A Day in the Life of a Lactation Consultant
Of the more than 4 million babies born in 2015, more than 80 percent started out breastfeeding. As the number of women who breastfeed continues to rise, more new moms are turning to lactation consultants for help with nursing their babies.
We spoke to Wayne UNC Lactation Specialist Mary Jo Jones, RN, MSN, about her career-long passion for women and infant health, her philosophy on breast feeding and the support she provides to parents in the hospital.
Q: You are an ICBLC-certified consultant. What does that mean?
A: IBCLC stands for International Board of Certified Lactation Consultant. Carrying this certification means I’m specialized in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation. A lactation consultant can provide information and support to nursing mothers, from prenatal counseling to basic position and latch of the infant and support for as long as the mother breastfeeds her child.
Q: What led you to become a lactation consultant?
A: Throughout my nursing career, I’ve worked in OB/GYN and women’s health areas, including ante- and post-partum care, as well as Gyn oncology. I worked with breastfeeding moms often when I was a staff nurse. Then, I was in clinical specialist roles after I got my Master’s, where I led childbirth education and breastfeeding classes. In a supervisory/management role, we had several lactation consultants on staff. I became more interested in that role when I was no longer in a management role. I began as a Lactation Specialist for three years and then opted to pursue my IBCLC certification. I’ve worked directly with breastfeeding families since 2008 in two different hospital systems.
Q: How would you describe your philosophy about breastfeeding?
A: Since I’ve done both OB and mother/baby care, I’m not one who believes it has to be breast milk or nothing. I try to maximize breastfeeding & the amount of breastmilk moms feed their babies. A fed baby is a happy/healthy baby. Sometimes moms are not able to breastfeed. If it’s better psychologically for the mom to give the baby breast milk and some formula or pump and feed expressed breastmilk in a bottle, then that is better for the family overall.
Q: What does a lactation consultant do?
A: My job is here at the hospital. I see the patients who have delivered while here at the hospital and work with them to get breastfeeding started. I’m also available by phone for parents who deliver here or live in this area and have questions about breastfeeding after they have been discharged.
I often see moms and babies on the Pediatrics floor whose babies get readmitted for jaundice or other issues. Maybe mom got readmitted for some complications of her own, and she’s needing to continue pumping to feed her baby at home. Before COVID, I did some outpatient visits, but those are on hold for now.
Q: Can you tell us about a time you felt rewarded in your role, or that you felt like you were able to make an impact?
A: Many first-time parents feel unsure about breastfeeding or concerned they may not make enough milk. Usually, there’s a bit of a “fear factor,” and they begin to feel unsure that they’re body is going to do what they need it to do. I try to stress to them the good things we’re seeing. If their baby is peeing and pooping, they can rest assured, they’re giving their baby what they need. I stress all the normal things and try to do a lot of education to help parents overcome those fears.
It’s also rewarding when I’m able to work with moms whose babies are “late pre-term.” They often are in the hospital for a longer period of time. I’m able to help those mothers breast feed and pump as they need to, to help their babies transition to breastfeeding. Or the mom who has had issues with breastfeeding their previous baby or babies, and I’m able to help them be successful with their new baby by putting measures in place to optimize the breastfeeding experience.
A member of the Wayne UNC team for two years, Jones has worked as a nurse for 36 years. She holds a Master’s in Nursing with a focus on Maternal/Child Health, Education and Bachelor’s in Nursing from University of North Carolina.