Great Lactation Consulting: Diana West, BA, IBCLC and Lisa Marasco, MA, IBCLC, FILCA

By Christine Staricka, BS, IBCLC, CCE, ILCA Medialert Team

Marasco BlogImagine creating an informal survey, hoping to gather 100 responses to a question you have wondered about for a long time. Now, imagine receiving 87 responses in the first hour, and then receiving thousands of responses during the survey period. That is exactly what happened to Lisa Marasco, MA, IBCLC, FILCA and Diana West, BA, IBCLC when they decided to poll mothers on what they look for in an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®). To top it off, not only did mothers respond, but IBCLCs responded in droves to request their own survey to answer that question as well.

Marasco and West shared their results at the 2014 ILCA Conference in their presentation Mothers Speak Out: Top Traits of a Great Lactation Consultant. This presentation has now been made available as a study module through the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®)’s CERPs onDemand portal and is worth 1 L-CERP and 1 contact hour.

The presentation is a dynamic, exciting, and fascinating look at what mothers say they want from their IBCLC.  It’s difficult to imagine that any IBCLC would not be interested in knowing what mothers themselves say about how their needs can best be met, particularly in light of a related session at ILCA2014 that covered meeting the needs of today’s generation, Lactation Support for the Next Generation: Communicating Effectively  with Millennial Moms, Co-workers and Interns (presented by Dr. Jane Heinig, PhD, IBCLC).

IBCLCs also expressed their opinions on what makes a great IBCLC. In many ways, they were in line with what mothers expressed though what clinicians value and know to be important can seem less significant to mothers who are working hard to be successful at breastfeeding. Marasco acknowledges that modern mothers are accustomed to having services available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and not all IBCLCs are able to make themselves accessible around the clock.

In this interview, Marasco and West highlight some of their thoughts on the survey:

CS: I definitely got the sense that you were overwhelmed at the response to your online poll.  When did you start to realize that this was huge, and it was going to be really groundbreaking?

LM & DW: Within the first hour that it went live. We were communicating as the survey hit, and could not believe how fast the responses came back, and how passionate some were.

CS: How do you feel about the results your research revealed in relation to Dr. Jane Heinig’s work on communicating with millennial mothers? Specifically, that they are less interested in hierarchy and more interested in hearing multiple expert opinions, that they seek information in many ways (mostly digital)?

LM & DW: Our survey did not directly explore how mothers seek out information. Rather, we sought their feelings regarding their experiences, and in that context we heard their stories. While they may hunt for info, I think it is clear that their interaction with the people they contact is important and plays a big role in who they choose for their care, as well as their expectations about the outcome.

LM: In this vein, I personally had a lot of mixed feelings regarding the things mothers valued, available not only in various ways, but also on-demand.  As a mother, I understand these desires, but as an IBCLC, I realize that I cannot give them everything they want all of the time, especially at this stage of my life. There is a huge variation on where IBCLCs draw their practice boundaries; some people are on call 24/7, others are not.  It is difficult to be there for moms all of the time, and I have to think about how to balance their needs with mine.

DW: Absolutely. And then there’s the aspect of where IBCLCs expend their energies, which is driven by their beliefs about the needs and desires of their clients. Since this survey has shown that mothers tend to value counseling skills over technical expertise, our colleagues may now choose to spend more time enhancing their interpersonal counseling skills.

With regard to millennial mothers, our data definitely showed that mothers tend to fact-check recommendations online and put more stock in their peers’ experiences and opinions than those of professionals and authority figures, which is consistent with Heinig’s and my own research about millennial mothers.

CS: I felt completely motivated to ensure that my skills in supporting pumping are really excellent and current.  Which feedback from this research have you personally put to use and why?

LM: More than anything, it reinforced my drive to keep up with things like new technologies and techniques for pumping, and also the importance of slowing down, listening, and taking the time to formulate a plan with mom so that she will own it.

DW: Yes, it really validated the professional practice philosophies I carried over from my volunteer work as a La Leche League Leader to meet mothers where they are, emphasize counseling over information, and respect the mothers’ knowledge of and instincts about their own babies and bodies.

As we found in this survey, the bottom line is that we all want to feel good about what we are doing – mothers and lactation consultants alike. Even when breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned, a mother’s perception of her breastfeeding experience can be greatly improved when her lactation consultant invests time in validating her feelings, respecting her search for the most accurate information, and empowering her decisions. Lisa and I are very grateful for the rich understandings this survey is able to provide to our fellow IBCLCs.

This enlightening session presents the essential traits of a great lactation consultant from the perspective of breastfeeding mothers, and encourages IBCLCs to reevaluate their accepted model of care.

CERPs onDemand from ILCA conferences are a great way to catch conference presentations that you missed while earning CERPs. You can access CERPs onDemand at the times that work best for you!

ILCA Members receive a 50% discount on all CERPs onDemand.

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MarascoLisa Marasco, MA, IBCLC, FILCA has been working with breastfeeding mothers for over 20 years. She holds a master’s degree in Human Development with specialization in Lactation, co-authored The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, and is a contributing author to the Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultants. In addition, she serves on the editorial review board of Clinical Lactation and is a new Cochrane Collaborative author. Currently, she is employed by WIC of Santa Barbara County while maintaining a small practice, Expressly Yours Lactation Services. She also serves on the Breastfeeding Coalition of Santa Barbara County.

Diana WestDiana West, BA, IBCLC is a lactation consultant in private practice. She is the author of several popular breastfeeding books, including The Womanly Art of BreastfeedingThe Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk, and Sweet Sleep:  Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Family . She is on the Editorial Review Board for the Journal of Clinical Lactation, a La Leche League Leader, and the Director of Media Relations for La Leche League International.

Christine2Christine Staricka, BS is a hospital-based IBCLC. Christine is the co-owner of California Advanced Lactation Institute, which provides lactation education to professionals and expectant parents. She has contributed to USLCA’s eNews as well as this blog. She enjoys tweeting breastfeeding information as @IBCLCinCA and maintains a blog by the same name. She is a wife and mother of 3 lovely and intelligent daughters and aunt to 4 nephews and 2 nieces, all of who have been or are still breastfeeding.

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