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Why I Became A Lactation Consultant: My Experience with Baby Wise

30 Jan
Photo by Kelly Roth Photography,

Photo by Kelly Roth Photography,

I was pregnant with my first baby and eager to gather all the information I could to smoothly transition from life with just the two of us, to life with three.  (Of course, in the early days, it is everything but a smooth transition!)

I learned about a class for expectant parents called “Prep for Parenting.”  It was a class to give you guidance in parenting with Biblical principles.  There were two big draws for me.  First, being a person of faith, I thought this would be the way to go to follow a Biblical parenting style.  And second, it all but guaranteed that if you followed their guide your baby would be sleeping through the night by 8 weeks.  Yes!  I love sleep!

Obviously, though I was a mother/baby nurse, I knew nothing about a mom and baby’s physiology as a dyad; that even though the umbilical cord had been cut, mom and baby are still connected.  They are one.  I was taught the facts in nursing school, not about what happened after the pair was discharged from the hospital.  I had no idea how it felt to be a mom or how a mother’s instinct kicks in and is such an intimate part of parenting.

Labor Day arrived, and I never imagined how in love I would be with this little person.  The instincts to hold her, touch her and feed her overwhelmed me.  I even took a warm bath with her right after delivery.  She cuddled next to me, she took naps on my chest, and she took naps on my husband’s chest.  From birth, she was given that feeling of security.

Then I allowed book knowledge to override my instinct as a mother.  We had decided prior to delivery that she would not sleep in the bed with us.  The cradle was already prepared for her beside our bed.  I would breastfeed her and she would fall asleep; we would swaddle her and put her down in her cradle.  You know, because you weren’t supposed to hold the baby while she was sleeping because you would spoil her.    And when she fussed and it had only been an hour since she ate and surely she couldn’t be hungry yet, you were supposed to just let her fuss because she was manipulating you so you would pick her up.  If you picked her up, she would learn that all she had to do was fuss or cry to get picked up.

I am positive that this school of thought adversely affected our breastfeeding journey.   The first two days, I developed bruised and painful nipples.  My milk came in at day 2 1/2.  And day 3 was one of the worst days of my life.  My breasts became so engorged that she could not get latched on properly, and my nipples went from sore to open wounds.  She would scream, and I would cry.

I dreaded feedings, and latch attempts curled my toes.  That day, my family members held her more than I did.  I couldn’t stand having anything up near my breasts.  I tried pumping milk out to relieve engorgement, but I could hardly express any milk.  A feeding would end (well, I would think she was done when she fell asleep at the breast), and I would hand her to my husband, mom or mother-in-law.  Then an hour later, she would cry to eat again.  But I didn’t know that.  I thought that surely she could not be hungry again.  So she would be soothed by someone until the 3 hour mark had been reached.  We were supposed to keep to some kind of schedule.  She had to be taught that she was not the center of the universe.  In that second week, we began putting her in her crib awake to teach her how to soothe herself.  We were supposed to let her cry it out until she fell asleep.  It went against every motherly instinct I possessed.  My husband even bought a video monitor at my insistence so that at least I could monitor her to make sure she was OK.

Through those first 8 weeks I developed an infection on one of my nipples, I thought I developed thrush, I had 3 bouts of mastitis, and I stayed engorged.  Though everyone told me to just keep breastfeeding on that wound, that it would get better, I decided to nurse exclusively on one breast and pump the wounded one.  Pumping was even painful.  The position of the wound was such that pumping with too much suction caused it to break open, setting back the healing process.  At one time I was able to pump 8 ounces out of that breast.

I didn’t know she could get enough nursing from one breast, so I would attempt to bottle feed her with pumped milk after every nursing session.  I would offer her 4 ounces!  Constant doubt flooded my mind.  How could I be so clueless?

After almost 3 months, I was finally comfortable with breastfeeding.  I feel now that I missed out on enjoying the first 3 months of my firstborn’s life.  I vowed that with my next baby I would throw out that book – and I did.  I experienced none of the same breastfeeding problems with him.

In the next 10 years, helping other moms breastfeed became my passion.  I knew what I was meant to do.  I traded floor nursing for childbirth and breastfeeding education.  La Leche League became an integral part of the breastfeeding journeys with all of my babies.  I eventually became an accredited leader.  No mom should ever have to go through what I went through.

Almost 10 years to the day of the birth of my baby girl, I realized my dream and took the board exam to become a lactation consultant.  That day for me represented my journey as a parent, a mom, and an educator.  I was not the same person.  What a paradigm shift!

On Becoming Baby Wise contradicts the physiology of mom and baby as one and can sabotage breastfeeding and interrupt the development of trust and security.  It is based on the premise that the baby needs to understand that his parents will not succumb his attempts to manipulate.

Baby Wise says the child is not the center of the universe.
I know that a baby cannot take care of himself.  His needs must be met, and mom is the primary caregiver.  Being a parent means that parts of your life before baby may be put on hold for the time being.

Baby Wise says that early on, he must learn to self soothe.
I know that he has only one childhood to share with you.  When you soothe him, he learns to trust that his needs will be met.

Baby Wise says that to learn to self soothe, he must be allowed to cry it out until he can fall asleep on his own.  If he falls asleep at the breast or while being held, he needs to be put down.
I know that crying it out can adversely affect baby physically and developmentally.  Holding a baby while he is sleeping or nursing him to sleep will not spoil him.

Baby Wise says that he must sleep in his own bed.  Bed-sharing is not safe.
I know that babies need to be close to mom.  Bed-sharing is encouraged if guidelines for safe bed-sharing are followed.

Baby Wise says that by 8 weeks, he should physiologically be able to sleep through the night without needing to eat.
I know that a baby’s ability to sleep through the night is up to the baby past the first two months.  He knows when he needs to eat and when he doesn’t, just as we know when we need to eat and when we need to stop.  Each baby is physiologically able to sleep through the night at different ages and stages of development.

Baby Wise says that crying in between feedings does not mean baby is hungry.  He is trying to manipulate his parents to pick him up, therefore teaching him that he can get what he wants every time he cries.
I know that a baby’s cries are not cries of manipulation.  Crying is the only way he can communicate that he has a need:  to eat, to be changed, to be warmed up, to be cooled down, to be close and snuggled, to feel secure, to sleep.

Baby Wise says that to develop a sense of healthy independence, a firm schedule of feeding and naps needs to be established early on or chaos will rule.
I know that responding to his needs so that he can develop a sense of trust and security helps him develop healthy independence.  Cue feeding is important to decrease risks for engorgement, mastitis, inadequate baby weight gain, and inadequate milk supply.

I grieve the time I spent early on trying to enforce guidelines that told me to do things counter to my instincts as a mother and things that weren’t evidenced based.  I believe my bond with my firstborn to this day is not what it should be.  But I set aside the mom guilt and moved forward to become who I am.  We know our experiences shape us.  My first breastfeeding experience now drives me to exhaust my resources to work hard to prevent these issues or to help a mom overcome them early on.

Were you ever made to go against your instincts when it came to parenting and breastfeeding? What would you tell other moms in this situation?


Everything But the Kitchen Sink: 10 Things to Put in Your Consult Bag That Don’t Include a Scale

19 Aug

1113495-Clipart-3d-Tooth-Brush-With-Sparly-Blue-Gel-Paste-On-The-Bristles-Royalty-Free-Vector-Illustration1. A change of clothes, especially if you have another consult to go to. And the day you don’t, you will be peed on, pooped on or spit up on.

2. Antibacterial wipes to “sponge bathe” when you get in your car when you get peed on, pooped on, or spit up on and the pee, poop or spit up goes on your skin instead of your clothes, and you don’t want to go into the bathroom of a seedy gas station to use their sink (which you didn’t pack) for water to wash yourself off.

3. A client consent and chart along with an extra consent and chart when your business partner calls you to go see another mom in distress when you thought you only had one visit.

4. And if you forget your chart, you can use the notebook of blank paper that you have also packed in your bag, along with the extra pen.

5. An extra phone charger, because believe me, when you are headed into the boondocks with a dead phone, which equals no GPS, a small amount of panic rises until you find that seedy gas station that sells cheap phone chargers.

6. A mirror to check your teeth, because you don’t have your sink to brush your teeth (remember you are packing everything but the sink) when you are on the run and snacking between consults on the trail mix you also packed in your bag because you know you won’t have time for lunch.

7. Breath mints or gum to cover up your stinky breath (because you don’t have your sink to brush your teeth after the snacking you are doing between consults because you don’t have time for lunch).

8. Deodorant in case you run out the door and forget to put it on because walking from the house to the car in the Texas heat barely gives you enough time to apply before you start stinkin’.

9. Cash for the time you forget to put your debit card back into your purse and it ends up in the wash because you put it in your pocket because you had to stop for gas due to the 250 miles you had already traveled the day before.

10. Socks without holes because when you take your shoes off before going into a mom’s house you notice your big toe is sticking out of your sock and you have another client to see.

And you thought there were only going to be ten…

Number 11 and most important…your sense of humor… for when you get peed on, pooped on, or spit up on and forgot a change of clothes, when you smell spit up on your arm and forgot antibacterial wipes, when you forget your chart and your blank notebook and have to ask your client for paper, when you are late to a consult because you are stuck in the boondocks without GPS, when you realize when you get back into the car you have a raisin stuck in your teeth because you forgot your mirror, when the snack you brought is garlic flavored and you forgot gum, when you have to keep your arms as close to your side during your visits because your armpits are sweating because you forgot your deodorant, when you have to call your husband to bring gas because you forgot your extra cash when your debit card did not end up back in your purse, and for when you have to apologize to the second client for your hole-y socks because you forgot your un-hole-y socks.

What do you find you need for your consults?

Musings of a Mommy LC

3 Nov

Many of us IBCLCs have young children, and those of us that don’t have been there, done that.  It was a struggle in the beginning, but I feel I have finally gathered enough tools in my tool box to strike a good balance between work and home. (Now, everyday is not perfect because perfection is impossible, but the majority of days it works.)

I have compiled my own list of things that enable me to make my family the priority and still enjoy the work that I do.  Please feel free to comment and add to the list!  These are not necessarily in order of importance.  Also, many of you who work in other settings will have your work schedules set for you usually, but many of these tips will also be helpful to you.

  • I am notorious for forgetting school functions.  So, if you don’t already have one, get an appointment book with time slots or an app for your smartphone if you will use it consistently (key word: consistently).  Write all school holidays, early release days, school plays, band concerts, field trips….you get the picture.
  • In that same planner, schedule “me” time.  It is absolutely necessary…DO IT!
  • Now, find blocks of time that you can schedule home visits with mommas.
  • Then think about setting boundaries for work outside of the home visit.  When will you return calls and emails?  When will you send doctor’s reports?
  • Finish your chart and write your doctors’ reports right after your visit.
  • Plan a week in advance. Such as, have a family meeting to pick meals for the week (easy ones for days you work), then pick a day of the week for grocery shopping.  Find meals with ingredients that can be fixed in advance.
  • UNPLUG (yes, I said it) after your kids get home from daycare and/or school.  Put your phone on the charger out of ears’ reach, turn off the computer, ipad, iMac, etc., so that you can give full attention to the rugrats.  The electronics can wait until they are in bed.
  • Make your house a electronic-free zone (including tv) for the kids during the school week. You’ve heard of the research…
  • Give each child a chore (unless they are 9 months old, although it’s not too early for big brother or sisiter to model those tasks).  Then, be ok with the fact that they won’t do it exactly as you would like.  Kids need to be involved and feel like they are active participants of the family (though they moan and groan when they are putting away laundry or emptying the trash).
  • Get enough sleep, hydrate (with water, not coffee) and incorporate whole, natural foods into 90% of your diet, save the other 10% for splurging.  If you don’t fuel yourself, you can’t help fuel your child’s or your clients’ confidence.


Meet the BABE IBCLCs…Misti Ryan

22 Nov

For as long as I can remember (early childhood), I have been fascinated with mommas and babies.  My earliest memory of this fascination is when I was about 4 years old after I must have seen a mom breastfeed…I tucked myself in a little corner of our living room with a blanket and my baby doll and proceeded to nurse my doll!

These early experiences fostered a desire to help mommas and babies in my adult years as I attended nursing school and specialized in obstetrics after I graduated.  My career was my passion.  Once I had my foot in the door, though, I plunged head long into my primary goal in life: getting married and having a family of my own!

My wonderful husband and I were married in 1999…baby number one was born the summer of 2001.  My sweet little daughter was born at home with the assistance of my now life long friend and midwife, Jackie Griggs.  She nursed right away.  I was in mommy heaven!  Then, day #3 hit…the challenges!  Nothing was going to keep me from nursing my baby, so I persisted through, and by 6 weeks we were nursing comfortably, and it was pure bliss!

As a labor and delivery nurse, I knew that after my own personal breastfeeding experience I was in a unique position to help moms avoid the problems I had in the beginning of my breastfeeding journey.  I took the childbirth educator position when it became available and added a breastfeeding class to the repertoire soon after.  My job evolved, and I gradually began counseling inpatient breastfeeding moms as an educator.  I made it my personal mission to educate myself on all things breastfeeding and the dream of becoming a lactation consultant was born.

La Leche League played a big role in my breastfeeding success as well as my dream.  I became a leader shortly after the birth of my 2nd daughter in 2004 and have been co-leading the Pasadena group since then.

My family grew rapidly, a son in 2003, another daughter in 2004, third daughter in 2006, and a surprise daughter in 2009…all natural births and all breastfed.  Needless to say, I stayed busy, and each year that passed I patiently postponed making the commitment to apply for the IBCLC exam.  Then, in the fall of 2010 I met Leah Jolly while working on our La Leche League groups’ treasuries.  The rest is history, and here I sit…my dream realized.

I believe mommas are strong.  I believe babies are smart.   I believe birth is a dance.   I believe breastfeeding is natural.  And I am so excited to be a part.  Let the adventure begin!

Meet the BABE IBCLCs…Leah Jolly

22 Nov

My journey towards Lactation consultant work started with my love for science. I grew up thrilled with anything science and nature. I explored my world with the eyes of a scientist. I was so interested in the natural course of life and as I moved through my school aged years my interest grew and I was drawn into science as a career path in college.  I began college sure I wanted to work with animals but after a year of veterinary nursing school I was not so sure, I found my self more drawn to human life and sciences. So I transferred to University of Houston Clear-Lake and acquired a degree in Biology.

In my last year of college I met and married my husband. We started our family a year later. My first breastfeeding experience came when my first son arrived and due to his oral motor hypotonia, we struggled a great deal and with a lack of support to continue through the struggles, we only had 4 weeks of breastfeeding. I was devastated and determined to have a different experience the next time. When my second arrive, in 2003, after a very traumatic birth, breastfeeding started on another difficult path. Determined to not give up, I sought the support of my local La Leche League group and this is where it all began.  Even though we still had a very difficult time breastfeeding, the support and encouragement made it all so much easier! After a year with the group, I began my work to become a leader.

We had two more children, in 2005 and 2009 and with each one my breastfeeding experiences became more and more positive and less difficult.  I continued my work with La Leche League and loved helping moms achieve their breastfeeding goals. I was so reward to give back what was given to me! In the fall of 2010 I decided I want to be able to help moms even more and made plans to sit for the 2011 IBCLC exam.  I met Misti through our La Leche League work and we decided to become study partners…..well the rest is history!! My dreams have come true beyond measure! I absolutely love working as an IBCLC. I love empowering moms to listen to their own voice and their baby. It is a joy to be part of such a special part of the mothering journey! Daily, I am amazed at the strength and perseverance of mothers. I look forward to many years of working with moms and babies!

Up and Running……

15 Nov

Bay Area Breastfeeding and Education is up and running!! Misti and Leah passed our IBCLC exam with flying colors and are thrilled to be now serving moms in the Bay Area. Since our test results came in just 3 weeks ago, we have helped several moms and babies and Misti and I are feeling so blessed to be in such a rewarding career!! It is awesome to see a mom feel empowered with knowledge and able to overcome their breastfeeding challenges! The motherhood journey is so powerful and it is so exciting to be a part of reminding moms of their ability and instincts!! Our first few cases were challenging and Misit and I love the detective work involved in some of the not so “run of mill’ cases! We are putting all our hours of intense studying to good use and loving every minute of it!!

Our next goal is to reach out to local physicians and other healthcare providers that work closely with moms, to give them information about our services so that we can reach more mothers and babies! For all those following us here….we hope to use this blog to let you know about BABE news and breastfeeding information! Stay tuned…..we have so much to come……

Two girls, a designer and a logo idea….

2 Oct

It is amazing the time and thought it takes to spill your ideas and vision out into a small picture representation.  After a lot of prayer and helpful advice, we found the right person at the right time with the right skills.  She took our ideas and vision, and on the first try presented to us a beautiful, professional and classy logo that popped.  We look forward to sharing it with the world soon!

We’re on the Web!

18 Sep
After hours of work, our website is up!  It is still a work in progress.  We have plans to add more content.  Visit often to stay up to date on our progress.

Shot of our home page


16 Sep

Yesterday, we registered our name with the state…so we are one step closer to being completely official!  We are working on our logo and website (visit often for continual updates).  Our excitement is propelling us forward!  Enjoying sharing our journey with you.


13 Sep

B.A.B.E will be having its’ second official business meeting tomorrow.  We have quite a bit to discuss.  It is hard to wait patiently for the end of October when we will receive our test results.