A Lactation Consultant’s role is to provide information and strategies to help moms be successful in the choices they make for feeding their babies. Sometimes that means being a breastfeeding cheerleader and other times it means helping moms to stop breastfeeding or to stop pumping. It is our greatest pleasure to be invited to walk a few steps down the road that each mother must take to raise the beautiful baby she is nurturing.
Recently I received a call from a mom I did a home lactation care visit with a couple of months before. I hadn’t heard from the mom since our consult and she had not returned my follow-up phone call. In this instance, I assumed that the mom did not return my call because she had stopped breastfeeding and was feeling bad about it. I also assumed she was avoiding me for this reason and that my role was to give her space. She opened the conversation by stating, “ I have been wanting to call you but I knew that as a Lactation Consultant you would be disappointed with me because I stopped breastfeeding.”
Our assumptions about each other could not have been farther from the truth. She is a well-informed mother that has gone above and beyond to make a difficult situation better. I listened while she advocated for her family and I apologized for not making it clear that I do not have an opinion or judgment about how or what she feeds her baby as long as she is making an informed decision. Both our throats closed up when I said what was really in my heart; “You are a good mother, you are doing your best, I am proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself!”
I had to take pause and reflect on why we had both felt that to call the other would cause disappointment? In that moment, I realized that we had both made some pretty strong assumptions about each other that I believe are often made about mothers and Lactation Consultants. The mom assumes the Lactation Consultant will be mad at her for stopping breastfeeding because in her perception the LC cares about breastfeeding above all else. The Lactation Consultant assumes if the mom stops breastfeeding she will feel guilty and push us away because we did not solve her problems.
In some cases these assumptions are true. Lactation Consultants do sometimes place a higher value on breastfeeding than the mother’s goals and some moms do blame the LC when breastfeeding fails even when the LC has managed care optimally. But, these are exceptions to the rule. Lactation Consultants do not judge moms for not breastfeeding and moms know that seeing an LC is only one step in the process of successful breastfeeding.
In my practice these moments are more important than a hundred successful latches because validating a mother’s experience and decision is the most important component of all our interactions.This mom may not know it but she taught me a more important lesson than I could ever teach her. I now make it a point that every mom I work with knows without a doubt that I support her breastfeeding choices without bias or judgment because I believe she is capable of making them.
Lauren Reyes, IBCLC