IBCLCs, Negative Experiences, and Self-Advocacy

 

 

This post made possible in part by the generous support of Boba, makers of the Boba Baby Carrier.

Jessica and Sugarbaby Bfing

When my daughter was entering the 2nd grade at our local public school, we were all enthusiastic about the coming year.  She loved school, loved learning, loved everything about it.  But just a few short weeks into the school year things we drastically different.  She cried all the time, she hated going to school, she started struggling with school work, and every day she complained that her tummy hurt and she was too sick to go to school.  We were confused.  What had happened to our little girl?

It quickly became apparent that while there were multiple issues going on that I won’t go into here except to say there were some technical difficulties and an adjustment period that needed to happen.  Still, there was one particular issue that emerged as being critical: she didn’t like her teacher.  Believing we need to encourage her to work with people, even ones she didn’t like, The Piano Man and I tried to help her navigate this relationship.  This proved to be more challenging than we expected because, as it turned out, we didn’t like her either.  She simply wasn’t the kind of person we thought would be teaching second grade.  Or teaching at all.  Grough, grumpy, rarely smiled, she came across as cold and distant.  Suddenly, challenges our daughter had previously felt empowered to tackle loomed as impossible mountains.  Intimidated by the one she thought was there to guide and support her in facing these challenges, she withdrew and began to give up.

We tried to work with the school and the teacher but in a short amount of time we felt we needed to explore other options and ended up transferring schools.  It was that, or risk killing our daughter’s love for learning and that simply wasn’t something we were willing to sacrifice.

When we visited the new school Earth Baby was nervous about meeting the 2nd grade teacher.  Gripping my hand she whispered “I don’t like 2nd grade teachers, they are mean.”  I was surprised she had already jumped to a conclusion about a group of people based on her experience with just one of that group.  Given that she was 7 at the time, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at such an immature response but I felt that we had worked hard to help our children understand how individuals can be so different.  Encouraging her to remember that Miss B. would be a person first, a 2nd grade teacher second, we met with the teacher.  Gentle, kind, friendly, and very warm, Miss B. proved to be the opposite of the previous 2nd grade teacher and Earth Baby ended up flourishing in her class.  Inspired with hope and confidence, Earth Baby made a lifelong friend in her teacher (and is seeing her this summer) and not only met but surpassed her goals for the year with an enflamed love of learning.  Interestingly enough, now she will talk about how wonderful 2nd grade teachers are and being a teacher is in her top 5 career options.

Why am I sharing this story on a breastfeeding site?  Moms often come to TLB looking for breastfeeding support. The support they are looking for is usually just about what is normal in breastfeeding journeys, the mom-to-mom support of experience and camaraderie.  Sometimes it’s for issues that are outside of normal and require more expertise support and help.  It isn’t uncommon for a Leaky and/or one of the admin to recommend seeing an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for experienced and trained support.  These experts are usually the most equipped to help moms with true lactation problems having gone through intense training and having to comply to regular board standards in their continuing education and certification.  Just as often, someone then shares their negative experience with an IBCLC.  Frustrated and hurt, these women sometimes share that an IBCLC almost ruined their breastfeeding relationship with misinformation, intimidating and overwhelming directions, and sometimes down right bullying.

Find the right IBCLC

From these comments it sometimes sounds as though they fear all IBCLCs will be just like the negative experience they had.  Hurt and discouraged by the one or two individuals they encountered in the profession, they are unsure they can trust anyone with the title and position.  Like my daughter felt unsure about 2nd grade teachers, these moms are skeptical of the entire IBCLC profession, not because they don’t know that they are all different people but because they may believe that what they didn’t like is actually expected to be a part of the profession.  As if the consultants are trained to support that way.  Just as with any profession, there are individuals within the lactation consultant profession that are rude, unsupportive, not helpful, judgmental, dismissive, and misinformed. Thankfully, most I’ve met go into supporting breastfeeding moms because they genuinely care and want to help moms reach their breastfeeding goals.  The IBCLCs I’ve interacted with understand the vulnerable nature of that time in a mother’s life and the importance of providing the right kind of support.  Most IBCLCs aren’t in the profession to push an agenda or tell moms what to do, they genuinely seek to provide legitimate support unique to each mothers’ needs.  Sure, I’ve met a few that seemed burned out and dogmatic just like my daughter’s first second grade teacher, but just like most 2nd grade teachers actually enjoy children and teaching, so most IBCLCs aim to provide sincere information and assistance.  I encourage moms that need lactation support to move on from someone that isn’t supportive to find someone that’s a better fit.   It’s that, or risk not reaching your breastfeeding goals and that simply isn’t something we should be willing to sacrifice without a fight.

I am aware that for many, a second choice, let alone a third or fourth, isn’t readily available.  Financial restrictions, local availability, and even cultural support from family and friends can make it difficult to find someone.  Sometimes, shoot, maybe often, the support you need will find you in unexpected places such as the internet or a new friend.  Moms may have to try other paths for lactation support such as virtual appointments via the web or attending a local breastfeeding support group or even reading articles online.  Whatever it takes, pushing on to find the support you need may be work but you and your baby are worth it.

You don’t have to be stuck with a professional providing inadequate support.  In the end, you are the biggest advocate for you and your child and if advocating for you both means moving on to find the assistance you need, you won’t regret doing so.  As Leaky and IBCLC Jackie Rauch shared:

I will sometimes tell my clients the story of me seeking her out just to let them know that even the people with the knowledge need to seek out help from people with the knowledge. If you are not getting the help you need, keep looking!

You never know, you may find the one that helps you turn it all around and inspires you with hope and confidence.

Need a lactation consultant?  This site can help you find one.

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What about you?  What has your experience with an IBCLC or other lactation professional been like?  Did you have to find someone else for better support at some point?  Did an IBCLC or other lactation professional help you in your breastfeeding journey?  Check out the conversation we’re having on this very topic over on The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page

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