Lactation education is vital for new moms and their support persons.
Statistically, those who form a decision to breastfeed prenatally are more likely to be successful. Breastfeeding should not be considered a controversial topic. If we shared breastfeeding information the same way we educate on car seat safety and back-to-sleep practices, perhaps we would see the topic more as a public health issue rather than a parenting style.
It is true that some moms are not able or not advised to breastfeed, and that is why there is a supplement available. We must also provide evidence-based information for formula-supplementing mothers and appreciate their specific circumstances. We need to embrace the autonomy of adults and respect their decisions.
The fact that parents have a choice regarding feeding should not silence breastfeeding advocates and educators.
No one should fear retributions for their feeding choice, and no one should fear offering evidence-based information about feeding choices. It is a dangerous practice to side-step issues and withhold education based on fear. The trend to silence perinatal professionals from offering breastfeeding advice is orchestrated and must be guarded against. I whole-heartedly believe it is irresponsible to keep the truth from anyone. We must get past the perception that “facts are attacks.”
I personally chose to combo feed my first-born. I say “chose,” but really I was not given the information to make an informed decision. I was given cans of formula at the hospital and continued to receive “complimentary” supplies on occasion. When I asked my nurse about feeding, she stated that breast or bottle are equally nutritious but added that bottle-feeding would guarantee me more rest. I “chose” based on her “guilt-free” counsel.
Countless lives and billions of dollars could be saved by the act of initiating breastfeeding. Mothers are empowered and infants are protected merely by the act of breastfeeding. The ingredients in breastmilk are well-documented to provide protection from illnesses and disease. Babies who receive human milk receive a species-specific food that promotes human health.
Since education is vital to informed decision making, a well-structured class geared to a specific audience will prove beneficial to both the educator and the student.
Oftentimes, an educator will attempt to fill a classroom by making the lactation topics broad and general. They believe by casting a large net, they will catch a large audience. I find just the opposite to be true. When prospective families are searching for a class, they want to ensure their time is not wasted and their needs are met. A mother of three, for instance, might not want to attend Breastfeeding 101.
When an educator invests time in strategizing and advertising specific courses to target specific audiences, there will be a good outcome for both the facilitator and the attendees. My advice is to provide a well-structured class for a specific audience. Having clear objectives will aid in curriculum development and boost attendance. When a person finds a course that meets a need or solves a problem, registration is imminent. In these busy times, a breastfeeding mom who is planning on returning to work will not have the time or desire to sit through a four hour class on newborn care, sibling introductions, and car seat installation.
I recommend looking at the educational needs of a community and then meeting those needs.
Class titles should be clear enough to elicit a response from a prospective student that leaves no doubt that she belongs in the class. Prenatal classes can even be further divided into categories for multiples, first time moms, teen moms, single moms, etc. Imagine a teenager sitting next to a mother of four. Would she feel free to ask questions or explore birth options? Many would not; the intimidation would be too strong. If this same young mother was in a class of peers, she would have a sense of belonging and be more apt to open up to the group and educator.
There are plenty of classes that can be specific, yet general enough to reach the ideal attendance of 6-12 individuals. Classes a lactation educator may consider offering could include:
- Making a Feeding Choice (ingredients in breastmilk, risks of formula feeding, making an informed decision, accepting help, seeking support, etc.)
- Breastfeeding and the Hospital (breast crawl, skin-to-skin, stomach capacity, latch, milk transfer, etc.)
- Breastfeeding the First Week (diaper counts, responsive feeding, baby cues, growth patterns, recovery, babymoon, etc.)
- Returning to Work (pump selection, milk storage, preparing the care provider, helping baby to adjust, paced bottle feeding, etc.)
Any one of these topics could be developed into a complete course that would meet the needs of a targeted group. Successful educators know their communities, invest in their classes, and benefit from referrals from former students. Remember, classes that are too long and too general often have a lower turn out and those who do attend leave feeling as though the instructor did not understand them or meet their needs. It is a better combination to do a lot of research, market to a specific audience, and spend time focusing on their circumstances—the results will be impressive and your business will bloom.
It is imperative that lactation educators continue to offer high-quality, necessary education. By sharing evidence-based information in a factual, kind, enjoyable, and empathetic way, we will see the tide change and silence the critics of breastfeeding education and promotion.
By Christy Jo Hendricks, CCCE, CLE
Copyright CAPPA 2016