Recently, I was invited to present the Certified Lactation Educator Training at a state-of-the-art educational facility that was equipped with all the “bells and whistles.” The equipment was intimidating and resembled something I had seen recently while watching a futuristic, sci-fi movie. The retracting screen was the only equipment I was vaguely familiar with.
Fortunately, this contraption came with its own professional team. I had a sound man, IT guy, lighting assistant and project manager to assist me. Everything on the panels responded to the selections made on the portable Mac tablet. It was a bit intimidating to discover that I had to complete a mini in-service in order to comprehend the ins and outs of the devices that I would be using during my presentation.
Besides getting a great education on the latest gadgets in the world of presentations, a conversation starter posed by the IT staff caused me to have an epiphany. This group of men, who undoubtedly set up for a mirage of conferences, posed a polite question they have most likely asked each presenter they have assisted. While hooking up cords and cables, one man nonchalantly asked, “Who’s your target audience?”
I started with my canned response, “We have a variety of perinatal professionals attending, including midwives, nurses, doulas and lactation consultants—“then I interrupted myself. “But my real target audience is the world!” The assembly of four laughed at my enthusiastic response.
I went on to explain, “My topic is lactation which is just another word for breastfeeding. We often feel our presentation is best suited for moms or those in the medical community, but in reality, it is about infant feeding, nutrition, preventive medicine, recovery, ecology, public health, budgeting, mental health, and so much more.”
Even in their line of work they can appreciate the breastfeeding relationship. Let me paint this scenario. They often record the sessions for webinars or stream the information live. Just imagine how a crying baby that is not easily consolable effects the quality of the recording. If we think about it, breastfeeding is a universal topic.
We have an activity we do in the CLE training that I get really excited about. I pass out a paper that lists different professions and organizations that seem to be unaffected by breastfeeding. The goal of the assignment is list reasons why the person or organization might be glad Mom is breastfeeding. The “ah-ha” moment that students experience after this discussion is priceless.
The justifications attendees share are sometimes spot on and sometimes comical.
One of the professions listed is a shoes salesman. Well, people feel like the shoe salesman is completely removed from the breastfeeding topic and could not be influenced to have an opinion on a family’s feeding choice. Here’s where the correlation is made. Statistically, breastfed babies walk sooner and theoretically may be wearing shoes earlier than babies who are not breastfed. One student expressed that the shoe salesman would be effected by breastfeeding because mom is saving money and can purchase more shoes.
I have also received answers citing less diabetes resulting in difficulties with feet. One student’s answer was a bit of a stretch as she tried to convince us that it is because breastfed babies have better coordination and muscle development, they discover they are natural athletes. Subsequently, they earn a scholarship to play college ball and go onto professional leagues where shoes costs hundreds of dollars—yep, she received the prize for the most imaginative exposé.
Even though responses can be bit precarious, and this assignment is meant to be a fun, interactive way to discuss the broad audience for breastfeeding, it helps everyone see that breastfeeding in not an isolated activity. Breastfeeding should be shared with everyone everywhere. I believe that would alleviate some of the issues we have with moms being told to “cover up” or the judgement that is made when moms are “still breastfeeding.” If society was educated, perhaps the ignorance that is sprinkled throughout our nation would diminish.
Imagine a world where the garbage man is happy to service the home of the breastfeeding family because he knows there will be less waste from recycled containers and the diapers have less odor. Imagine the boss who is aware that his employee, who is breastfeeding, will have fewer missed days since, statistically her baby will have protection from some common infections. Imagine the flight attendant who welcomes the breastfed baby on the flight realizing the screams from ear pressure pain can be silenced by breastfeeding. If we educate the world on the importance of breastfeeding, we will gain a world of support.
We also need to educate the older generation that is offering advice to our young families. If I went on advice I was given or even on how I fed my baby, my basis for information would not be evidence-based. I know people are trying to be helpful, they just may have not received updated information—and, why would they? How often do grandmothers enroll in contemporary childbirth classes? They are also part of our target audience.
On a side note, as an IBCLC, I work with a lot of moms who, for medical or personal reasons decide to supplement their breastmilk or formula feed their babies. When working with these families they unanimously assure me that they wish the world was more informed about the importance of breastmilk. They believe that sharing evidence-based information about breastmilk and educating the world would cause a movement. We could encourage the government to provide additional lactation support, force the hand of the FDA to require better formula, or make safe donor human milk more available. I am in passionate agreement with them. As long as we accept the mantra that breastmilk and formula are equal, we will not see the necessary changes families deserve.
I hope we will commit to share evidence-based breastfeeding information on social media, with our families, in our work places, at the grocery store, at Jazzercise, at the spa, at birthday parties and with the garbage man—after all, this is our target audience!
Christy Jo Hendricks
IBCLC, RLC, CLE, CCCE, Lactation Educator Faculty
Christy Jo brings over 20 years of teaching experience to the classroom. She is an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Birth Doula. She has a passion for facilitating and protecting the mother/baby bond. Her contribution to this field has been recognized by the United States Presidential Volunteer Award and the Phyllis Klaus Founder’s Award for Promoting the Mother/Baby Bond. Christy Jo’s life-long goal has been to help others reach theirs. Her informative, yet entertaining teaching style makes learning enjoyable and retention easy. Christy Jo currently teaches lactation, attends births, facilitates lactation clinics for low-income clients and advocates for women in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three children. More…