Experience! I can't get everyone breastfeeding and/or breastfeeding exclusively, I can never promise that. But with hard work and dedication, I can get nearly everyone. I've lost count on the moms I have been able to get to their nursing goals, its at least 200-something. I've had so few moms who wanted to breastfeed exclusively and were not able to. But they still breastfed and then supplemented when needed. When exclusive breastfeeding isn't going to work, its important to not let dogma overshadow what's best for the baby. Yes breastfeeding is best, but there are instances where supplementing is needed to keep a baby properly nourished. Just like we shouldn't avoid a cesarean over some political dogma when it's a life saving procedure, we shouldn't avoid supplementation in the same way either. We also need to not feel guilty about our choices. In both instances, women need access to choices and information so that they can make the best decisions for the health of their babies and themselves.
My lactation support skills come from a serendipitous unfolding. I took my CLC, Certified Lactation Course and certification in 2012. But I attempted to do it in 2011 and missed it for a birth. Its a 45 hour course but if you miss even one day, you cannot take it. So I was really bummed and then I borrowed the textbook from a friend who did take it. I studied it with all her notes in the margins. Then a year later, in 2012 I took time off of being on-call to make sure I would make it, and I took the class myself. Having already poured over the book for a year, it was a much deeper learning then I see most people getting from the class. 45 hours of breastfeeding information being thrown at you over 5 days is really hard to absorb. But for me, it was over a year.
Next, yes I breastfed too. And I had many of the breastfeeding problems. But besides pain, engorgement, mastitis, supply issues, getting pregnant again, and nursing a second, I also experienced the emotional side of breastfeeding. Those very sensitive first few days home with a new baby. The way your emotions feel like they will crack open and you are just swallowed in tears. The fragility and fear. The amazing and wonderful yet terrifying responsibility of keeping this baby alive. Plus, that was a long time ago for me. I started nursing in 1998. And while I didn't become a doula until 2010, after I figured out my own breastfeeding, I was helping my friends as well, and going to breastfeeding support groups, talking and listening to women, and really building my knowledge.
Next, farm life. I'm a city girl, as my mom said the first time she put me on grass as a baby I cried. But then she quickly remedied that and gave me lots of nature exposure. In summer camp I learned how to milk goats, which also came in handy when my aunt moved upstate many years ago and started getting sheep and cows. There are differences to sheep, goats and cows, but the science of lactation is the same. They get engorgement, mastitis, and emotional issues to. When I house sit for her I milk the animals. I learned a lot from this and I get it must have been more intuitive to breastfeed back in the day if you grew up milking other mammals. I was always good at manual expression, even with my first baby. I found it easier than pumping, which I never hear from anyone else. Now when my aunt has had trouble with her animals and lactation, she sometimes calls me to consult because soooo much overlaps, lactating domesticated mammals have so much in common.
OK, that was fun, I have to run, I have two moms needing breastfeeding support right now!