My Breast Week of Learning – Ever

As many of you know from my Facebook page, I recently attended the Healthy Children’s Center for Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Counselor training course. This course was a 45-hour, non-stop, fast-paced, research-based training to become a CLC. At the end of the course we all took an exam that consisted of video competencies, visual diagnostic questions, and a multiple choice exam. My reaction to the course as a whole: wow. I am completely blown away. I had no idea there was so much to know about breasts, lactation, latch, hormones, feeding issues, methodology, etc. etc. While I will have MANY more posts in the future about breastfeeding (as soon as I can wrangle up some brave mamas who will consent to being photographed!) below are my “Top 5” favorite topics covered in the course.

1.  First and foremost, learning about “The Magical Hour”. I could have spent 45 hours on this alone. I was in tears after watching the video, and hearing people’s personal experiences. The gist here is that all babies, when allowed to be skin-to-skin right after birth, go through nine distinct stages. In the eighth stage, or the “Suckling Stage”, baby learns how to self-attach to mom’s breast and suckle. This lays the foundation for a successful breastfeeding experience, and My God, it is so beautiful to watch a baby go through these steps. (To learn more about “The Magical Hour” visit this site.)

2.  Next, learning about all of the benefits of breastfeeding made me a little sad. Why? Because I feel like they aren’t all “public knowledge”. I feel like if women knew all of the benefits, they would only choose not to breastfeed if they physically could not. Before the course I knew breastfeeding was beneficial to mother and baby, but I did not know of any concrete-evidence-based facts. I didn’t know that it was so important the Surgeon General released a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. I will certainly get more in-depth about these benefits in another entry, but man. Boobies are amazing.

3.  I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. That means that since high school, I have taken one “science course” which was “Physics for the Humanist”. Aside from the little tidbits from my doula, baby planning, and childbirth education courses, science has pretty much taken a back seat. The picture of me below is my “oh shit” face after realizing the first whole day was about the science and anatomy of the human breast and stages of lactogenesis. I soon realized that just knowing “milk comes out of there” was not going to cut it in this course. As I sat between nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners, etc. who were nodding along, already familiar with the terms, I sat there frantically highlighting, making notecards, and turning to my glossary. The science behind breastfeeding is truly fascinating, and I am so pleased that something of this nature finally interests me!


“Oh shit” face, after-class study station, Alex&Ani inspiration

4.   Learning how to properly assess a latch, understanding feeding cues (not just the obvious ones!), and being able to determine whether or not the baby is thriving are very important tools I learned in the course. I feel confident in my ability to assess a feeding, and how to guide mom when things aren’t going well.

5.  I really learned how to counsel women. I think that some of the breastfeeding campaign has become a scare tactic (like, you MUST do this if you want the best for your baby, rather than giving women the tools to succeed) and I feel I learned some good tools to help women succeed, rather than bully them into trying it.

While I found the course extremely challenging, mostly due to my lack of biology training, it was certainly my “breast” week of learning – ever. I left the class feeling empowered to help women (and their partners) be successful in their breastfeeding journey. I also felt empowered to take as many steps as possible to normalize breastfeeding, promote it, and establish best practice within my community.

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