Leah, what I loved the most about working with you is how understanding and pressure FREE you are! I have heard from others how some lactation consultants can be extremely pushy. This is the last thing you want those first few weeks of having a newborn. I really felt like you have been my cheerleader through the ups and downs of nursing. Anyone who is able to meet with you and your team is LUCKY! With that said, I wanted to pick your brain for other mommas who may not be able to meet with you!
Can you share your story of why you switched from your career of medical sales to becoming a rockstar lactation consultant?
Kids will change a lot of things in your life and my experience breastfeeding my first child was the pivotal event in shifting in my career path although at the time I had no idea! When he was born we had a lot of issues latching and overtime discovered he had oral motor hypotonia, which made breastfeeding and bottle-feeding a huge challenge. I was overwhelmed and did not have direction on how to protect breastfeeding while we worked with a speech therapist to help him be able to suck well and feed. I stopped pumping at around 3 weeks and when my supply dried up I realized how badly I had wanted to breastfeed and a deep sadness came over me, like nothing I expected. This really drove my passion to educate myself before I had my next child. I was determined to have a different experience. Although I struggled with my second as well we persevered with the help and support of mother to mother support groups, lactation consultants and my friends. I realized what an impact having support had on my breastfeeding journey and I wanted to share that with other mothers. I started as a volunteer with La Leche League in 2004 and then continued my education and sat for the IBCLC exam in 2011. I started my business, Bay Area Breastfeeding and Education (BABE) that same year and well….the rest is history!
What do you wish all new moms to know before nursing?
I wish all new mothers knew that although the journey of breastfeeding can be challenging, perseverance really pays off. I think so many moms get discouraged when things are not going well in the first few weeks and they begin to feel like there is no hope of it ever getting any better. I see many moms stop breastfeeding or choose to exclusively pump during this time. I wish all mothers knew there is help and support available to guide you to reaching YOUR breastfeeding goals. I truly believe that there is a spectrum of breastfeeding and what works for one mother and baby may not work for another but there is a place on this spectrum for all breastfeeding families. A skilled lactation consultant can be a guide to get you there, EVEN if you have a challenging start.
What words of encouragement do you give to a new mom who is feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time and energy that goes into nursing?
It’s so cliché to say but one thing I wish someone had told me when I was really struggling was that it could and would get easier in time. Becoming a mother really transforms you and challenges you in so many ways. It can be very overwhelming even if you aren’t breastfeeding. To add to it, our society does not do a good job of supporting new mothers and this only increases the overwhelm. I’d encourage all expecting families to prep for the postpartum period just as much as you prepped the nursery or the labor and delivery plans. Having a strong support system around you in the first several weeks postpartum can make a huge impact on the amount of time and energy you have. If all you have to focus on is breastfeeding and your self-care it might not feel quite so overwhelming.
What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve heard as a tip for feeding? One of the mommas in my postpartum group had a lactation consultant say to “shake her breasts like a milkshake.” HA!
Oh man, I have heard some crazy things in my many years of supporting mother’s but this “milkshake’ tip, actually has some truth behind it! Breast massage and shaking prior to feeding has been shown to increase the fat content of milk. We don’t have any studies that show that the increased fat results in changes in infant growth or feeding patterns, but a little “milkshake” is easy to do and could potentially be helpful.
Many of my friends say they are unable to nurse because of low milk supply. How common is this and what are the reasons for low milk supply?
There are many causes of low milk supply. Most commonly I see low milk supply as a result of early breastfeeding challenges preventing the milk supply from being well established in the first few weeks. There can also be hormonal and infant related factors that can contribute to or cause low milk supply. Additionally, there is a rare condition that limits the growth of women’s breast in puberty and resulting in a limited amount of milk-making tissue in their breasts, this is known as Insufficient Glandular Tissue. Women with this condition will have specific characteristics of their breast that identify they may have a smaller amount of milk-making tissue. Low milk supply can be very challenging for mothers, but I would encourage any mom struggling with low milk production to remember breastfeeding doesn’t have to be 100% to still be breastfeeding. Even a mother making a ¼ of her infant’s needs can continue to breastfeed, supplement the additional amount the baby needs and have a beautiful breastfeeding relationship. We know from many studies that any amount of breastmilk is beneficial, and I would encourage mothers to work with an IBCLC to help them reach their breastfeeding goals even if it’s not 100% breastmilk 100% of the time.
Are lactation friendly foods and teas actually helpful or is it more of a placebo effect?
This is a great question! I think it is a fascinating one to consider because in all the ancient cultures new mothers were fed very specific foods to support lactation. These cultures have been doing this for thousands of years, so they must be working on some level, but the challenge comes with finding the proof. There are very few studies done on lactation in general and even fewer on foods and teas to support lactation. So, we have limited scientific evidence but there may be anecdotal and historical evidence that some foods and teas may help support breastfeeding. My one caveat is a recent trend of focusing on the foods and teas to boost milk supply and not on uncovering the underlying cause of the low milk supply and the importance of frequent and thorough milk removal as the foundation of establishing and maintaining a milk supply. Just eating food or drinking a tea probably won’t make a big shift in supply but increasing milk removal and how well the breasts are drained really can!
What advice do you give to moms going back to work who want to continue to nurse?
“Think like a baby” LOL, no really, hear me out. When your baby was breastfeeding 100% of the time, they were the ones maintaining your milk supply. If they weren’t getting as much they needed they would nurse a little longer or cue for the next feeding a little sooner. Now that you will be managing your daytime milk supply you too will have to be aware of the volume you are getting and adjust accordingly. Many mother’s get stuck in following a recommended pumping routine and may not adjust their routine when they see a dip or increase in milk supply, then they struggle with low milk supply or collecting too much milk.
Okay, what’s the deal with not being able to wear wire bras?
If an underwire bra ever dug into your breast prior to breastfeeding, it’s likely to dig in even more now that your breasts are fuller and rounder. For some women, the underwire blocks or irritates a full milk duct which could lead to pain, plugged ducts or poor milk drainage. Many women may also have breast tissue that extends out in more of a teardrop shape towards your armpit and this can increase the chances of an underwire bra pressing into milk ducts on the side of your breast. It’s best to avoid the underwire and ensure whatever bra you have fits well!
Here is a question that I bet every single momma wants to know, will my breasts ever go back to normal? If not, is there anything we can do to help with the loss of volume?
I often get this question during our prenatal breastfeeding classes and I know it’s one we all worry about as pregnancy and motherhood can really change your body and sometimes in some not so pleasant ways. Many of the changes you see in your breasts will happen whether or not you ever even breastfeed. Your breast will grow in pregnancy and your milk will come in either way. Don’t let the fear of your breasts changing deter you from choosing to breastfeed. Much of what dictates the changes in your breasts during and after breastfeeding is the amount of fat tissue you retain in your breast and your genetics, sadly two things we don’t have much control over.
Last question, if you could pick three dinner guests dead or alive, who would they be?
I love this question! I would pick my grandmother’s, they were both such amazing women that I really looked up to as a child and sadly they both passes away before I became a mother. Now as a mother I have SO many questions I would love to ask them. For my third pick, I would say Marie Forleo, she is an inspiring businesswoman and seems like a super fun gal! I’d love to pick her brain about business then go out dancing because apparently, she was a professional dancer and I LOVE to dance!!
Want to reach out to Leah and Bay Area Breastfeeding & Education?
Social Media: @bayareabreastfeeding
Phone Number: 713-496-2223
P.S. Looking for nursing and FODMAP safe snack ideas? Read this article!