Lactation Business Coaching with Annie and Leah

Educating Families, Healthcare Providers, and Communities about Lactation

Episode Summary

Advocate for breastfeeding/chestfeeding and the use of human milk in your community by educating families, healthcare providers, and the general public.

Episode Notes

Like this episode and want more? Join our Patreon community because your contribution funds our podcast so we're always free and always in your feed. Sign up here

People don’t know what they don’t know about breastfeeding. As a lactation consultant, you have the unique opportunity to educate families, other healthcare providers, and members of your community about the different feeding methods. By increasing awareness and understanding for breastfeeding, chestfeeding, formula feeding, and supplementation, you are making your job easier down the road when people feel more comfortable coming to you for help when they feel they need it.

Show Notes


IntakeQ is offering Lactation Business Coaching podcast listeners a discount on their first 3 months using the service at this link.


Annie’s tech tip: 

Leah’s marketing tip: 

Resources Recommended:


Episode Transcription

Episode 25 - Educating Families, Healthcare Providers, And Communities About Lactation

Length: 33:26 minutes


Annie: I'm Annie.

Leah: And I'm Leah.

Annie: And this is Lactation Business Coaching with Annie and Leah, where we talk about the smart way to create a compassionate and professional private practice.

Leah: Let's dive in. Hello Annie!

Annie: Hey Leah! How are you today?

Leah: I am doing really great. Really great. How about yourself?

Annie: I'm excellent. Enjoying the fall weather that we have here in New York City. It's not as pretty as fall weather in places like Boylston, Massachusetts where I was recently for the Moveable Feast workshop, but we've got some trees. It's all good.

Leah: A few here and there. We're having the weirdest fall. It's hot, 80 and then they're like, Oh today it's going to be 60 and my body cannot handle that. My body's saying, no, you need to have some kind of gradual transition. I need some more 70s days so that I can transition into being 60 so tomorrow's supposed to be really cold and I'm already thinking I need to break out my winter gear. 60 is frigid for me. I can't do it. I'm going to need to put my seat warmers on my car, the whole thing. So I'm excited about our topic today we're talking about education and not just educating families, but health professionals and ourselves and just education, all the education. Would you like to share a little bit about our sponsor first today?

Annie: Yes. Our sponsor of today's episode is IntakeQ, which is a charting platform that a lot of us are using. You can get your clients to fill out intake in advance, take payment at the time of booking, manage an online schedule that can be embedded into your website and also chart and send reports, all from IntakeQ. They also have integration with Office Ally for insurance claims submissions and it's a great platform, and they want to give listeners of the Lactation Business Coaching podcast a 20% discount on the first three months. And if you go to get that discount, you're going to go to which stands for Lactation Business Coaching and sign up for a trial, and we really hope you like it cause I like it and a lot of people like it. It's one of many great platforms out there. It's the one that I'm currently using for my own private practice and I've just been really happy with how it works. I'm so glad that they are our sponsors.

Leah: Yeah, I've heard such great things about it and definitely looking to move over for sure. I think it seems like a really great platform for the work that we do and so just hits all the marks of an EHR can cover. So I love that part of IntakeQ.

Annie: Do you have a marketing tip for us this week?

Leah: I do, I do. So we're talking education and I know a lot of you guys out there have classes, and one of the things when you're advertising your classes, you really want to speak to what a parent and probably a parent that's never breastfed before, because I think most families that look for classes are first time parents. So you want to really think about what would speak to them in the class content and sharing maybe it's an outline or these are the main topics we will cover, but think about how you word it. So it's going to be somebody who literally has no concept of breastfeeding or just feeding. They're just a blank slate and they might've just only heard probably the horror stories that people tell them. So what are their top concerns and what are you going to cover? And that might take some talking to clients about like before you breastfed, what did you think were going to be your top problems? Those are the things that you want to help the participant of your class understand that you're going to cover and make them feel confident in these areas. 

So I like the idea of sharing possibly an outline for your class in your advertising and show them these are the areas that we're going to hit and make sure that those areas are ones that will speak directly to them, not what you want to know, like I want you to know the physiology of the milk production and so on. What's gonna really make that client feel like, Oh gosh, I need to know these things. So it's thinking through that a little bit more in depth and maybe sharing an outline.

Annie: I think that's fabulous because they're going to then see how what they can get from your class is going to be more than what they're going to get as part of their childbirth education class, for example, or on the hospital tour or from their paediatrician. They're going to say, wow, there is a lot to this and I can actually start thinking now about things like how do I use a pump and getting ready to go back to work, and things that when they're pregnant they have time to think about that they're not going to be able to think about after their baby comes. So helping them to see that there's a lot more to breastfeeding than just, yeah, stick your baby on and hope for the best.

Leah: Right, and I think it's really important to take that extra minute to think through like how is somebody who's never had a baby before, who's never really thought in depth or seen a lot of breastfeeding? Like what are their top concerns going to be? And then make sure your advertising speaks to that. So really make it that participant-focused advertising. So that's my marketing tip today.

Annie: I love it. I love it. So we are talking about education today and we took the topic for today's episode directly from the core competencies published by which is the certifying organization for lactation consultants who are designated International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. So that's IBCLC is what Leah and I are. The IBCLC is the gold standard for infant feeding and lactation management. We have the highest level of education and with great education comes great responsibility, because we have a lot of ethical standards that we need to live up to, and we have a lot of clinical standards and this is one of them.

So the core competency states that we "must be competent in educating families, health professionals and the community about breastfeeding and human lactation". So today we're going to talk about those three different types of people we're reaching with education, and how you can be doing that in your own private practice. So we've already started talking about educating families. So let's talk first. What are the different kinds of classes that you've been involved with, Leah or that you've seen out there in your community targeting parents?

Leah: I think there's a lot of great ones out there and I love that people are thinking now even beyond what we consider like a breastfeeding class, in which you're going to learn about breastfeeding, but breaking it down to maybe the basics of breastfeeding, something to get you started, and then a return to work class I think is so great. I've even seen people doing a kind of starting solid foods/weaning class, which I think is a great way to help the family see how things might change down the road, because there's so much information out there about how to breastfeed a one through four month old, six month old, but beyond that I think we can really use a lot more support in that area, and for families that maybe look into breastfeeding a toddler, I think there's even less information out there about that and there's a lot to it. I mean there's a lot of things that are going to change and it's a relationship and it's a way that we can help support those families out further. So even with the solid food, introductions of solid food, I think that one's a great one. How to keep breastfeeding going with solid food introduction.

In my practice we split up our breastfeeding class from a breastfeeding basics and then a return to work class and we offer both of those. And then when I do my corporate classes, I do it the same way there, which is simple for me because I'm just using the same content. But I feel like all the participants have really appreciated that because especially in my corporate classes, I'll have families that have already returned to work and they'll come to the return to work class, but they might not have wanted the information from the basics class. So if I had them all grouped together, one, it would be a really long class, which I can't do on their lunch break and that's when I'm doing them, and two, there would be a lot of content that might not apply to them and so that's how we have set it up. What are some of the classes that you've seen in your area?

Annie: I've definitely seen prenatal classes, getting that prenatal education. I mean, my journey to become an IBCLC began with a prenatal breastfeeding class that I took when I was pregnant with my older daughter. And we were in a funny position being two freelancers and my husband working in film production where we couldn't sign up for one of those childbirth classes. I was like, what do you mean you want me to commit every Tuesday night for six weeks? I don't know what job he's doing tomorrow, and he can't take off. He might not be able to take off of work and all of that. So I found somebody, a childbirth educator. I had to go back channel to be like, can you please see us as a private client? My midwife says it's okay. My doula knows you. She says it's okay. She promises we're not just trying to get out of something. We really just cannot make this happen. And so we did a three hour intensive with her and it was fine, but I didn't get any breastfeeding education like you would get in a childbirth series.

So I went to this great place that no longer exists in Manhattan. It was called Real Birth and it was an amazing educational space and I took a prenatal breastfeeding class and John couldn't come with me because he had to work. So I was there by myself. The teacher was Leanne O'Connor who is still an IBCLC here in New York City.

Leah: I didn't know that.

Annie: She's amazing, and every time I see her in person I get a little ... I might've bonded with her, attached to her, imprinted on her a little bit in that time in my life. So it was really helpful because she just explained a lot of things that I didn't know. I'd never seen anyone breastfeed. I didn't know any babies who are breastfed. I had done some babysitting for breastfeeding babies, but I wasn't there when they were breastfeeding because I was the babysitter so I didn't know anything. And getting that help, it was so great to just feel like somebody's talking to me like I didn't know. Well I'll try it, but I didn't really feel like I needed to do it or what it was going to be like, and just to have somebody just tell me what to expect in those early days and weeks made a really big difference for me and is why I'm here today cause I really look back and I had a great lactation consultant when I had breastfeeding problems. My great lactation consultant was Kathy Jenna, so I was lucky there. But I really feel like that first contact that I had with someone in the breastfeeding world was so warm and non-judgmental and that affected me. That affected my decision to breastfeed because I was undecided.

Leah: Yes, I definitely think that's the case. And I've even heard that from families who maybe didn't have a great class experience. I think their attitude towards breastfeeding, it just feels different if they didn't feel that warm and welcoming and just sharing non-judgmental information in their breastfeeding class. I've had families express to me that it did change how they were thinking about breastfeeding moving forward. So it is a big responsibility that we have when we go out and we decide to put a class out there. I think we're so much about, Oh, I just want to teach you all this really cool stuff I know about breastfeeding, but we want to really work in our presentation on how we're giving that information to the families, and making sure that we're being considerate and thoughtful and not judgmental and warm and knowing that that could shape how they look at both breastfeeding in general, but also would they want to work with you later? I think it's a huge way to present yourself to potential clients and when we're giving that information in a warm and welcoming way, they're most likely going to turn around and become your clients as well. So I think that's super important.

Annie: I feel like most of us are really good at the in-person, warm and welcoming, and I think that social media does present some challenges because Facebook groups that are aimed at parents are a great way to promote yourself, like being able to announce your meeting or your class, and saying some groups will allow you to promote yourself. Others will have marketing Monday where you can announce your group and that's great, but then you're in this group where you're seeing people ask breastfeeding questions or feeding questions and it can be really tempting to want to jump in there with all the education and that can often backfire on you.

So somebody goes in there. Here's a really common one that I'm sure every single one of us has seen this in our local group. My baby is only latching on my nipple. It's so painful and my baby's tongue is white. Is it thrush? I see this question all the time and thrush happens. I'm not saying thrush doesn't happen, but we all know our clinical radar goes up and we're like, has anybody evaluated this child for tethered oral tissues? Cause this could be a lot of other things. It's really tempting to want to jump in there and start putting your clinical hat on and saying a lot of stuff, and then what happens next is in the comments section, people are all of a sudden saying all kinds of crazy things that maybe are not helpful. That's wrong. You're wrong. Someone on the internet is wrong. I've got to get in there and fix it. And that can really backfire because you can come across as shouting down families and really saying what you're sharing is wrong because it's the wrong information. But what that comes across as that lactation consultant thinks she's the only one who's right. She doesn't listen to people and she just wants to make sure we all know how smart she is, and I think that can really happen.

And it can also happen where people talk about being in groups where families are, when someone brings up pumping or going back to work and wanting to learn how to pump and then somebody might come in and say, why are you even doing that? Why are you starting to pump now? You should bond with your baby. Wait, wait, wait. And where now this, this family is thinking, oh, these are a bunch of lactation consultants or people who are just about breastfeeding and they don't actually care about my real life and I have seen colleagues of mine complaining that they see this attitude in these groups. And so you don't want to be part of an attitude that is pushing education on lactation and breastfeeding as everything that is right for every family. Because we all know clinically every family is different and has different needs. So you've got to draw a fine line between when you are in the educator role and teaching a class, people are coming to you. You are there to educate them about breastfeeding as the biological norm for the human species. The benefits of breastfeeding, the risks of not breastfeeding, all of those things are appropriate in a class context. When you are in a Facebook group for parents, you are there to do marketing for yourself as a warm, compassionate person who is going to come and meet you free of judgment to help you meet your personal goals. You are not there to be an advocate for breastfeeding as the biological norm for the human species. It's not appropriate. It doesn't help. It can actually cause harm to these families who now then don't have a way to get help for their very real needs.

Leah: You know, we've always talked about it can so get into the mini consults and providing specific information to that specific person's needs. It's a downward spiral. Those Facebook groups, man, they are a pickle. I don't touch them. Yup. I just let them be. Let them ride, ride themselves out because I always think of the brand ambassadors that are out there that get it. You know, they're not IBCLCs but they're really great moms who are in the trenches and they'll be the ones that'll jump in and be like, hey have you thought about getting more evaluation. And I know this practice is really great. Those are the moms that I rely on to get in there because they're in the trenches with these other moms. They can share that information in a different way than we can coming in as the authority, you know?

Annie: Absolutely.

Leah: So we've talked about educating families. I know my marketing tip kind of talked about how to market your classes. I think it's great to expand marketing into letting paediatricians offices know that you do classes, because I know a lot of families will interview paediatricians prior to delivery and a lot of them will have questions about breastfeeding or does your practice support breastfeeding? I think one thing that you can do is let paediatricians know, hey this is what we have. This is our location. Would you mind sharing this with your families that come and interview you to let them know that you really do support breastfeeding? This will show them that you are because you're encouraging them to take a breastfeeding class. And I think it's another great way to just share that you're offering classes in the community.

And beyond that, thinking about other health care providers and how we could provide education to them as well. And I've heard of lots of IBCLCs going into colleges, going into medical schools, talking to residents, talking to nursing programs, really sharing the breastfeeding information that we have the expertise in with other healthcare providers, and I think that's really another role that we have a responsibility to fill and to let people know. I mean, I think a lot of healthcare providers don't know that many of us are very open and willing and want to come share what we know to help them in their role as a support person for breastfeeding families. Have you seen any IBCLCs doing that in your area, or heard of some of those types of healthcare education opportunities?

Annie: Yeah, I mean I think one really easy way to do it is to create continuing education opportunities, and this can be done at the local level or at a bigger level for a conference that have appeal outside of lactation and birth professionals, and to be thinking about bringing in speakers that you're going to love for the lactation information. But then also you could say, hey, we've got this person coming that I feel you guys should know about, or even looking at kind of knowledge gaps in your community. If you find that you're frustrated by like, I wish I had a physical therapist I could refer babies to. Why haven't I found anybody good? Think about bringing in a speaker on structural issues and the impact of torticollis on infant feeding and bring them in and make a day of it and create a workshop and then invite physical therapists to come and so they can expand that.

Leah: Yes, you have to sometimes cultivate your own referral team, like who you want to refer to. Sometimes you have to really work at cultivating them and educating them and pulling them in so that they can be the people that you want to refer to in the future, because you know they have that information. I think that's so smart to, if you're involved in your local lactation consultant association and you guys bring in speakers or put on conferences and stuff, it's really a great way to reach out into the community is to have not just what would help us in our practice but would help other people who have interactions with breastfeeding families. I think that's really such an important thing that we can make an impact on our community and how these families are getting support and help from other healthcare providers other than us.

Annie: Totally. I like to buy books for paediatricians when I meet one that I like. I send them the book Tongue-Tied by Richard Baxter and he's got other contributors in there and I don't know if they read it, but I send it. Just send it through Amazon. I'll do things like that. I think to your point earlier about telling healthcare providers about your prenatal classes, creating some informational resources that they can hand out to their clients and those could be branded. Why not? But making it really helpful to say, look, here's actually when you have your clients come to you and ask you, your patients are saying, what about starting solid food? I've actually created this beautiful handout that you can give to them and just make it really juicy and full of information, and that paediatrician might look at it and say, oh wow, this is stuff that I didn't know. They didn't tell me in medical school you can do this. They can get excited about what is possible for babies or just those kinds of ways. Maybe that won't net you a client. They might not hand it out to somebody, and then somebody calls him, I'm so excited I got this handout from my paediatrician and now will you come in and teach me how to give my baby solids? That's probably not going to happen, but what you're doing is you're building a community that values infant feeding and that values continuing education about lactation and infant feeding related issues, and creating a connection that is good for everyone in fulfilling that core competency to educate healthcare providers about breastfeeding.

And then the last piece of it is educating communities. So talking about going into schools, being out there and saying can I come and talk to the fourth graders about being a lactation consultant? And I know people have done it and.

Leah: I think it is so awesome.

Annie: I would love that if anyone from my kids' schools are talking, I totally want to come. I actually pitched my older daughter's Girl Scout troop a few years ago. I was like, you know, I'm a lactation consultant and I can come and talk to them about this kind of healthcare and it didn't come to anything cause you don't know how people feel about it, but gosh, I would love to talk to the Girl Scouts about being a lactation consultant and working with families because it's a great job.

Leah: Well, also I am thinking there's a lot of high schools now that have college certifications or college degrees in the high school setting. I know my kids have one here where you can graduate from high school with your associate's degree. It's crazy, but they do have medical assistant programs. 

So the people are going through the medical assistant program while they're in high school, and I think those are great opportunities to just be present in the community offering some say, hey I would love to come and talk about what we do as lactation consultants to the students there. I think that's a great way to reach out to the community. Also thinking through other local mothering groups or support groups, educating those people that might have contact with the breastfeeding community but on a different level, like a mother-to-mother support group, or if it's not even support but like a doula group or just a mothering group, not necessarily related to breastfeeding or chest feeding, but just mothering group.

You could educate, say hey, I want to give you some information about an education about triage or when you should say refer out, that kind of thing. Helping them have those screening tools so that they would be able to say, hey, I think what you're describing as a breastfeeding issue is a little bit more than what we could talk about here and here's some resources and how to get help. What other ways have you heard of people reaching out in the community with education?

Annie: I mean I think there's so many opportunities for advocacy and going in at the higher level and working on influencing public health decisions that are being made in your community and policies in that way, so getting involved with local politics is a great place to start. Who are your representatives? Talking to them, telling them what you're seeing, telling them what you think is important. I mean their job is to listen to you if you're their constituent and to work for what's good for the community, and so you never know where you might find someone who might be friendly to our cause and that person might not be a woman. They might not have kids and there might be some young guy who's just been elected who's super excited about breastfeeding issues and lactation and public health and babies.

I mean, part of it is that it's your job as an advocate to get people excited about these things and to not just say, oh well this is only an issue that affects this certain demographic who've made the decision to breastfeed, but a bigger picture issue and seeing how a focus on what's healthy for pregnant and lactating people and what's healthy for babies is also what's healthy for communities and getting people away from this idea of it's a choice. It's a lifestyle choice that we're just sort of going to tolerate. In some areas we're going to make you feel guilty if you don't breastfeed, or in other areas we're gonna make you feel shame if you do breastfeed. But we're always going to say, it's this individual choice when really as Kimberly Seals Allers says, people don't breastfeed, communities breastfeed. So really helping your whole community understand that. A focus on lactation as a normal part of development for a woman as part of her reproductive health is good for everyone because we don't want to leave anybody behind when it comes to public health.

Leah: Absolutely. I think that is so, so important and such a big reminder of the role that we play. We are kind of this lone team out here of advocates as IBCLCs, of being so well educated on how much this impacts communities, how much breastfeeding impacts communities. But that information might not be getting out there and we're the ones that are supposed to be doing that. And I think that's a huge call for us all to take some action. It can be big and small, but if we all were out there educating our communities, speaking to people who might not have an awareness of how impactful breastfeeding can be, I think we could make some huge movements across the whole world. That sounds like they're going to make some big impacts, make some big waves out there.

Annie: I mean because that's why we do it though. I mean, it's big and it almost sounds embarrassing. Who am I to think that I'm doing work that could literally change the world? But if you're listening because you are a lactation consultant, you are literally doing work that can change the world and don't forget that.

Leah: Yes, the reason you went through all the training that you went through is because of the passion that you hold in your heart for helping these families, and I know sometimes we think of it so narrow is we're helping this family, but what you do at that family impacts the bigger family, which impacts the community, which impacts the state and the nation and it ripples out from there. So I think it's just such a big reminder for us that we stand in that role, that educator role, and we need to keep up with it and make sure that we're not forgetting that we also have that part in this big picture scheme of how amazing lactation is in the world. It's just amazing.

Annie: I love it. Yes, I agree. It is amazing.

Leah: Ah, well it's so fun to talk about these things and I know we get so broad spectrum, but it makes me feel warm and fuzzy just knowing what an impact we make. So to get down to more serious business though, do you have a tech tip for us today, Annie?

Annie: I do. And I have an IntakeQ specific tech tip. So IntakeQ has the World Health Organization growth charts incorporated into the platform and so you can just bring it up while you're charting and add the growth chart to any charting template and it'll calculate. It'll show you the curve. It's great. Works really well. So what I do though to make it work even better is I have, when my clients do the intake, they give me a list of all the weights that they have with dates from birth. So that's in the intake form and I've made that as a pin note in IntakeQ, which means that when it's submitted, it gets pinned to the client's chart, sort of like you would pin an index card to a bulletin board. So then I have a charting template called Weight Chart and all it is it pulls that pin note with the list that the clients gave me of the weights and the dates, and then below it has the World Health Organization growth chart.

So what I do before I see them for the first time is I just copy what they told me about the weights into the World Health Organization growth chart fields in IntakeQ, which is also a pin note, and then I lock that and that will pin it to my IntakeQ account. Now I bring up my charting template during the visit and the charting template also has the World Health Organization field in it and it's pinned. So then everything, all that work that I did comes up and now every time I add to it I'm adding to the same growth chart. I'm not having to rebuild it every time. So that's how I'm using it and I think it works really well. It's great because they can't give me the growth chart information in advance but this way I can get it set up. It takes me three seconds to do it and helps me spend a little time preparing for the visit. So I'm really happy that IntakeQ is doing that. 

I hope they are also going to at some point incorporate the Newt. I know a lot of people are sending them emails asking them can you include the Newt. And so if they haven't done that by the time this episode airs, email and tell them I want the Newt incorporated into IntakeQ and let's see if we can make it happen because they are very responsive to customer service.

Leah: Definitely. Well that's an awesome tip. I love it. Well thank you so much for talking with me today about education. This was a really fun topic and I look forward to our next podcast together.

Annie: For sure. I can't wait to talk to you again. Have a great week.

Leah: You too. Bye-bye.

Annie: Bye

Leah: Want to continue the conversation? Join our community and connect with other private practice lactation consultants just like you. We offer support and exclusive member-only content designed to help you create a compassionate and professional private practice. We're all in this together at, and if you enjoy today's episode, leave us a review and share it with a friend. Be sure to hit that subscribe button so you never miss an episode.