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Episode 1 - Mindset, Knowledge, and Connections for Lactation Care Providers

Welcome to the Lactation Training Lab Podcast. This podcast is about becoming a better lactation consultant. This work is hard. Lactation is simple, but our feelings, belief systems, and structural barriers in our societies make it complicated. Together we’ll explore mindset, knowledge, and connection resources to expand your mind and get you thinking and get you working and committed to becoming a better lactation consultant every day.

I know that a lot of us are really head-down in our work right now, trying to fulfill your mission as a lactation care provider, really digging in and providing that one on one care or working really head-down in your own lane, and sometimes it’s easy to forget about training, it’s easy to forget about connecting with others globally throughout our whole entire field, and so every once in a while we think about it and we pop our heads up and we look around and maybe we get some more training or we reach out and we meet some new people or in the regular world we’d attend a real-live in-person conference and meet some new folks that do the work that we do, but we can’t do that right now. And sometimes we do that, and we pop our heads up and we get this new information but maybe we don’t apply it right away. Maybe it isn’t totally relevant to what we do every day when we are head-down, in one-to-one work, and we either forget it, we don’t apply it, we get a little bit stuck in our old thinking and before we know it, our heads are buried back down in our chests again.

One of the goals of the Lactation Training Lab is to help provide ways for this information and these kinds of inspiration to be coming at you on a regular basis so that you won’t be so head-down all the time, You can be head-down when you need to be but you can always have that opportunity to pop up and find what you need and feel really confident about what it is that we do. Because I hope that you will be ready to be regularly consuming new and helpful information and able to and have a place to discuss, debate and apply it, and really work on the things that we need to -all of us- to be better every day.

I’m on this journey and I’m glad that you’re joining me on the journey!

Some of the things that we’re going to look at are exploring and committing to becoming a better lactation consultant every day. We can all get better and we can do that incrementally and when we make a commitment to do something every day, it can become a habit and it can become something that we really look forward to.

We’ll talk about how building your lactation knowledge base to be really deep and rich can be a really effective way to make sure that we feel confident even when we’re faced with a new or complex or challenging environment.

For instance, like the NICU, if you’ve never worked in the NICU setting and suddenly you are tasked with doing that or suddenly you are tasked with working one-on-one with a baby who was born preterm, it can feel intimidating if it doesn’t feel like it’s your specialty, but there are ways to approach that in a way that gives you time and space to go step-by-step and to keep the basics of lactation in mind as you approach that situation.

We really want to talk about being a resource for parents and the healthcare team and how we can do that. We know that we’re resources for parents, but sometimes we forget how much of a resource we are for everyone else who works on the healthcare team. And I know that it was always a pleasant surprise to me when I worked in the hospital when other staff members came to me for information about lactation. And sometimes they came to me for information that I felt like, “who am I to be looking at this policy and reviewing what they’re saying here?” But then I looked around and realized there really wasn’t anyone else who could do that other than those of us on the lactation staff.

Being a resource for everyone around in terms of lactation is what this is all about. We’ll be thinking about how to continually improve our counseling abilities. Counseling is- you know- with education, our primary function, so we always want to be getting better at counseling and all of the things that we take in, all of the mindset resources, all of the tips and practical knowledge that we need to know about how to communicate and how to really listen and hear people around us, those are all what make us better counsellors. We’ll definitely be looking into improving counselling. We will always, always, always maintain- and I will remind you- maintaining our global focus, remembering that breastfeeding is universal and that lactation is a mammalian function. Every human person deals with this on some level at some point and whatever their choice is about it, it is still something that happens when a baby is born. There is a choice made either to proceed with lactation or to discontinue it.

We will always talk about owning that role as educators and counsellors and making sure that we feel confident so that when people do approach us with questions or needing assistance or advising, we are ready, we know where to look things up, we know where the resources are, we know who the resources are. And owning the role of being a consultant, we’ll talk a lot about that as well because for those who work in hospitals, or those who aspire to work in hospitals, there can be a really big range of diversity in how the administration or the supervisory staff look at what the role of lactation staff is. And there are a couple of ways to look at that, but we’ll definitely talk through those things and think about what really, truly is the best role for someone on a lactation staff to be performing, and what types of trainings and certifications are appropriate for people who are considered consultants.

Those are some of the things that we will explore together. So as we think about that feeling of being really head-down and buried in our own work and just coming up for air when you have to, and popping your head up when you think about, “oh, maybe I do need some training,” or “I do need to talk to some other people.” Sometimes your head pops up and you think to yourself, “oh no, there’s no way. I cannot take in one more thing right now. I can’t give anymore. The rest of my life needs me to only be at work when I’m at work,” and you tuck your chin right back down and you get buried all over again.

And sometimes that’s the safest thing to do for you, sometimes it’s the most appropriate thing in your life, and it helps protect you, it helps protect your family and your loved ones, and sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to do. But any time that you pop your head up and you think, “oh, I really could use a breath of fresh air,” it can definitely be something that will help you in the long term to remain feeling as if this is a really sustainable career.

Staying with your head buried down is not really sustainable in the long-term. It doesn’t help you fulfill your greater vision and mission, it doesn’t really move the needle enough towards the whole reason that you got into this work. It really- it keeps you stuck where you are. And getting unstuck, it takes work. So it means you have to ask yourself, “is it better for me to spend 100% of my time and energy on one-to-one patient or client interactions, or can I shift a little bit of my time and energy to working towards those more global issues that really light me up, my passion, or my mission, or my vision?”

This is mindset work. This is how you reset your intentions in your lactation work. This is how you stay engaged with, and learn from the larger community of individuals and organizations doing the work. And above all, this is how you get better at the work you do. This is how you become a better lactation provider. I’m on this journey with you and I’m sharing it with you, sharing my journey with you, so we can learn from each other.

There are 2 main ways that I categorize the work that I’m doing and we really have to balance the two. We have to be thinking about how we can make our day-to-day work more efficient and functional while also keeping the bigger picture in mind and making steps toward our vision and making time for that kind of work. So when I think about making improvements in that day-to-day one-on-one work, I’m looking at things like my skills and knowledge competency, my client work, my forms and systems that make my client work efficient and perform all the tasks and functions that we need to do in terms of documentation and marketing our services and things like that, and my own training.

These are going to be pretty universal among people who do this work. Everyone has to have efficient systems and everyone is going to spend a grand portion of their time doing one-to-one or client work, most people who do this work, that’s where they find themselves. And so, those are things that you’re definitely going to spend time on and sometimes that in itself helps you feel like you’re making steps toward the future. Sometimes just improving your processes and making sure that your documentation works well and you have plenty of time in your schedule for that. Sometimes improving your marketing helps you reset your vision and make sure that you’re meeting the goals that you set for yourself way back when you started this. Sometimes that really does help open you up.

And then for the times where you’re looking for that more big picture inspiration and work towards your vision in terms of those global or future tasks, this is where it really gets very personal and individualized. We have to take some time to revisit our mission and our own original vision, think about our motivations for getting into this work. Why did we sign up for that very first lactation training? Why did we reach out to that first person that we asked about it? Why did we think that we were on a path to do this work? What drives us? For me, I came into this work when I realized how I had been duped by formula marketing and really let down by the healthcare system. And that’s a pretty common story among the people who work in this field.

I’m most passionate about this work when I’m talking about things like commercial influence on infant feeding practices and building mutual respect among hospital-based and community-based lactation care providers. Hello to all of you out there working in hospitals and clinics and outpatient settings and everywhere. Everyone has a role in this field.

I get really recharged when I have the opportunity to teach and mentor aspiring lactation care providers. These activities are steps on the path toward my vision for better lactation experiences for all families. These things matter to me and make me feel like I am fulfilling my own vision and my own mission and my own sense and instinct of how I can make the most impact in this field.

I encourage you to ask yourself these questions. Start here.

Why was I drawn to this work and why am I uniquely qualified to do it? I guarantee you can answer this question. You know what makes you an important member of this field. You know why you do this, sometimes you just have to remind yourself of it.

What am I doing every week or every month to make progress towards my vision and my mission? Sometimes some weeks or months that’s going to be completing a training. Sometimes it’s going to be participating in a Facebook group where there are frequent discussions about clinical cases or answering people’s questions about different things. Sometimes it’s going to be something bigger like preparing a presentation as a speaker and actually teaching others about lactation. Sometimes it’s going to be expanding the services that you’re able to provide.

So what are you doing every week or every month to make progress towards your vision or your mission? Do those things that you’re doing, are they really aligning with where you want to go? Are you taking trainings that are truly going to get you to a place where you can use your unique voice to make an impact in this field, or are you just signing up for things that you’re supposed to take because everyone else is, or because it’s the newest thing or it’s the thing that you’ve always done? Do you need inspiration, maybe, to, you know, break off of the track of “these are the trainings that I usually take so this time around I’m just going to sign up for the next new thing that they offer?”

Ask yourself: are those things feeling routine for you or do you need something that lights you up? And then ask yourself, where are you right now? Are you in that space where you need to focus on your one-to-one, head-down work? Do you need to give yourself credit for working on that and make sure that you’re protecting yourself by keeping your head down and being as good as you can be in that space- um- because, maybe, current events in the world are draining you, or whatever’s happening with your loved ones is draining you, or that’s just where you are in life? Is that what you need?

Do you need to remind yourself that you are doing an amazing job in what you do and that now is not the time to lift your head up? Good, go ahead and do that. I just want to make sure that you’re going to revisit that periodically so that it doesn’t just become something where, month after month, you’re constantly unable to lift your head and look back to your vision so that you can make sure that you’re heading toward it. But maybe, right now, where you are, is that you’re ready for that breath of fresh air, you’re ready to lift up your head and work on something a little bit broader, like, you know, making your systems more efficient, or making your forms better so that you can get more information from your clients and provide even better care.

Or is it time to work on your bigger picture goals? Are you a one-to-one care provider who is really actually pretty interested in doing some speaking or some teaching? Are you interested in getting involved in policy work, or do you need to make connections with the people in your community who can help you make an impact with communications and marketing and communicating messages about breastfeeding and lactation in your community?

There’s so many ways that we can make an impact and if you’re feeling up to it, and you’re at that point, once you’ve gone through these questions here, maybe you’ll feel like you can share some of those things with us. We’d love to hear about that in the Lactation Training Lab Facebook group. We’d love to hear where you are and what you’ve decided about where you are right now and if you’re feeling like now’s not the time to move ahead quite yet, then maybe you need to own it. State it: “I work really hard in my one-to-one, we’re really busy in my workplace right now. There’s no way I could do something else, but I am really looking forward to that time where we can finish up with that.”

That’s something that I’ve heard from a lot of people over the last few months, a lot of people who have said, “you know, Covid-19 has really taken its toll on the work that we do and it makes everything feel harder and keeps us really busy. And so I’ll be looking up from here soon, I really really hope.” Sometimes it means that Covid-19 has meant extra trainings, extra meetings, extra time at work just because of donning and doffing PPE. Things like that.

So wherever you are, if you’re able to share with us in the group that would be so amazing. We just want to really honor the fact that direct patient and client care is only one part of the work that we do as lactation care providers. We are educators and clinicians, we are advocates, we’re public speakers, and we’re so much more. Sometimes our energy is stretched in a lot of directions at once, and we’re working here at the lactation training lab to provide resources for helping all lactation care providers be really intentional and organized in your overall professional life, so that you always feel like what you’re doing right now is aligned with your future goals and that you're approaching your vision and mission in the way that you always intended. Thanks for being here, look forward to hearing from you and I’ll see you next episode!


Listen to Episode 1 here!

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