took a childbirth class; it meant that I was fully prepared. I learned that proper preparation includes breastfeeding education, such as taking a breastfeeding class from a qualified Lactation professional, and lining up a good support system. These two things are essential to getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

My son and I experienced many breastfeeding challenges that lasted for the better part of a year. Although there were times I felt hopeless and wanted to give up, I was determined to carry on. I am grateful to my two wonderful lactation consultants for their support, guidance, compassion and care.

My first lactation consultant came to my house for the first few weeks. She taught me the basics, helped me understand why my babe was having trouble latching-on and worked with us to resolve the issue. I met with my second lactation consultant at her breastfeeding center over the course of several months to work through other obstacles that presented such as recurrent plugged ducts, forceful let-down, oversupply, vasospasm, lactational adenoma and a very distracted baby who would only feed in the side-lying position! She was also able to support me going back to a full-time job so that I could express breast milk for my son while we were separated.

With their help, along with the love and support of my husband, my babe and I were able to work through these obstacles and go on to enjoy a very rewarding and mutually beneficial breastfeeding relationship. It feels only natural to help other women and families achieve their breastfeeding goals.

What is a Lactation Counselor? Lactation Counselors are hired to help mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals. They observe mother and baby during a feeding session, help facilitate proper positioning and latch, assess milk transfer and intake, address common breastfeeding concerns and refer more complicated cases to a Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Lactation Counselors can also be a continuous source of support, guidance and encouragement throughout the breastfeeding journey.

What is a Lactation Educator?  Lactation Educators serve as a resource for accurate, evidence-based information to families, the public and health care providers. They teach families interested in learning about breastfeeding by providing informational, emotional and practical support. Unfortunately, there’s really a limited amount of information given in standard medical and nursing training with regards to breastfeeding. New mothers are not often set up to succeed because they are not armed with the right information or don’t receive enough support.

My friend Lara, CLEC and founder of Mama Pear Designs referred me to an excellent certification program that is offered through UCSD. The program is offered onsite or online which allows the course to be self-paced with the only deadline being at the end of the course and the clinical/internship hours can be completed locally. There are no prerequisites to the course, but it is a prerequisite for UCSD’s IBCLC program should you wish to continue on that path. The course is taught by Gini Baker, RN, MPH, IBCLC.  She is a well-respected expert in the field of Lactation, with more than two decades of experience working with mothers and babies. The course is made up of lecture, videos, assignments, exams, and clinical hours. The final assignment is writing a comprehensive teaching curriculum which prepares you to get out there and get started. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Lactation Education and Counseling.

For more information about this program, check out Gini’s website and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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