Happy Holidays everyone!! I am so happy that I’m healed up and getting back into the business of serving you. Shingles was really no joke. It was like I had a severe earache, toothaches and a headache all at the same time. Honestly, I would prefer labor pains to Shingles pain. The one positive thing about that ordeal was that I learned to slow down and listen to my body. Varicella zoster virus (VZV) can reactivate because of stress and I was extremely stressed out these past few months as I figured out my career and journey to becoming an IBCLC. You’ve read my blog posts so far and probably have a picture of what I stand for and believe in. Let me fill you in on exactly how I came into lactation and what is in store for JC Lactation Counseling moving forward.
The woman behind the computer screen
I speak a bit about my breastfeeding struggles on my About Me page. I will say that my struggles actually began when I was pregnant. My husband and I went to the 2 day hospital “childbirth education” class. It was more like 2 days of orientation to the maternity ward and how to ask for an epidural. Breastfeeding was only briefly mentioned. Because of all the scary stats I read about at the time, I made sure to hire a doula. I figured having a white woman on my side would help keep me alive. I was off Facebook for several year so I wasn’t in any mom or breastfeeding groups. I did not take a breastfeeding class. I figured, it must be natural since sooo many people were telling me that breastfeeding is best for my baby and that I should do it. My doula gave some breastfeeding advice and I learned about KellyMom.com. That is literally ALL the breastfeeding knowledge I had. My goodness I was so ill prepared for breastfeeding 😭
Specific breastfeeding challenges
I experienced so many things in the first 6 months of my breastfeeding journey. I suspect that I had a high milk supply (I’ll make a post about this later). I had engorgement, clogged ducts, nipple damage, nipple pain and lack of confidence. My son had a shallow latch and possible oral ties. No one showed me how to use my insurance provided breast pump and my body didn’t respond well to it. I wished I saw a post like my own!! My elderly neighbor, bless her heart, came to our apartment with a casserole and advise that since my son had a birth weight of 8 lbs. that he needed formula because my milk wouldn’t fill him up (I eventually learned that this was a prevalent myth in the Black community). I was being terrorized by my mother and was so stressed out that I had to stop speaking to her for 5 weeks (more on narcissistic mothers in another post). The pediatrician claimed that my son lost too much weight and needed formula. No recommendations on which kind, how much, how often or even the exact reason why. I understand that lactating bodies weren’t his concern….but they were feeding his patient. He off handily suggested that I speak to a lactation consultant but he didn’t give me a phone number, website or directory. No one on staff could assist me at that first visit. My husband went to Target to buy formula and I walked home bawling. I felt crushed. I had a visiting nurse from the Nurse Family Partnership but its sad to say that she did nothing to help me breastfeed my baby. She was actually surprised at every breastfeeding milestone. Surprised that my body could do what it was supposed to do. My husband and mother in law were extremely supportive of breastfeeding, as it is normalized in their culture. But I didn’t get practical help from them either. My nipples were still extremely mishappened and sore. I literally cringed at every nursing session. This situation is NOT normal. I am not here to say tough it out because I did, so can you. No, this is a cautionary tale that it really does take a village to raise a baby and to breastfeed. Besides all of this, my son was a VERY challenging baby. And I blamed myself for a lot of things that just wasn’t in my control.
When I was a few weeks postpartum, I found the discharge papers from the hospital and called the two lactation consultants listed. I balked at the cost of self-pay, in-home IBCLC visit. I didn’t think I needed an IBCLC but my Google searches were useless and I got even more confused with the alphabet soup of lactation credentials and acronyms. When my son was 6 weeks old, (yes!! 6 weeks of straight pain!!) I managed to go to the WIC office. I was at the end of the rope, at my wits’ end – fill in the blank with your favorite idiom. Postpartum anxiety was also kicking my ass. The breastfeeding peer counselor suggested a bunch of things, namely the football hold, and WOW. My son was able to open his mouth wider and I remember saying “…I don’t feel pain”. My husband and I started to give less formula. I still have the notes that I took that day! Although the latching pain resolved, I still had trouble with clogged ducts, leaking breasts, etc. for the next few months.
My family and friends would characterize me as a teacher’s pet, a know-it-all and always wanting to be right. There is truth to this 😅. With these personality traits and my need at the time to check people, I played around with the idea of learning more about lactation. I just knew that I needed to educate myself (I especially wanted to tell the pediatrician where to stick it). I figured that the money I would pay a lactation professional I can put more on top of that into education, so I could sort out my own issues. Yes, I know, lofty goals. Especially with a 6-month old who was basically exclusively breastfed. But I powered through, learned about The Healthy Children Project and signed up for their upcoming Lactation Counselor Training Course in New York City. Best decision ever.
The road ahead
I invite you to join me on this journey as I train to became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the gold standard in the lactation field. I have a mentor and will need 500 clinical hours as well as 90 hours of lactation specific education, college level health courses (thank God for my bachelors degree in Health Science) and other requirements. I will then sit for probably the hardest and most expensive exam I will ever take. My husband and I are making tremendous sacrifices so that I can devote myself full-time to this endeavor. Even though this will mean quitting my full-time job in favor of a flexible part-time gig. This ain’t gonna be easy but I’m down for it!
So, how can you help me? Why, I thought you would never ask 🤭 Share my blog, tell your pregnant and newly postpartum friends about JC Lactation Counseling. Let them know that I’m here for them and working hard to end breastfeeding disparities one consult at a time. Although I don’t have a booking software anymore (this pandemic made all prices go up!), my Book me page is still streamlined and is an easy way to schedule an appointment with me. If you’ve had positive interactions with me, writing a review on Google and/or Facebook helps to spread the word about my company. I will continue offering my support group, the first of the new year will be on Tuesday January 3rd. Future posts are gonna be lit. I’m going to talk about stuff that may be controversial and maybe even taboo in society. I want this to be a safe space to discuss these things.
Most importantly, this journey will involve intensive self-care and strong boundaries, especially with myself. To stay healthy physically and mentally, I need to recognize my limitations and manage my expectations. I know that I cannot do it all at once. This new mindset is the key to managing my mental health challenges.
A Special Thank You
Thank you for granting me grace and patience. I would like to offer everyone looking for prenatal breastfeeding education and lactation consulting a 50% discount on these services. That’s right, you’ll only pay the deposit for either of these two services until the end of January. If you want to know more about me or my services, we can also talk a bit during the Get Acquainted session. I am looking forward to hearing your stories and helping you along your breastfeeding journeys ❤