Knowledge is a core value at the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®). We believe knowledge guides our practice, strengthens our value, and supports our role in transforming world health. Our Education Manager is charged with ensuring that our members have access to the top experts in our field and the latest thinking in evidence-based practice.
This critical role has most recently been held by Judi Lauwers who is now transitioning to overseeing ILCA’s accreditation process. We are proud to announce that Cynthia Good Mojab, MS, LMHCA, IBCLC, RLC, CATSM, will be joining the ILCA team as Education Manager on 30 September 2015.
To help our community get to know Cynthia and the unique talents and perspectives she brings to this role, we caught up with her during her most recent speaking tour to learn more about her. Please join us in welcoming her to this new role at ILCA!
Lactation Matters (LM): Tell us what brought you to your work as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®).
Cynthia Good Mojab (CGM): I was first drawn to the profession because of my own experience with breastfeeding and with receiving and giving lay breastfeeding support.
I knew then how important accurate information and compassionate support are to parents considering, initiating, or continuing any version and degree of lactation, including direct breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, donor milk feeding, at-breast feeding, and partial breastfeeding. (Since becoming an IBCLC, my understanding of lactation has expanded to include chestfeeding and at-chest feeding.)
I knew that breastfeeding is the original paradigm—the ecological niche—for nurturing human health and development. And, I knew that the diverse contexts in which families live play a huge role in their access to information, support, opportunities, and resources—all of which influence infant feeding possibilities and decisions.
I felt that becoming an IBCLC would enhance my ability to provide information and support to families, both through my becoming able to provide professional lactation services and through improving my capacity to provide lactation-compatible mental health care in the role I already held as a clinical counselor.
LM: What projects have you been working on recently?
CGM: I have just completed a three-city speaking tour for La Leche League Canada’s 2015 Health Professional Seminars, One Size Does Not Fit All: Customizing Care for Breastfeeding Families. In Halifax, Ottawa, and Toronto, I presented on ethical decision making in cross-cultural contexts; helping families make informed decisions about vitamin D and the breastfed baby; perinatal depression; and how context affects infant feeding decisions.
In preparation for the tour, I enjoyed conducting a review of the Canada-related literature to try to customize each presentation to better meet the learning needs of Canadian perinatal care providers. As I’m sure you can imagine, preparing for this tour has been the focus of my attention for some time!
In addition, I’ve recently created (and presented) a few new presentations, including Brief Breastfeeding Encounters: Effective Counseling Techniques When Time is Limited; Heartbroken: Loss and Grief in the Perinatal Time Period; Loss, Grief, and Breastfeeding Counseling; and Cultural Competence or Cultural Humility? A Roadmap for Lactation Specialists. I’m now in the midst of creating two more presentations, Perinatal Mental Health Screening: A Primer for Lactation Specialists and My Brain is Doing What? Bias, Ethics, and the Lactation Specialist, both of which I will present in 2016. And, I am grateful to have been selected as a plenary and concurrent speaker at the 2016 ILCA conference in Chicago, IL, USA. So, I am always engaged in one or more literature reviews and the creative endeavor of sharing information that I have found useful in my own work and that I hope will also be helpful to my colleagues.
My work as an educator, clinical counselor, and IBCLC is guided by my commitment to social justice. So, my presentations, publications, and services regularly address, to one degree or another, human diversity and the impact of systems of privilege/oppression (e.g., racism, classism, heterosexism, cisgenderism). Recent related projects include my commentary, Pandora’s Box Is Already Open: Answering the Ongoing Call to Dismantle Institutional Oppression in the Field of Breastfeeding, which was published in the Journal of Human Lactation’s special issue, “Equity in Breastfeeding,” in 2015. I also co-authored Undoing Institutional Racism in Perinatal Support Organizations: First Steps for Eliminating Racial Inequity in Breastfeeding Support, which was published in “It Takes a Village: The Role of the Greater Community in Inspiring and Empowering Women to Breastfeed” in 2015.
Since 2014, I have served as a member of the Lactation Consultant Equity Team—part of an evolving initiative to address inequity in access to the IBCLC credential. And, from 2012 to 2014, I served as a design team member for the 2014 Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC)/ILCA/IBLCE Lactation Summit, Addressing Inequities within the Lactation Consultant Profession. I also created and provided the pre-Summit webinar-based training, Ready, Set, Listen! Preparing to Hear the Missing Voices of the Lactation Consultant Profession.
LM: Of all of the projects you could be working on, what made you decide to accept a position with ILCA?
CGM: Through my collaborations with individuals and institutions working to reduce inequity in access to the IBCLC credential and to breastfeeding support, I have become increasingly aware of ILCA’s efforts to do its part. For example, ILCA’s 2015 Strategic Map presents a new and clear intention—and, more importantly, a guide—for actively incorporating the core values of knowledge, diversity, and equity into every aspect of the organization’s functioning.
This is exactly the kind of institution-wide, internal change that is needed to eliminate widespread inequitable organizational outcomes across the field of breastfeeding. I hope that by serving as Education Manager I will be able to contribute to meaningful and measurable improvements in access to the IBCLC credential and to the educational support that is needed to help grow the profession globally. I am truly excited about and grateful for this new opportunity!
LM: What do you see as priorities for IBCLC educational opportunities?
CGM: There are arguably few areas of knowledge and skill needed by IBCLCs that are not somehow intertwined with culture and that cannot be viewed through a social justice lens (e.g., addressing the impact of bias, privilege, and oppression). And, I mean “culture” in its broadest sense, not just confined to ethnicity: any complex system of learned and shared behaviors, beliefs, approaches to communication, customs, and feelings that distinguish one group of people from another even as huge variation exists within those groups. So, IBCLC educational opportunities (e.g., webinars, conference sessions, publications) focused on issues of diversity, cultural humility, and equity are critically important. At the same time, they are not enough.
IBCLCs—and aspiring IBCLCs—also need access to educational opportunities focused on a broad range of topics that routinely incorporate issues of diversity, cultural humility, and equity, just as they are (or should be) inherently interwoven into the experience of breastfeeding and the practice of lactation consulting in the real world. Making this shift will require educators to expand and deepen their self-understanding, focus, literature reviews, and presentations in ways that may be new and unfamiliar to them and many learners.
But, IBCLCs are ethically obligated to “provide care to meet clients’ individual needs that is culturally appropriate,” “present information without personal bias,“ and “treat all clients equitably, without regard to age, ethnicity, national origin, marital status, religion, or sexual orientation.” We cannot engage in the ongoing journey to increasingly honor these ethical mandates, nor can we contribute to the work needed to help diversify our field, if we do not have the training and support to do so.
It is my hope that, over time, an increase in educational opportunities that incorporate issues of diversity, cultural humility, and equity will help increase the number of IBCLCs who are skilled in applying a social justice lens to their work within their communities and institutions. We need every shoulder to the wheel if we are to measurably increase equitable access to the IBCLC credential and our collective capacity to effectively meet the needs of diverse communities around the world.
In addition to shifting the content of IBCLC educational opportunities, I would also like to see the development of more IBCLC educational opportunities that are created by and for specific populations globally. No one knows the needs of a community better than the members of that community. And, among the barriers to the IBCLC credential outlined in the Summary Report of the 2014 Lactation Summit: Addressing Inequities within the Lactation Profession are lack of access to affordable education and education in one’s own language. So, I think that another priority for IBCLC educational opportunities is the collaborative development and testing of pilot programs intended to increase access to educational opportunities that are affordable and culturally and linguistically appropriate for IBCLCs and aspiring IBCLCs in more corners of the world.
Cynthia Good Mojab, MS, LMHCA, IBCLC, RLC, CATSM, is a clinical counselor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, author, researcher, and internationally recognized speaker. As one of a small group of mental health care providers in the world who are also IBCLCs, she has a strong interest in lactational psychology. She is the Director of LifeCircle Counseling and Consulting, LLC where she focuses on perinatal mental health care. She formerly served as Research Associate in the Publications Department of La Leche League International and was on the faculty of Parkland College. Cynthia has authored, contributed to, and provided editorial review of numerous publications related to breastfeeding, culture, and psychology. She provides education, training, and consultation services to individuals and organizations seeking to increase cultural competence/humility and dismantle institutional oppression. She has lived biculturally and bilingually for nearly 30 years.