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Episode 6 - Setting Intentions for The Lactation Training Lab

Hi and welcome to the Lactation Training Lab podcast, a show created to inspire, inform, and engage everyone who works with pregnant people and new parents. I’m so glad you’re here! I’m Christine, an IBCLC and trained childbirth educator based in the U.S. After years of practicing clinical lactation care and providing professional lactation training to other healthcare providers, I created the Lactation Training Lab podcast to serve as a resource for learning and connecting over all things lactation-related. Whether you’re seasoned or studying, I hope this show will make you think and inspire you to act. Here we go!

I am here today because I wanted to talk a little bit about why I created the Lactation Training Lab - thinking about our vision and values and how I practice, how I approach the work of lactation care and my professional growth. There are a few main pillars that I wanted to share with you today. I wanted to go through a little bit about how this process works for me, how my brain works, how I look at this, and how I try to work really hard to maintain the global context of what we do. That’s really based in the history of this practice and profession and remembering that we are rooted in a type of care that traditionally came from people that one already knew - this did not start out as a healthcare profession. This came from something that was a village: it was your community, it was your family, the people that you knew and that you care about who were helping you in all the things that you needed to know about parenting and raising children and specifically about feeding your children and how to become a family.

As I think about that, I always reflect on that when I’m teaching, preparing a course, preparing anything I want to present, I really feel like that helps me to keep my tone focused on people rather than science. Science, of course, is the cornerstone of what we do, but truly that people focus is how we remember how to apply that science. Some of the values that I’ve evolved to have throughout this work that I’ve done, and I’m approaching 20 years, and I’m really excited about that. In March of 2021 it will be 20 years since I took my first lactation educator course and I plan to talk about that a lot more as it comes around because I think I have some stories to share that will really be inspiring for people and that will help help people shape their own stories and make sure that people who are wanting to get into the field understand that there are many ways to do this and people who are in it are inspired to honor themselves and their own stories and celebrate their own milestones.

As I think about that 20 year milestone, I look back at my lactation educator course. I think about how everything was explained to me during that course and how I had the opportunity to share that knowledge and that learning experience with someone else, with a dear friend. Of course I made other friends while I was in that course, it was in-person, 2001 we could do things together in rooms, I miss that and hope that we’re back to that as soon as we can be, but I really had this great opportunity to learn that information and together and to gather context by going through that experience with a friend.

After every course, after every reading, after everything we did, we had the opportunity to debrief and talk through our experiences and really go through everything in a way that was separate and additional to what we learned in the course from the instructor, That made a really big difference because I am a context person - I have to have perspective that gives me the meaning of what something is and that really helped.

I think about that a lot and really try to use that context for everything I do and the way I approach everything. Having that experience really made everything in the different settings where I’ve worked and roles I’ve had, that has really been what moves the needle for me. Having built relationships with people and having the opportunity to debrief, to experience the actual process of learning, not only the learning or facts or gathering of information but the context in which it happened.

I remember things, facts, information a lot of times because I remember the experience of learning it. That’s so important for me in the way that I learn, and knowing that about myself shapes how I make choices about how I learn. This year has been particularly challenging for me. I don’t learn as well in online environments which don’t involve a lot of interaction, so I try to keep that in mind, knowing that that’s one style of learning that can be challenging for people. Some people, like me, are challenged by this style of learning, so as I prepare opportunities for learning I try to keep that in mind. I know that not everybody learns well in that environment. Some people do, and some people need more interaction.

Some people definitely learn much better in a room full of people who are having experiences, and I think that’s something that is definitely not unique to me but something that’s important for me to remember. I live those experiences as I gather information and I’ve done that throughout my whole career and that is something that is sort of built into everything that I do today.

I know that in my practice at Baby Café, it's the same thing for a lot of the parents who attend. Part of what they’re gaining by being there is not just the answers to their questions or the resolutions to their concerns, it’s the experience of being around other people who are feeding their babies and who are diapering their babies and disciplining their older children and they’re having that experience. I know that’s a truth that was there for me as well as a parent in a support group when my children were young, so that experience of learning is really the foundation. It’s why I thought that the concept of the Lactation Training Lab was a really important way to think about what I’m doing here and how I’m trying to share information with people.

It’s not just about being a course, it’s more about being an experience. Some of the things that I take into account as I create these experiences and as I am refining the things that I do and the way that I practice with clients, I think about - I’m just going to make a list for you and I’ll go back into a few of them.

The first one is really that your personal story about your own infant feeding history is so meaningful and so valuable and so inspirational. But we have to know how to share it, when to share it, make the sharing of it something that is meaningful and valuable and inspirational because there’s a very fine line there.

Secondly, you’ve probably come across this quote, I put this out quite a bit but classes and courses and certifications are really only the beginning of the lifelong learning journey in lactation. I think that even more than in other things that we do, I guess I just know more about this because it’s my own experience but, in lactation training what happens afterward and what we learn from practicing and speaking with colleagues and speaking with clients years learn and learn from conferences and situations where we get to interact with other people is often what gives us the context and the perspective that we need.

That’s really where this goes: the classes and the courses and the certifications are certainly the foundations and cornerstone. They’re the beginning and when it goes beyond that, we have to keep in mind that those things and someone’s accumulations of those ways of learning are not the end, and they don’t constrain or predict someone’s ability to make an impact. I think that that’s an important thing to remember as we think about equity issues that there are so many ways of practicing lactation care and they don’t all involve years of schooling or lots of money or lots of opportunity in order to make a huge impact.

The third pillar is really about connecting with others because it’s not just through sharing those experiences with people and debriefing and talking to other people, it’s really sharing about yourself and learning how to express yourself, learning how to retell the story of what you did or how you work with a client or how things turned out that matter so much because it helps you to refine how you do it the next time. Thinking about how you even talked about it can help you to refine the process for the next time around.

Four is that for me the lactation care equation is really science and then excellent counselling skills added together. Those two things equal high quality lactation care. You can know all the science, you can know all the information but if you don’t deliver it right, communicate it right, treat people right--and that’s what counselling is--then it’s not going anywhere, it’s not going to be useful for them.

Fifth, data and statistics about breastfeeding rates, they really show us what we’re doing right but they really show us what needs attention, where the gaps are and where the opportunities are. However you want to look at that, if you want to put a negative spin on it or if you want to put a positive spin on it, it really shows us what we need to do, it shows us what is missing - we have to use those things the right way. We have to make sure that we’re always looking for what was missed in the study, what does this research not tell us or ignore and the methodologies and how we look at all those things and don’t just accept at face value everything that we see, hear, and read. I think that gives us that ability to look at research and statistics with that context, putting that perspective on top of it.

Some of the things that I’ve included in the values for the LTL, all of the projects, things that I offer, the ways that I present information, these are the really important core values that I want to always demonstrate and reflect.

  • First is simplicity because lactation at its core is a simple practice. Physiology as the core of lactation and knowing and learning about physiology and how that impacts all of the things around lactation that are so important.

  • Thoughtfulness, in terms of saying things the right way, in terms of taking other people’s perspectives and experiences into account.

  • Dignity, showing everyone the dignity that they deserve and ensuring that nobody ever feels excluded from what’s happening, being offered, being presented, being taught. Everybody should have the equal opportunity to be treated with dignity.

  • Commitment. I am committed to ensuring that the things that I offer are evidence based and they are really high quality and that I keep an open mind, I’m committed to always having an open mind and I can accept feedback.

  • Empathy, ensuring that everything that is offered and taught and shared is with empathy for others.

  • Gratitude for those who have come before, for those who are out there making the science for us, for everything that other people are doing, for the privilege that I have, for the work that other people do that I don’t have to do so that I can do this.

  • Global Context, I think that’s the important perspective that we have in the lactation field that helps us to not get tunnel vision about the people that we work with or see or the hospital where we work or community that we live, remembering that people all over the planet are involved in the process of lactation and what seems like an insurmountable problem to some is a simple fix in other places, so there’s really always an answer.

  • Future-first: that’s really the reason that I do this. I have learned that through everything that I’ve observed through my career, not just through clinical practice, but through my experiences working with our national organization USLCA, though all of that exposure, really understanding where we are as a field and profession, of course going back through the history of how this was founded and how it’s done today and looking forward to the future of how this work will be done in the future and knowing what I’ve seen over the past years, what is missing and what needs to be done. How do we shore up the system and process to make sure that, first of all, there will be enough people to do this work and that people who do this work will be adequately trained and prepared and compensated. All of those things, everything that I do is really focused on ensuring that people who are coming into this field and already in it are going to be well prepared for the future and keep a positive outlook because this is hard work. We work really hard.

  • Finally, resourcefulness. Relying on creativity, new ideas, what we have, what’s existing, not reinventing wheels, using resources that have been used for a long time or work well, basically being mindful of the things that already exist, not trying create a whole bunch of new things that aren’t necessary but only creating things that aren’t out there. You see a lot of that in things that I offer, things that are different that you can’t really find in any other way. I’m really proud of that. I really try to make sure that I don’t create things that someone else has already created because I don’t feel like that’s a good use of anyone’s time. Why wouldn’t I just refer you to someone else’s resource that they made when they did such a great job on it already?

There are so many resources out there, so I’m always looking for those and listening for suggestions. I’d love to hear about things that you know, read, or listen to. One of the most important things that I ever learned, so for those of you who are old enough and experienced enough to know this, before there was LactNet on Facebook, there was LactNet. It was really an email server - it was really a kind of forum where we could communicate with one another. I learned from the late Jean Cotterman, rest in peace, I learned from her to be gracious with information, with knowledge, and how to really share things that we already have. I really think I got the sense from her work on hand expression and how she put together ways of describing hand expression, reverse pressure softening specifically, I think those really made an impact on me because the way that she presented the information was so clearly the story of her work and it was basically as I’ve done this work, as I have practiced all these years. I think that made a really big impression on me and reminded me that our experience is so much of the context around the information that we use to help clients. We really can put all those things together.

Those are the things that I reflect on whenever I’m creating for you. All of those five pillars and those values that I just talked about is really designed to help make sure that I don’t go off on incredible huge tangents. Because I do have a tendency to do that when I’m talking if you haven’t noticed, but also when I’m creating new projects. Those things keep me grounded and form the basis of what I do here at the Lactation Training Lab. The projects that are underway have so much potential and there’s so much good that’s going on with them. I’ve had an incredible time this past year welcoming new students into the First 100 Hours Masterclass and taking them through that information and building on that, updating it, and bringing a whole entire new section on Early Birds, also known as late preterm infants, into the masterclass, it really made a big difference and even better. I have many plans of improving upon and increasing the amount of education that’s provided in that course as the next year comes along.

The experiences we’re having in the LTL membership are also a really mind-bending experience for me as the facilitator: creating the content, interacting with members, meeting their needs, answering their questions, and seeing relationships starting to form between the members, how they’re relying on each other’s resourcefulness for things. I’m really appreciating that and enjoying creating the content, choosing the topics, making resources, finding resources that are out there.

This month, I’m recording this in December [2020], and this month we’re really diving into mindset and organizational tips, really practical things that help you stay organized and help you keep your information organized. Like what do you do with all your stuff and digital files like your certificates from your courses, how do you keep those things filed away well? What do you do with your links? If you’re on social media and find a really great article and think it would be great to share with my clients when they’re experiencing this particular problem, what do you do with it? Do you know where it is when you reach the next opportunity to share that with somebody or do you forget all about it or can’t even find it?

Well, there are really great ways to deal with that kind of thing and the practical information is what we’re sharing this month. I just wanted to take this time to really share and give you that background for why I’m doing this, why this whole project is here. I really love creating content that is different than what’s out there and I'm really honored to have this opportunity to share that with you.

I appreciate that you’re listening to the podcast and I have lots of ideas for topics that will come up but I always want to hear from you as well. I love to hear what you want to hear about and what can I share, find for you, resources can I tell you about, I’d love to hear that! One of the best ways to contact me is through the free Facebook group: Lactation Training Lab. You can find that on Facebook or you can visit my website, I have recently redesigned the website and hopefully made it much easier for you to find anything you’re looking for which includes free resources which you can download and print. That should be helpful for you either in practice or in your own growth and mindset as a lactation care provider, workbooks and guides and things like that. Especially the workbooks. People are finding those really useful for sitting down and reflecting on where they are, where they’d like to go with what they’re doing in their career.

Those things are there. You can find a link to the podcast. You can find information for how to get involved. There’s lots of stuff there for you. I’m changing it all the time, I’m updating it all the time so I’ll be adding new things there by the time you even hear this recording. Thank you for this opportunity to share all this with you today. I hope it's interesting to you as sort of a background for why I do this. If you have anything to let me know about what you’ve heard, if you have any ideas or feedback, please let me know, chime in, I want to hear from you, I want to hear what you’re thinking and working on and what you think about the past year and what you think about the year to come and what you’re planning. I will be talking about my future plans shortly as well.

In the meantime you can find me on social media, on Instagram and Twitter you can find me @IBCLCinCA, that’s for California, visit my website for free things and links to things you might need or want and I look forward to speaking to you again on the next episode. Thanks a lot, see you soon, bye!


Listen to Episode 6 here!

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