How to be a Great Lactation Consultant

Lactation care providers tend to invest mainly in their clinical knowledge under the umbrella of continuing education, sometimes neglecting intentional growth and reflection work that can help them see how their knowledge and abilities are evolving. This can lead to feelings of burnout and narrow vision; alternately, it can lead to frustration about not being able to do, “all the things” or make a bigger impact.

I’m challenging you to actively reflect on how your lactation career is evolving. Let’s use this opportunity to create and build something that will have you excitedly planning for what’s next

instead of shuffling along and hoping for something better to appear. Like I tell my clients, hope is not a whole plan.

You don’t need me to remind you that the work we do is hard. But it’s also critical and life-changing. Let’s start there.

I’ve created a series of exercises designed specifically for lactation care providers who are ready to reflect on their career to date and build a plan for their future growth.

When a lactation colleague is frustrated or overwhelmed, we often remind them that it’s good to focus on helping one parent and one baby at a time. Here’s your first reflection point:

When you first began to think of yourself as someone with a passion to help others with their lactation journey, who was your Patient Zero? For some, it is their own breastfeeding experience which launches them into this career, while for others, it is watching someone else’s journey that lights the fuse.

What about that situation made you feel like there is something to change, something to improve, something to disrupt? To do this thoroughly, write out the story of YOUR Patient Zero in a narrative charting format, just like you would for one of your patients or clients today. This can force you to remember details and to tell the story in the language you currently use around lactation rather than relying on your informal memories of the case. It’s especially powerful to do this with your own lactation experience (if you have any.)

Next, it’s time to consider the whole history of your lactation knowledge and education.

How were you initially trained? What has been your routine or process for acquiring continuing education – do you have a habit of waiting until it’s almost time to re-certify, or do you tend to gravitate toward the same topics over and over? Are there gaps in your lactation knowledge that you recognize but you’ve not yet made a significant effort to fill with education? How have the past few years of virtual education and conferences impacted your learning?

Draw a timeline of your personal lactation education journey from the beginning through now. Try to include details that stick out for you, like if you attended a big conference or a very intimate workshop at some point which truly changed the trajectory of your understanding of lactation. Look for empty spaces in the timeline which indicate a period where you did not acquire much continuing education.

Do they correspond with something major happening in your personal life or in your work/career? The goal of this exercise is to document how you have learned over the

years and months, making connections in your mind (and on paper) between how you are (or are not) making decisions about moving forward in your expertise.

Your third and final action is a series of exercises. Here’s what we’ll explore here: your purpose is the reason you got into the world of lactation care – who you set out to serve, the message

you planned to get out into the world, the impact you wanted to make. As you move through different events and phases in your career – initial certification(s), changes in workplace, achieving goals, assuming leadership roles – you sometimes need to look back at that purpose to be sure you are still following your own intentions.

Here are some questions to help you name your purpose, determine your current location, and ensure you’re pursuing your goals with intention.

1. What is the one message you hope will be your legacy when your career has ended?

2. Who are the people you most want to serve through your lactation work?

3. What are 3 things that make you uniquely qualified to serve the population you care most about impacting?

4. How are you feeling right now about your ability to get your message out to the people you most want to target? Can you do that in your current practice setting? Is that something you can change?

5. Which of the following would it be possible to change now? What about in the future? How far into the future?

– Change your work setting or workplace

– Add something – job, volunteer role, etc. – outside your main work or practice

– Explore what others are doing to target YOUR intended audience

– Dream big here – what would you change right now about your lactation practice if there were no limits? What would you plan to change in 1 year? In 3 years?

If you’re going to evolve as a lactation care provider, you’ve got to dream big to discover your next destination. Let’s share our ideas on how we plan to evolve and grow using the hashtag

#EvolveLactationCare on social media. I’ll be looking for your posts and adding some of my own!

About the writer:

Christine Staricka is an IBCLC and trained childbirth educator in California. She is excited by every opportunity to educate and inspire current and aspiring lactation care providers and is a

lactation speaker and clinical instructor. She provides lactation care through her local Baby Café. You can download a workbook with the above exercises and learn more about Christine and her work at www.christinestaricka.com and on Instagram @IBCLCinCA.

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