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Lactation consultant trains to involve the entire family
Photos and Story by Janis Nichols
The decision to breast or bottle feed is surprisingly complicated. Cultural issues, time constraints, partner support, economics, religious beliefs, body image and the overall health of the mother and newborn are just the tip of the iceberg in this global debate. For those moms who do decide to breast feed, the one thing that most of the experts agree on is the value of a lactation consultant.
“Not all new moms are prepared to meet this challenge,” said Lisa Lien, a student and scholarship recipient in the Lactation Education and Consultant Program at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus. “Most new moms need coaching and encouragement. When you feed your baby eight to ten times a day for six months to a year on average, with each feeding taking approximately 40 minutes, you want those feedings to be as relaxed and as comfortable as possible for both mom and baby. That requires planning and time management skills.”
Lien is well versed in the needs of new moms. The Gresham native is the mother of twins, but it was the birth of her first son that made her seek advice about how best to care for him.
“Nursing him was difficult,” she said. “I needed information and my experience with the lactation consultant made all the difference. It changed everything for me. I have a bachelor’s degree in business from Western Oregon University, but it’s not something I’m passionate about. Working with moms and infants means I can influence the mother and baby’s health for life. It means I can make a difference.”
Like many other health professionals, students in the lactation program need to complete prerequisites in the health sciences before applying to the program. Students are also required to have 300 clinical hours working directly with moms and babies before they can take the board exam. PCC is unique in that the college helps students partner with clinics that serve nursing mothers and their families.
When Lien started her classes at PCC last spring, she was one of ten students in the inaugural class and received the only scholarship awarded by the program. The Shannon Floyd Scholarship supports minority students or students who plan to work with people of color. With a minor in Spanish, Lien’s goal is to work with Latino moms and their families.
The demand on the mother is why dads and partners are also included in the lactation training and play a significant role in the experience, she said.
“You can imagine how tiring this is for the mom,” Lien added. “The partner’s job is to be supportive and cook healthy meals for the mom and make sure she is well hydrated and rested. Keep the frig stocked and keep plenty of bottled water within easy reach of the nursing mother. By involving the entire family, the nursing mom is educating future moms and dads about the advantages of breast feeding.”
Because there will never be a shortage of new moms and babies, the employment picture for certified lactation consultants is positive. Graduates may start their own practice or partner with hospitals and pediatricians or with the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The local WIC Program is part of the Oregon Center for Prevention and Health Promotion.