Archive | Clinician in the Trenches

Clinicians in the Trenches – Leigh Anne O’Connor

Written by: Amber McCann, IBCLC, Owner of Nourish Breastfeeding Support

I had the privilege of meeting Leigh Anne O’Connor at a conference last spring. The enthusiasm and confidence that drew me to her translates into the work she does with mothers and babies in Manhattan. We are honored, at Lactation Matters, to be able to share with you about the work Leigh Anne is doing.

Leigh Ann O’Connor lives in Manhattan, with her husband and their three children. She has spent more than 9 years as an IBCLC lecturing for professional organizations, setting up Corporate Lactation programs, teaching breastfeeding classes, leading support groups and seeing private clients all over New York City. You might have seen her on Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels, The Doctors and TLC’s Bringing Home Baby as an expert and advocate for breastfeeding. She has also been a Guest Lecturer at Columbia University Teachers College.

How did you come to be an IBCLC?

After struggling for a few days with breastfeeding, I fell in love with it. It was amazing watching my daughter, Phoebe, grow so big, happy and healthy – all at my breast.
My sister-in-law encouraged me to attend a La Leche League (LLL) Meeting, where I felt right at home. I became a leader with the organization and since many of the Leaders whom I respected were also IBCLCs, they encouraged me to work toward that goal.

What does a typical week of working with mothers look like for you?

I take my two younger children to school every morning and then I usually head off to see mothers and babies in their homes. If you were with me, you would see me on my phone answering questions and cheerleading a mom. In the park, I have been known to do quick consults and to touch my breasts as I demonstrate how to hand express over the phone. I pepper the time at home with e-mails and phone calls to clients in between dinner and homework with the kids.

In addition to leading LLL Meetings (including a Toddler meeting that I adore), I also have a support group/clinic twice a month. This is a great way for me to follow up with clients and to help mothers. The beauty of it is the mother-to-mother support. They really get into supporting each other and encouraging each other. They talk parenting philosophy. I answer more technical questions, but it is really about them finding their voices and owning their mothering.

What are your biggest challenges of working in Manhattan?

One of the biggest challenges is the weather. When it is nice, Manhattan is a pleasure. Toting around my scale can be tough. When I have my scale and my bag and I have to go to a fifth or sixth floor walk-up apartment, that is challenging. When there is rain or snow, it is hard to carry my supplies and an umbrella. My scale is on a cart with wheels, which I pull along behind me, but in snow it is a real drag. Also, toting my supplies up and down the stairs of the subway or on the bus is tiresome. Sometimes I spring for a taxi, but it really gets costly. I love when a client is nearby and I can walk to her home on a nice sunny day.

Also, we live in a highly competitive atmosphere. Many women are returning to work early or they are trying to create an idyllic life and that just does not mesh with young baby feeding. There is a big environment of sleep training and heavy scheduling. Often, I am helping a mother to learn to trust her instincts, to trust her baby and to not try to fit her round baby into a square hole.

What advice would you offer to other private practice IBCLCs?

I had one intern ask me, “How did you know you really want to be a Lactation Consultant?” I laughed because I live and breathe breastfeeding. I can always turn a cocktail party conversation into a breastfeeding conversation. I relate most of life back to breastfeeding. I think that the start is having a passion for breastfeeding, babies and families. You study hard and volunteer. Put yourself into the breastfeeding world. I like mother-to-mother support meetings because they help me know what is normal. A Private Practice Lactation Consultant often sees only problematic breastfeeding and her ideas about breastfeeding can become skewed, so, being in the company of normal is so important. I think that is why I love my Toddler Meeting so much. Breastfeeding a toddler is normal.

Also, if possible, shadow as many different IBCLC’s as possible. We are all a bit different but we all have something to teach.

I think I learned the most from nursing my three children – two of whom were tongue-tied!  And, I continue to learn from every mother I see.

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Tell Us About Your Amazing Colleagues!

Lactation Matters has just launched a feature called “Clinicians in the Trenches”.  It is our hope that with this, we can both highlight those who are doing outstanding work in our field and also encourage each other, give us new ideas, and cheer each other on!

Here is our first entry, focusing on Colette Acker and The Breastfeeding Resource Center.    But, we need YOU to tell us about your colleagues.

Who is bringing to light a new idea with their practice?
Who is paving the way with techniques that we could all benefit from?
Who has a really great story to tell about what lactation practice has meant in her/his life?

Please contact Robin Kaplan and Amber McCann with your suggestions at lactationmatters@gmail.com.  Please use the subject ‘Clinician in the Trenches.’ Include a brief paragraph with the name of the clinician you are recommending, her/his contact information, and a short explanation of why she/he should be highlighted in Lactation Matters.

Look for new stories about these amazing clinicians every 2 weeks on the blog!

Amber McCann, IBCLC, Lactation Matters Volunteer
Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, Lactation Matters Co-Editor

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Clinicians in the Trenches – Colette Acker

Please welcome Colette Acker, our first clinician to be highlighted in our monthly series, Clinicians in the Trenches.  In this new series, Lactation Matters will take you into lives and businesses of fellow colleagues around the world, allowing them to share their knowledge, expertise, and wisdom.

Colette M Acker, IBCLC lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania with her husband, Rodney.  They have three children who are now in the teen/young adult age range.  Nursing her own children led to her passion for assisting other mothers.  She became a volunteer breastfeeding counselor in 1995, an IBCLC in 1998, and co-founded the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC) 5 years later.  Although Colette loves working with new moms and babies, the multi-tasking life of the director of nonprofit calls for much more and never leaves her bored!  Outside of lactation, Colette’s favorite stress release is running and has developed a new addiction to Zumba classes.

1. What is the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC)?

The BRC is a nonprofit organization committed to providing expert clinical and educational breastfeeding services.  We offer a variety of lactation services from the prenatal period through weaning. We provide problem-solving consultations, back-to-work planning, and weight checks, along with other consultations designed to meet a mother’s individualized needs. Weekly support group meetings and low cost parent classes complement our outreach efforts. The BRC is an asset to the medical community by providing supervised clinical opportunities, as well as being a resource of evidence-based information. All services are offered on a sliding scale of payment to ensure access for all families.

2. Why did you decide to start a non-profit?

Two colleagues and I were on our way to our ILCA affiliate meeting and were dreaming.  We fantasized about a place where women could go if they were having difficulty with breastfeeding, planning to return to work, needing assistance in choosing the right products, or just needing some support and reassurance.  We also imagined it being a valuable resource for healthcare professionals serving breastfeeding families.  We were currently working in the private practice arena and we knew many moms couldn’t afford the service.  We felt strongly that this center should be accessible to all families, regardless of income.

3. What are your biggest challenges running a non-profit?

The biggest challenge is finding funding to allow the BRC to provide LC visits on a sliding scale of payment. Thirty three percent of our budget needs to be obtained through fundraisers, donations, and grant funding. All of these take a lot of time and effort by many people. The employees of the BRC wear many hats. Janice McPhelin, our Director of Development, is an IBCLC who works with moms on a daily basis and needs to jump into grant writing whenever a free moment arises. This hat-switching life can be very crazy, yet it also makes the job more interesting!

4. What resources have been most helpful to sustain your non-profit?

The greatest part about running a nonprofit center is that you are not alone. We have 16 members on our Board of Directors. We’ve found volunteers with expertise from all walks of life such as accounting, law, grant writing, physicians, RNs, and event planners. Developing a strong board with experience in the areas where the BRC needs the most help is vital. Also, creating a strong community among our clients has led to a large volunteer base. It is amazingly touching to see our clients so appreciative of our work that they volunteer time to keep it going strong!

5. What advice would you give to an LC who wanted to open a non-profit center similar to yours?

Prepare for a wild ride!  I’d suggest learning everything you can about running a nonprofit.  There are many opportunities available in most communities and on the web such as www.Nonprofitwebinars.com. Plan on working long hours with little pay until funding becomes accessible. Discover your weaknesses and find board members and volunteers to fill that gap. Collect emails and join social networks for the most efficient and inexpensive way to spread the word. Become a strong member of your community by participating in health fairs, the chambers of commerce, as well as partnering with other nonprofits that target a similar audience.

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