Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS, IBCLC is the author of “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” and several other books. She has been caring for nursing mothers and their babies for the past 30 years. Kathleen started one of the first breastfeeding clinics in the U.S. in 1982. She also co-founded the San Luis Obispo “Breastfeeding Warmline” at that time, counseling thousands of breastfeeding families. In 1985, she authored the best-selling “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” updating it every 5 years and has sold more than 1,000,000 copies.
For this Giveaway, Kathleen is offering a 60-90 minute phone consultation (a $120 value) for a mother in need of breastfeeding assistance as well as an autographed copy of “The Nursing Mother’s Companion.”
TLB: Kathleen, getting to meet and talk with you has been an exciting honor for me. Your book, “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” has been very influential not only in my own breastfeeding journey but as I help encourage others. Having you active in our community is a real pleasure; I appreciate the care and wisdom you extend to the Leakies. As what get to know you, what would you like the readers to know about you?
Kathleen: I started my career with breastfeeding mothers in Napa, California, in the 1970’s as an R.N. in the Newborn Nursery. Even though I had no children, it was my job to take the babies from the nursery out to their mothers and help them with nursing as best I could. While in graduate school, I was pregnant with my firstborn child, Kate. While I knew that I would breastfeed, I had no idea how difficult the early weeks of nursing her could and would be! I suffered with injured nipples that led to a severe mastitis and ultimately, a breast abscess that required hospitalization and surgery. I dealt with two drains in my breast and had to wait several weeks before they completely healed. Frankly, over the next several months, it was all I could talk about! But happily, I returned back to school, finished my master’s degree in Perinatal Nursing and continued to nurse my sweet baby Kate well into her second year of life. When I completed my degree, we moved to San Luis Obispo, California and the nursing staff at the hospital sent me to each and every nursing mother who was struggling with nursing. Ultimately, I attended one of the first Lactation Consultant Programs at U.C.L.A. Then something strange happened… Mothers began calling the hospital to speak with me, and some even just showed up on the unit to see me in person for more help. That was the start of my real education! Soon after, another L.C. and I started the “Breastfeeding Warmline” a 24/7 phone line for mothers needing help. Soon, thereafter, the SLO Breastfeeding Clinic was born, where I saw thousands of nursing mothers over three decades.
TLB: Please share a bit as to what inspired you to write your first book and all the books that have followed in The Nursing Mother’s Companion series. What was your inspiration?
Kathleen: One day I assisted a new mother in the Breastfeeding Clinic with a latch problem. She told me as our session was ending, that I should write a book as there weren’t any books that helped her as she thought I had. Later that evening, I told my husband Brad about what this mother had said. He replied, “Yes, you should write a book. Make it like a car manual! I then thought about it for a couple of minutes, took out a piece of paper and wrote out the outline for “The Nursing Mother’s Companion.” Starting with the early days of nursing and continuing on as the nursing relationship grows over time, I wrote every single day on a yellow legal pad fearing that if I stopped for even a day, I would never finish! After finding a publisher, and with the crazy success of “The Nursing Mother’s Companion,” several years later I co-authored “The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning,” “Nursing Mother, Working Mother,” “Twenty-five Things Every Nursing Mother Should Know,” and “The Nursing Mother’s Breastfeeding Diary.”
TLB: Along with writing, you have a private practice and a store. Tell us more about what you’re doing these days and how you juggle it all.
Kathleen: In 2003, I found a cancerous lump in my breast and underwent a year of treatment. I had just opened a maternity store in beautiful downtown San Luis Obispo and thankfully with the success of The Warmline and the Breastfeeding Clinic, the program grew and I had several wonderful L.C.’s who kept those services going strong. Ultimately, the 120 year old county hospital was shut down, but another entity took on all of the breastfeeding services. When I was well, I decided to spend more time in the maternity store and expand it to include “everything baby.” I continue answering mothers’ calls on “The Warmline” and seeing mothers in our “Breastaurant” for breastfeeding assistance. My wonderful husband, Brad, gets all of the credit for continuing on with all that I do. He is my rock!
TLB: How did you decide to become an IBCLC and how did your own breastfeeding journey influence how you care for mothers and babies?
Kathleen: After the difficult start I had nursing Kate, nine years later I became pregnant again with my son, John. As I looked down at him as his head emerged from my body, I yelled out, OMG! He is so tongue-tied! (Frankly, one of the worst I had ever seen!) He struggled with being able to latch, caused much nipple pain and was unable to get any milk from my breasts. After a few days of pumping so he could feed, we had the frenulum clipped. I will never forget the Pediatric Dentist saying “like letting a bird out of a cage! John did much better after a few more days but then went on to develop severe colic vomiting and bloody diarrhea. I struggled trying to figure out why he suffered so and several weeks later, I realized that he had a wheat allergy, later confirmed by a Pediatric Allergist. I also decided with John to watch what normal weaning was like. Needless to say, John announced just before his 4th birthday, that he was going to “wean.” By that time he only nursed to go to sleep. After his 4th birthday party, he came to me for his bedtime nursing and I questioned him about his weaning. His response? “I was just joking!” John enjoyed his final nursing on his 5th birthday. I credit both Kate and John with becoming a successful nursing mother and knowing just how special nursing can be.
TLB: What is your favorite part about supporting breastfeeding moms? What tips do you have for anyone offering support to the breastfeeding mother, even if they aren’t a trained lactation support professional such as an IBCLC?
Kathleen: Of course, it feels good to take a mother from tears to happy nursing! Mother-to-mother support certainly can be very helpful, especially when a mother has experienced a similar situation. With that being said, I do see sometimes that the lack of a complete history and not knowing everything about a situation can lead to unhelpful or inappropriate advice. While breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, I get to see some complicated and difficult situations that require more than cheerleading. Situations like poor feeding, low milk production, and nipple injury calls for experienced professional help. Getting help from the well-wisher may delay a diagnosis and treatment, so don’t ever overlook that a mother in trouble may need eyes and hands-on help. What all moms can keep in mind in offering mother-to-mother support is that their encouragement is valuable, even if it is to encourage seeing a more experienced and trained lactation professional. Just knowing that she’s not alone can be all a mom needs to find the confidence to get help and reach her breastfeeding goals.
Kathleen is giving away a 60-90 minute phone consultation along with an autographed copy of “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” to one lucky Leakie.
Currently Leakies can find Kathleen’s books in bookstores everywhere, including online sites like amazon.com.
Good luck to everyone! Please use the widget below to be entered. The giveaway is open from November 15, 2013 through November 21, 2013. A big thanks to Kathleen for her ongoing support of TLB and breastfeeding women everywhere!