Today we celebrated breastfeeding with the help of Evolution Fitness. They were the first to answer my call to action!
“I thought I’d be absolutely fine ... I thought I’d just get on with it and it would be easy really ... (but) people were really shocked by the fact that you’re breastfeeding in public. I kind of felt like I didn’t care, but I did care a lot, and it was really difficult ... I just found it really stressful, really embarrassing, really horrible” (Boyer, 2012, p557).
Breastfeeding is universally acknowledged as the normal, expected way for an infant to get nutrition in the early months and years. Despite strong recommendations from the World Health Organization and essentially every national health body in the world, breastfeeding rates, and in particular exclusive breastfeeding rates at six months, remain lower than recommended around the world. Health survey data Canada found a breastfeeding initiation rate of 87.3% and a six month exclusive breastfeeding rate of 25.9% in 2009-2010.
We live in a complex world and as such, breastfeeding in our complex world comes with challenges. There are themes across all groups of women regardless of age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. It is important to view breastfeeding not simply as a technical task, which is where most of my time is spent helping breastfeeding mothers, but it truly is as an important part of the transition to motherhood. This transition into motherhood is so vital and is a driving force into my I desire to support women in getting breastfeeding off to as goos of a start as possible. Who wants to transition into motherhood on the wrong foot? Women’s breastfeeding decisions are made in relation to the circumstances of her life, her sociocultural context and her individual experiences such as how much support she has at her disposal. There a several layers to mothers breastfeeding successfully. These layers can be identified as the family; the healthcare system; the community; and society. Today I am focusing on the community aspect. The community should be on layer of support she can rely on.
Breastfeeding in Canada is a protected right. Women can breastfeed their babies wherever they are so long as mothers and babies are allowed to be in this space. Clear examples of a place that breastfeeding is not allowed are situations like a children not being permitted to be in the lounge the mother is in because infants are not of majority age, she can’t breastfeed there. Or, if there is a place like a gym area where children are not allowed for safety reasons, a mother cannot breastfeed there. Pretty common sense, no? Women otherwise cannot to be told they have to move, cover up, turn another direction, stop breastfeeding or leave the facility (or any other variation of the sort you can come up with). Even though the law is on their side, mothers still experience criticism and discrimination. With two incidents in Regina that lead Regina mothers to social media to share their stories, I put out a call for action to Regina businesses.
It is so important to create community spaces where women feel truly comfortable breastfeeding. Women who are breastfeeding sometimes describe feeling isolated and excluded from society, primarily because of the social disapproval around breastfeeding in public places. Mother’s describe the feelings they have while breastfeeding in public or even thinking about breastfeeding in public as anxiousness and disapproval. Many women stop breastfeeding sooner than they intend to because of the sense of isolation that results from this reluctance to breastfeed in public places. Developing policies and practices in the community that actively support breastfeeding can positively contribute to breastfeeding rates.
I am so excited that Evolution Fitness reached out to my call to action for Regina businesses. Upon touring the facility yesterday, not only does Evolution fitness support breastfeeding in their facility, they have the capability to provide infant and/or sibling childcare for that new mother, a woman’s only facility in case a new mother wants to have a more private smaller space to work out and they want to provide education to new mothers that help them meet their fitness goals, while continuing to breastfeed. They invited us to host an event at their east location today to celebrate breastfeeding and to let the public know their commitment to breastfeeding. You can see the Global News video coverage or written coverage of the event here.
Even more on top of that, Evolution Fitness wants to challenge other businesses to be leaders in this area to show us how they support breast-feeding in their facilities. Is your business ready to show your commitment to breastfeeding?
In the past "Lactation Consultant" was a term/title used to refer to a specific group of people, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). In recent months/years, there have been certificate programs created (different than CREDENTIALs). Because Lactation Consultant is not a protected title individuals who choose to work with families and offer breastfeeding help can refer to themselves as Lactation Consultants. Some choose to do this, while others choose to use a different title in order to differentiate themselves. While some choose to use a different term/title, often the public does not know any different or gets confused and refers to all these individuals as Lactation Consultants.
There are very distinct differences between requirements to use the title International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and the certificate programs but also the scope of practice, continuing education required, mandate to belong to a registered body, etc.
This scenario unfortunately leaves the public having to be aware of this and do some homework when calling someone for help.
I do believe that there are varying levels of help that mothers need and that there is room for multiple layers of helps. In fact, my becoming an IBCLC started with a different level and layer of breast-feeding support that inspired me to learn more, continue my education and write the IBCLC exam. The scenario becomes a concern when the public is confused and thinks they have seen an IBCLC, when in fact they had not or when someone with a certificate program (with its own distinct title) begins to use a term that can be misleading, like Lactation Consultant, or even with a Lactation Consultant position or just a breastfeeding support clinic within a healthcare facility is being staffed by a nurse, who might have some extra training in breastfeeding but isn't an IBCLC.
I worked hard to become an IBCLC as did my IBCLC colleagues and we are proud of our IBCLC title, but we also know we are more commonly known as Lactation Consultants. I became an IBCLC to leave breastfeeding better than how I found it in 2004 and continue to work hard to make it better. But this isn't about myself and the work I do. This is about the public being aware of the variability that exists and that there presently is no regulation on breastfeeding supports.
It can be compared to Interior Designers & Interior Decorators, Architects & Industrial Designers, Dental Assistant & Dental Hygienists, RN's & LPN's, Pharmacists and Pharmacy Assistants, Medical Laboratory Technologists, Lab Assistants and Phlebotomists, Midwives and Doulas. So often we come into contact with these fields but we have no idea what the differences in education, skill, title, role, etc is. Ideally, it is up to the professional to make sure the public is aware of this, but it is undoubtably confusing to the consumer and can be overseen by the professional in busy times or misunderstood by the consumer especially when the consumer in the case of breastfeeding help is an overwhelmed, new mother.
It can also be that the professional is intentionally choosing to refer to herself as a Lactation Consultant with no regard for the confusion it may cause.
There are a few places that people can go to look to see if their Lactation Consultant is an IBCLC. One is the public registry of IBLCE https://iblce.org/public-registry/
In Saskatchewan you can also double check with the Saskatchewan Lactation Consultant Association. http://www.skslca.com