by Amber McCann, IBCLC
This week marks an exciting transition at Lactation Matters. After almost two years, I will be stepping down as the editor of ILCA’s blog. As you may have heard, Jeanette McCulloch, IBCLC, will be taking on the role of ILCA’s media coordinator. Jeanette and I have worked closely together for a number of years to help educate and inspire our lactation colleagues to embrace using online communications with the families they serve. I am confident that Jeanette will confidently take ILCA forward as they seek to effectively communicate why IBCLCs are essential to new families. I talked with Jeanette about her passion for this work and her vision for the organization’s online presence.
Amber: Tell us a little about how you became to be an IBCLC and what led you to use your skills in communications and PR in our field?
Jeanette: I became an IBCLC like so many of us – after lots of breastfeeding challenges of my own. My experience of transitioning to parenting gives me lots of empathy for what many new mothers face. I had a satisfying but demanding PR job and a much-cherished high needs baby, born after years of fertility treatment. She would later be diagnosed as tongue-tied (by a speech pathologist when she was three) but all I knew is that in order to gain weight, she needed to nurse (and be held) round-the-clock. After one day of day care, I knew this wasn’t going to work for either of us.
I left my beloved job and found more flexible work where I could often bring my daughter along. I truly found my tribe as I supported a community of doulas. While there, I saw – daily – the powerful interplay between birth, breastfeeding, postpartum support, and perinatal mood disorders. I saw how much mothers need a community of support, especially when our mothers, sisters, and aunts are so far-flung. I helped to build a lactation program that coordinated care between doulas and IBCLCs and offered a warmline, a clinic, and home visits.
What I missed, though, was using my PR skills. In my previous role, I did what is known as “public interest” PR. I missed the craft of using communications to shape public policy. In my work at BirthSwell, I am so grateful to be able to bring the two together – using communications to help spread accurate, empowering information about birth and breastfeeding.
Amber: What are your hopes as you take on this new position?
Jeanette: I am so excited to be in this new role. I think there is a huge potential for ILCA to connect in a new way to its members and the broader breastfeeding community. The good news is that ILCA has a strong community base – all thanks to the efforts of the past social media team. Bloggers Robin Kaplan and Decalie Brown launched a powerful tool in Lactation Matters, with Amber McCann really building and sustaining an audience there. Maryanne Perrin’s work on social media has resulted in a strong community on Facebook and Twitter, with a combined audience of more than 12,000 followers. And we shouldn’t forget the work of Doraine Bailey, who edited our e-Globe for a number of years and kept members informed of all of the wonderful work of ILCA.
The next level for ILCA is to begin to really engage with that base – to get into conversations that deepen relationships and opportunities. But building relationships is time and resource intensive. That’s why I’m excited to be building a team of volunteers that will be engaging with the ILCA audience on a daily basis.
Amber: What do you see as the biggest challenge for ILCA in regards to communications and how do you envision tackling it?
Jeanette: Social media is a powerful tool for listening to *and* engaging with our community. When organizations first start to truly hear the “buzz” out there, there’s usually some good news – and a few tough truths. With every group I work with, I think the hardest moments have been when we’ve had to take that look in the mirror and learn what’s being said out there. And see it as opportunity.
I’m starting this work at a time of change for the IBCLCs; where the growth of competing service providers is colliding with a scarcity of available funding; where undeveloped regions of the world are desperately working to establish breastfeeding as a cultural norm; and where the move toward cultural, racial, and economic diversity in our profession is being actively pursued. There’s also the real challenge of helping families and others sort through the different kinds of breastfeeding helpers, without being divisive and while recognizing the need for care in underserved communities.
I know there’s no way I can do this alone – which is why I am so excited to be pulling together a team. A team that will be building relationships and tapping into the resources of the larger community. My goal is to work with the team to make sure ILCA is bringing the voice of its membership to the conversations about breastfeeding support today.