Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Some of you may remember that I lost my job last April. Well, shortly afterwards I decided not to continue on my current career path. With the support of the awesome and patient Mr. F, I threw caution to the wind and did a complete 180, pursuing a path towards becoming a lactation consultant, professionally known as an IBCLC. That's an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, for the 97% of you who are most likely wondering.

That's right. I abandoned my corporate career that I hated, choosing to take a 100% pay cut (for now anyway) in order to help moms breastfeed their babies. I cherish the time that I breastfed Kid A so much, and I want to help others to experience that also.

It has been very challenging so far. The requirements for certification are not easy to achieve by any standard. If you're lacking a medical background, like I am, it's even more of a challenge. There are basically two ways to do it - in addition to completing college courses and breastfeeding-specific education, you can volunteer as a breastfeeding counselor (like La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, or in the WIC office) for a minimum of two years to obtain the hours of experience needed, or you can find someone to mentor you and complete 300-500 clinical hours. I chose the latter, and after almost a year of searching, I have found some absolutely fantastic women who have agreed to mentor me. After you've completed all of the requirements, you take a rigorous (so I've heard) test that's offered once a year in July. So if you don't pass, you have to wait another year to take it again. No big deal, right?

I consider myself extremely lucky that my mentors agreed to take me on. It's not like IBCLCs are a dime a dozen... It was not easy finding mentors, and I am so fortunate to have found some that are not only ridiculously accomplished, but are working to advance the field as well.

So to sum it up, things have been great. I've been learning a ton, and I am loving all of it so far. I have experienced some incredible things - for example, I was able to help a prospective adoptive mom make milk. I was there when she made those first precious drops. Absolutely amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

And now, for some FAQs:

Some actual questions that I am frequently asked...

A laca-what? Is that, like, a real thing? Are you making this up?
Yes. It's a very real thing. Problems with breastfeeding are a lot more common than you'd think. Lactation consultants can work in hospitals, where they hopefully get brand new moms off to a good start. They can be on staff at a pediatrician or OB's office, or they can work for WIC. I'm working in a private practice right now, so the moms I see have babies who vary in age and a very diverse range of issues.

Are you going to make any money doing this?
Don't worry about it, mom. I'll figure it out.

So, you walked away from a decent-paying career that you put all those years into and now you're an intern? Are you crazy?

What are you, some kind of boob nazi now?

Do you get to see lots of boobs all day?
I do. But it's not what you think.

I gave my babies formula and they turned out fine.
Of course they did! Let's just get my judgement potion out of the way first. That's not a question, and this is the frequently asked questions section.  Now, onto the answer portion. Believe it or not, we actually give babies formula pretty frequently. A lot of people apparently think that supporters of breastfeeding are automatically looking down on people who formula feed. Not even close to true. Babies need to eat, and sometimes there are problems with breastfeeding that necessitate the use of formula. I didn't choose this path because I hate formula or because I want to persuade anybody to breastfeed. I don't care what people feed their kids, it's not my business. I chose it because I want to help moms who want to breastfeed their babies.

So that's what's up. Thanks for sticking with me!