I took the CLC class in February. I was excited about this class for several reasons. I was excited to move from informed peer to a certified lactation counselor. It gave me a personal sense of validation towards the work I was doing. I was also excited to get a deeper understanding of the technical knowledge behind why it is so important to breastfeed. I decided to travel to Pennsylvania to take the class. I have family not far from where the class was, so I was able to get some help with my son while I went to the class during the day.
CLC is a great experience and way to get 45 lactations education hours in a one-week time frame. It is A LOT of work. Lots of research is going to be presented and it is mostly lecture which a few instances to collaborate with class mates during the week. So be prepared to absorb as much as you can and rely on your short-term memory for the exam on Friday.
The exam had me shook. I didn’t have the time to spend studying like crazy in the evenings outside of the homework because when I got from class for the day my son wanted ALL my attention. I really was so unsure about how I did. Jenn had found a scholarship for me to attend the class, so I was TERRIFIED of failing and wasting resources. Turns out I had no reason to worry. Not only did I pass, I got a 91%!!! I guess you could say I’m kind of smart.
One of the major drawbacks of the course is I found that it was not culturally inclusive enough. Most of the time I felt like I was in a class taught by white women, to white women, so they could help other white women. It just wasn’t representative in the difference’s women of color experience. Yet, half of the class’s participants were women of color. It was clear from the conversation among us that others noticed this too. Yes, there were a few photos of women of color sprinkled in and I recall maybe one slide of data that broke out the racial differences in outcomes but that’s about it.
I couldn’t help but wonder if this feedback had ever been received. I also wondered about the diversity of the organization. I went to their website and found that there was very little. Which made sense based off of how I experienced the class. Don’t get me wrong, I gained a lot for taking this course and I feel like nothing but great things could come from making it more racially inclusive.
None the less… I’M A CLC NOW YA’LL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m sure any entrepreneur you ask will tell you business can be unpredictable. Feed the Babes has a strong referral base but when you are in the business of babies, you run on their schedule. Some weeks have been super busy and others…not so much. Interning with a private practice is different than being in a hospital or outpatient setting because it’s no nine to five. In addition, there are some moms who don’t want a student at their visit. Whatever their reason is I am totally understanding, and they are entitled to make that call but it means that’s one less opportunity to learn from and one more day spent at home.
January was incredibly hard for me. After such a great and fairly bust first week, we went through a referral desert. For three weeks I was only able to attend one consult. I was otherwise just at home with my son. So, for days at a time I felt like I was at home just wasting away. Jenn tried to encourage me to read through some of the books she had given me, but I just don’t learn like that. I would have closed the book and retained nothing because I didn’t have a tangible experience to tie it to.
Jenn is one of the busiest women I have ever met so not having consults gave her time to other things and she did see a few moms in that time but those were ones who didn’t want a student in attendance. This whole journey was a drastic change in my life. I am adjusting to the highs and lows. Not every day is full of awesome breastfeeding work. I had to just take everything one day at a time. If you are working with a mentor I would suggest having a plan for how to fill down time. My plan was to work on the online program for 45 of the 90 lactation education hours needed for the exam but due to finances, I had not purchased it yet. Since then things have changed drastically, we are in an upswing and I am loving it but now I know things may not always be busy on the referral side and I’m better equipped to handle it.
Jenn’s connections and faith in me opened other doors to help fill that time. I am now busy even on our off days. I want to focus on my experience with my road to IBCLC here, so I won’t talk about my other work too often but Jenn as a mentor will always find opportunities for you to succeed and she has definitely done that for me.
This week we saw a mom that really made me feel the WHY in deciding to become an IBCLC. To respect this moms privacy, I can't go into any details on her appointment but what I say is her desire to nurse her baby was deep. I felt connected to her on another level because of that. The strides we made during her visit were monumental to her and seeing that growth in the moment made me so emotional. This is my WHY. This is what my community needs.
Disclaimer: I am still in catch up mode ya'll. So if things seem a bit out of order that's why. I am getting caught up on my thoughts and experiences so bear with me!
So now you know my story and here I am in the full swing of things. My first day out on a consult with Jennifer was actually December 31st, 2018. Of course, I can’t talk about the details of the appointment but how I felt is another thing. I was SO excited. I felt like I was a kid going into the first day of school. Most importantly, I wanted to make a good impression on Jenn. By this time, I had met with her a few times and talked regularly but I was still on edge a bit. It’s a big deal to have a mentor and to have one to invest in you in such a short amount of time. I didn’t want to do or day anything that might have her second guessing her decision. I have since found that Jenn is one of the most down to earth and understanding people I have ever encountered. Not only do I have a mentor but like a sister-friend that’s helping learn a new field of business.
At any rate back to our first visit. It was far. Like an hour drive from home far. I am not a fan of driving long distances so that will take some adjustment on my part. Jenn is a road warrior. Driving an hour for her is like going to the corner store. After the visit we had lunch and then stopped into a pediatrician’s office that does a lot of referring to the business. It was an early morning and a long day, but I remember driving on my way home thinking man I’m tired, but it was a different kind of tired. I was not exhausted from spending hours sitting at a desk, doing mindless tasks I didn’t enjoy and wasting away. I had fun learning and seeing what a day could be like for me once I’m finished. On many days in past jobs I would walk out of work and think gosh, I haven’t walked outside into fresh air since I walked in 8 hours ago. I loved not feeling like that after a day’s work and it still feels as good now.
I have a few visits under my belt now. I am still in the phase of observing but am much more comfortable now. Observing is nice because although I am like a fly on the wall it allows me time to see how the visits are built out. I am listening more intently to the examples Jenn uses to explain topics in a relatable way to moms. I like learning new things so of course I want to just jump right in there and get to work but observing gives you less technical experience and more interpersonal communication skills when it comes to the business.
Having a strong support system is important in anything you do. Pursuing IBCLC is a huge time commitment. I’m lucky to have awesome family and friends supporting me. I completely quit my job to invest fully into the breastfeeding community and to have minimal barriers of completing my hours and prerequisites. I’m also a single parent to my amazing son. I could not do it without my village especially my amazing mom. Shout out to her. My mama ya'll...
I am also grateful to begin to work in a community where moms are celebrated. Jenn and MIBFN (my other work) have been incredibly welcoming to my son. They have made it clear that he can be present with me at meetings, consults, etc. Although I prefer to be child-free while working so I can be most focused it is so reassuring to know if I could not find someone to keep him that I wouldn’t be forced to sit out of whatever is going on.
If you are reading this, no matter what you are doing, if you have a village lean on them! And when the time comes for you to be a part of someone else’s support system, be as active as you can and remember when you needed a village to show up for you. It makes ALL the difference.
I am a life-long student. Literally. I have never really been “done with school.” Would I like to be? YES! But like I said my career path has a mind of its own. I have what I call non-specific degrees. I’m that person who always falls into the “or other related field” portion of the education requirements on a job application. That’s why becoming an LC was that much more appealing. I am excited about having a career, not just a degree. So, I went to IBCLE’s website and read everything I could. After reviewing the different pathways, I determined pathway 3 was most sensible for me. I already had a lot of the 14 required courses complete and could focus on the clinical hours and lactation specific education. I just needed to find a mentor.
Whew chile…. easier said than done! In my mind, one of the about 5 LC’s I saw during my own care was going to help me. I was so wrong. I called, emailed and text all sorts of people. Some I knew and some I didn’t. I had been a patient at St. John’s Breastfeeding clinic and found out they had a lactation college. I called there and was basically told to just watch the website and apply for our next lactation intern position…it will be up eventually. From a lot of other people, I got “I would love to help you but…” (insert myriad of reasons here). I just kept going, I started contacting friends. Less than friends really lol just anyone who I thought may have a connection. A young lady I went to college with who worked on a post-partum floor provided me an email address for this beautiful spirit by the name of Sekeita. I sent a pretty long email and was surprised to receive a pretty quick response. I was so excited. Mostly because Sekeita was black and so accomplished in the breastfeeding community. I opened the email and she says, “I would love to help you but…” this one was different.
Sekeita forwarded my email to Jennifer and that connection would set me on a trajectory to get where I am today. Later I found out that LC’s get these emails quite regularly from people seeking mentorship and asking someone they barely know for help. Sekeita told me that she rarely acts on them, but she felt something different from mine which prompted her to reach out to Jenn. The next day Jenn and I talked by phone for about two hours. It was so refreshing to speak to a black woman about what I had been through and how it manifested in me by wanting to pursue IBCLC. I felt like she could really hear how serious I was, and she offered to mentor me. I did a lot of searching for a mentor, but the universe brought me Jennifer.
Some people’s road to their passion has been clear and defined since they were children. Other folks, like me, go through life doing things they know they can do but never truly love. I could lay out a long list of jobs in various healthcare settings I had just to pay the bills and in all the experiences I have had, good or bad, I always knew I was meant for more. Going into 2018 I found myself in a really dark place. I was pregnant with a child that was conceived out of a failed relationship and preparing to be a single mother in a job that I truly loathed. I pushed through and directed all my energy into my pregnancy and in June I gave birth to the most amazing child. My son Khari.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. I always knew it was important but, as a black woman, never saw it in my community growing up. As an adult I had several friends breastfeed their children and it was so refreshing to see this upward trend of black women I know nourishing their children just as their bodies were made to do. At the same time I was uncertain if my body was capable of doing the same because of a decision I made when I was only 17 years old. In April of 2006 I had a breast reduction. By 17 years old my back and self-esteem were ruined by having such large breasts. I was informed of the impact the surgery could have on breastfeeding, but it was a very cursory mention and not an in-depth conversation.
During my pregnancy I immersed myself in information about breastfeeding in the best way I knew how. I joined several social media communities for black moms, plus size moms, and post-surgical moms. I was glued to my phone trying to find put everything I could. Women in these groups encouraged each other to be advocates for their birth experiences and breastfeeding journeys. I felt so empowered that I could be successful and ready to be fierce warrior to protect my birth experience and nourish my child. Things ain’t happen like that…
Since the day my son was born I have done and continue to everything in my power to preserve our breastfeeding relationship. The “you are not enough” fear tactics started almost immediately after he was born. My body wasn’t even given a chance to show me what it was capable of before it was pushed on me that I would never make enough to nourish him. On day 3 in the hospital my mature milk had not yet come in and I was informed that if I didn’t feed my baby formula that he would be admitted, and I would be discharged. A scared first-time mom, I caved so we could go home together, and that same day my milk came in. It was too late though, I had already started on the supplementing journey, so my body never really had the chance to push itself. I saw multiple LC’s, my son had a tongue tie revised, and we went to his pediatrician to make sure he was gaining as we figured it out. I was passionate about breastfeeding and I was going to make sure I did my part to make sure I could. At the end of almost any breastfeeding related visit I always left feeling defeated. In a world where breastfeeding is the golden standard and these professionals are supposed to protect and support me, I came secondary to formula. Yet, I was intrigued by their work. I was surprised how expansive the breastfeeding community really was. I found myself excited but also wanting to see others have a better experience than I did.
At this time I also became starkly aware that most breastfeeding moms and professionals were dominant culture women. Out of all the time I invested into getting professional help there was only one instance where I saw a black LC, Renee. It was the only visit where I felt able to 100% let my guard down. By this time, I was already researching what I needed to do to become an LC and in sharing my interests with Renee I learned about the lack of representation that I felt I was experiencing was real. I really felt there was a void in the community that I could fill. The first being an addition to the small pool of black LC’s in the community. Second, BFAR (breastfeeding after reduction) moms need to more people to uplift them and be diligent about trying to go as far as possible with their journey’s. I hated that I was told from day one I would never be enough, before I even got the chance to try. I felt so abnormal but not uncommon. I want to be able to meet moms like me and be their team mate in getting the best result possible even with a history of surgery. That’s how I found my road to travel and just like that I dove head first into doing whatever I needed to support the passion I had unlocked.
My professional bio can be found under the "about" tab. Here I will be capturing my growth in the breastfeeding community on my way to IBCLC. Join me in experiencing high and lows. I promise to be as raw as possible. This journey is so closely tied to my experiences as a new mom so you will also find that aspects of motherhood sprinkled in here too. Happy Reading!