Archive | Business Practices

YouTube for Breastfeeding: Video Sharing as a Counseling Tool

By Jessica Lang Kosa, PhD, IBCLC

youtube-logo2“Do you have any suggestions for how to get a deeper latch?” asks the mom on the phone. I’ve been a LLL leader for years, so I have a lot of experience with phone counseling, but certain questions always leave me struggling for words while illustrating my point with animated hand gestures that are invisible to the caller. Even the best description of a physical technique just doesn’t do it justice – a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video, well that’s priceless. Hence, my YouTube channel.

YouTube is a video sharing website that allows anyone to post videos. They can be restricted to only certain viewers, or can be made public. If a video is public, then other users can share it around by marking it as a favorite, emailing a link, or adding it to a playlist (a collection of videos). The copyright agreement that video creators agree to allows only for open sharing within YouTube – not for downloading the video. Links to a video can also be embedded in a Facebook post, blog, or other social media, but the link goes back to YouTube. A user can simply view other people’s videos, or can create a channel – essentially a homepage, where the host can present their own videos and links and comments on other public videos. Accounts and channels are free. Creators of a video can choose to show an ad at the beginning to generate revenue (both for themselves and for YouTube), and this is what keeps it viable.

As a teaching tool, this is incredibly powerful. A mother calls to say she is engorged and can’t get the baby to latch. I can send her to a video demonstrating reverse pressure softening. Any time I teach a client a technique – hand expression, laid-back breastfeeding, supplementing at breast – I can also give her links to videos. Learning theorists say that we all remember information better when we receive it through multiple routes; verbal, kinesthetic, and visual all reinforce each other. I can also diversify, by offering both my own videos – reminding her of what I taught her in person – and other public videos, usually offering a slightly different approach. She can see for herself a real range of practices, and experiment to find what works for her. One of my favorite things to teach new mothers is nursing while babywearing. Since there are zillions of different carriers, and many ways of nursing in them, collecting a lot of examples in a playlist is super useful.

I’ve posted several videos I made myself; all are short simple ones shot with an iPhone. One of the first videos I posted was a live demonstration of hand expression by a colleague. Within 48 hours, it had thousands of views, and had been flagged as “inappropriate” and removed by YouTube. I fought YouTube, and got it reinstated, now marked “18 and over” and “For Health Education Only.” I also disabled the comments – most of which were coming from people who were not my intended audience.

After that, I switched mostly to videos using props rather than actual breasts. In addition to reducing the troll traffic, props have several advantages. For one thing, they simplify. For another, it’s easy to make a point very quickly. My demo baby (a teddy bear) can be moved around into several different positions, including those that would be uncomfortable for a real baby. Seeing a real baby latch is valuable too, but with my bear, puppet, and knitted breast, I can illustrate the key points several times over in less than a minute. Another lesson I’ve learned is that a 1-minute video is generally more useful than a 10-minute video.

Since my goal in posting videos is to have an easy teaching tool, I have not put ads on my own videos. But it’s an option, and a popular video can make some significant ad revenue. For those who just want to use videos to support their work with mothers, the first step is to create an account, and browse. Search terms like breastfeeding, twins, pumping, whatever you find yourself describing often. When you find something you like, click “Favorite”, or “Add to Playlist.” For a playlist, you will have a chance to create a new playlist, name it (such as “Twin nursing positions”), and add a description. A playlist is good for when you want to organize multiple videos on a topic. Then, you can email or text links to individual videos, or a playlist, or your “channel.” (Or to my channel, which can be found HERE.) This is not a time-consuming process, and it’s free. And it’s much easier than describing that invisible latching baby over the phone.

Jessica head 4Jessica Lang Kosa is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in private practice in the Boston area.  She offers home visits for comprehensive breastfeeding help, and teaches courses in breastfeeding support for professionals who work with mothers and babies.


Price, Supply and Demand: Why Can’t I Earn More?

By Cathey Horsfall

iStock_000015593024XSmallIBCLCs are often under-recognised for their skills within the multi-disciplinary neonatal setting.  Where this is the case, IBCLCs report that they face reduced work opportunities and lower earning potential.

The way to reverse this trend is to increase demand for the qualification through establishing a sound commercial understanding of what the profession can offer and increasing brand awareness worldwide.

When speaking to IBCLCs online, I have regularly found the conversation drifting towards discussions around the “fairness” of IBCLC pay and the perceived lack of understanding of the IBCLC qualification, both from other health care professionals and by mothers in the community.  Recently, one such thread prompted me to think about the situation in more detail.

As a 100% breastfeeding supporter, I understand at least some of the frustrations.  I want heath care systems to understand that we need experts in this field and to pay for it appropriately. In short, I want to be out of a “job”, replaced by somebody with way more expertise, who gets paid.

The only way to achieve high-quality paid support is to increase demand for the best.  It is not through breastfeeding professionals arguing that their pay is poor or that less well qualified supporters charge too much, as all too often happens on the threads.

Why does demand matter?

It is worth taking a brief look at the economic “price-supply-demand” model.  Basically, it says that, in a market economy, price can only be high if demand outstrips supply. You cannot increase demand by increasing price BUT you can increase price if you increase demand (relative to supply).

This clearly doesn’t work when mothers are paying out of pocket (nor would we want it to) however, we have the scope here to move away from “patient payment” and into a situation where support is a “covered service”. This has potential to work however your health service is funded.

How can demand be generated?

The only way to make the medical profession sit up and listen and start demanding your services is to hit them in their pockets – or, in this case, to demonstrate how NOT using you is hitting their pockets.

At the end of the day, purchasing and pricing are commercial decisions. Customers (insurance companies/governments etc) are unlikely to buy your services if they can’t see the value to them of doing so.  Perception of value is as important here as value itself.  If a product is not marketed well, then it will not be perceived as having high value irrespective of the numbers.

You, as IBCLCs, along with the organizations that surround your profession, are the only ones who can market you and your skills. This may seem uncomfortable but it is the way the world works.

What can be done?

So far, we have established that IBCLCs need to market themselves better in order to increase demand and to be able to demonstrate the financial value of their service.

If members are really serious about improving pay and respect for the profession, it is time to increase the expectation placed on the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) etc., in terms what they do for the profession and how they market it.

IBLCE is key to this situation as they have the greatest interest in making “Brand IBCLC” a success.  They are financially invested in it and need to see service growth in order to support that investment. In addition, they have a commercial interest in maintaining the standing of the qualification – If they don’t, then you might not renew.

So, what might you ask of IBCLE?

There are some basic questions that it would be worth asking IBCLE that focus specifically on marketing and brand awareness. These may include:

What are they doing to improve perceptions of the brand?
How are they affecting purchasing decisions within your health system?
How do they plan to do this in the future?
What is their plan for expansion for the next 10-20 years?
What do they see the long term aim for the organization to be?
Are those long term aims centered around increasing appreciation and use of the specialism?
Are the aims based “on the ground” or are they wooly?
What information are IBLCE giving you so that you are able to better market yourself locally?

Looking locally

Perhaps it is also time to take a look at what you are doing locally to demand greater respect for the profession, and what you are doing to earn that respect. Are you lobbying your local hospitals? Are you actively campaigning for recognition or carrying out research? Are you demonstrating your worth at every possible occasion?

All feeling too commercial?

A lot of this is fairly basic business sense and I think this makes many IBCLCs shy away from discussing it.  There is a strong cultural feeling that kind and caring people shouldn’t like talking about commerce, however, the business aspects of this really do need discussing for everyone’s benefit.

Many people working in similar caring professions have managed to find a way to do this.  Indeed, some time ago I worked for an examination board (educational) where we routinely asked similar questions in order to try and increase the uptake of our service. Just because we spent some time thinking commercially, it didn’t mean we didn’t care.

We work within commercial health care systems. We have to play the game or we will be out competed.

Cathey Horsfall is a trainee Breastfeeding Counsellor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, UK.  She has two children under four and holds an eclectic set of qualifications including a B.ed (Hons) and a post graduate business qualification from Cambridge University, UK. She has spent the last ten years working in commercial organisations where the importance of good marketing and brand awareness were felt very keenly.  Most recently, she has written for a large UK public relations company, giving her a strong understanding of just how important it is to actively lobby and constantly ensure that potential customers are exposed the skill and strengths possessed.


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