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How IBCLCs Can Make an Impact Through Social Media

Written by Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC

With 93% of adults born after 1982 (the Millennial Generation) communicating online and nearly 3 out of 4 using social networking websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, breastfeeding promotion and support has been taken to an entirely new level. In the Journal of Human Lactation article, Establishing an Online and Social Media Presence for Your IBCLC Practice, authors Amber D. McCann and Jeanette E. McCulloch, present findings that encourage all of us in the breastfeeding community to step into the minds of these Millennial mothers and engage with them about breastfeeding in their preferred medium.

Why does breastfeeding promotion and support need a social media presence?

While health care providers continue to be the first choice for most people with health concerns, 80% of US Internet users have sought health advice online.  Plus, 44% of US women spend more time online after a new baby is born.  We live in an amazing time where we can find answers online in an instant when we used to have to wait until our doctor’s office opened the next morning.  The scary side of this is that there is so much misinformation online about breastfeeding and how easy it is for mothers to access this incorrect advice. Even formula companies have breastfeeding advice sections on their websites… this is NOT where new mothers should be receiving their evidence-based breastfeeding information and support….right next to a Enfamil advertisement!

Also, with breastfeeding being such a HOT TOPIC in the news, mothers are often bombarded with this negative press.  It goes viral in an instant!  The Time Magazine article, ‘Are You Mom Enough‘ and Mayor Bloomberg’s initiative to ban the formula bags in all New York City hospitals flooded the Internet and social media networks in record time.  Negative comments about breastfeeding were abundant!  While Best for Babes and Kellymom are doing all they can to turn this bad breastfeeding press into something positive, they need our help to further provide breastfeeding education and support online.

So where are these Millennial mothers and what are they doing online?

The four most dominant social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Pinterest. What these platforms have in common is that they ALL promote engagement among Internet users.  This is not like reading a book for information, which is a one-sided conversation.  Using social media allows you the ability to comment, ask questions, and agree/disagree with the author and other commenters.  It’s a conversation.  When a mother posts a question on a Facebook page, she is actively seeking advice from her peers or an ‘expert.’  When a mom reads a blog article, she is looking to make connections with the author to help make sense of her world and often seek advice on a particular topic.  Twitter is all about conversation and engagement and Pinterest is now a hub for articles and driving more traffic to websites than Facebook.  We may not live in a village anymore, but the Internet is revitalizing the village mentality.  It’s all about the need for support and belonging.

How can an IBCLC use social media effectively, without feeling like it is a waste of his/her time?

  • Creating a social media plan can be extremely helpful or you might find yourself being led down the time-sucking social media rabbit hole.  As McCann and McCulloch suggest, create a plan that is appropriate for the size of your business or organization.
  • Decide who your target audience is and the purpose of your engagement.
  • Choose a social media platform or two that you feel is manageable and decide how much time you plan to dedicate to it a week.
  • Spend some time just watching and listening.  You will figure out pretty easily what your audience is looking for.
  • Keep in mind that social media is all about sharing information. While you don’t want to give away everything you know, the more information you benevolently share online, the more appreciative your audience will be and encouraged to return to your platform in the future.  You may have the chance to influence the greater masses with your positive messages about breastfeeding!

What about ethical concerns and client/patient confidentiality?

McCann and McCulloch stress the importance of upholding our Code of Professional Conduct, Scope of Practice, and Standards of Practice.  The authors state that while these documents ‘do not contain a specific social media policy, IBCLCs may want to review the American Medical Association’s Policy on Professionalism in the Use of Social Media’.

As an avid blogger and social media user, I have a phrase that I use very regularly when I receive a comment or question that takes information from general breastfeeding advice to specific for one mom and baby and it goes something like this…. “It definitely sounds like you have some very important questions that would be best answered in a private conversation with an IBCLC.  If you would like to discuss this further, please contact me at …..”   This lets the mother know that I would love to help her, but this is not the appropriate place to discuss private, personal information and I want to protect her privacy.

So, even if you feel like you are not Internet savvy and social media gives you hives, all you have to do is start off slowly.  Lurk a little on these social media platforms and just listen to what mothers are saying and asking for.  Check out the Lactation Matters article, Great Breastfeeding Blogs to Read, and start sharing these articles on a social media platform.  Begin a conversation on a Business Facebook page and see where it takes you.  My guess is that you quickly see your calling to offer breastfeeding-supportive and evidence-based guidance to our Millennial mothers.  And you never know… you might just have a ton of fun, as well!

Robin Kaplan received training to be a Certified Lactation Educator and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant from UCSD. She holds a Masters in Education from UCLA, a multiple-subjects teacher credential from UCLA, and a BA in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. In 2009, Robin started her own business, the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, where she offers in-home breastfeeding consultations, free weekly support groups, breastfeeding classes, and online support through her business blog.  In addition to her private practice, Robin was the founding Co-editor of theInternational Lactation Consultant Association’s (ILCA)blog, Lactation Matters, and a regular contributor toILCA’s E-Globe newsletter.  She also is the host/producer of The Boob Group online radio show and the Director of Marketing for NaturalKidz.com.  Robin lives in her native San Diego, where she enjoys cooking, hiking, trying new trendy restaurants, and traveling with her family.

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Great Breastfeeding Blogs to Read!

Photo by jeff.snodgrass via Flickr

Written by Amber McCann, IBCLC

Blogging has become an incredibly influential part of the media consumed by today’s mothers. In BlogHer’s 2012 Study of Women and Social Media, a sample of women were asked, ““Do you trust the information and advice that you get from blogs?” and an overwhelming 98% said YES.  The number of women, especially pregnant women and new mothers, who are seeking advice and guidance from bloggers is staggering.  45% of the sample said that blogs were more influential than Facebook status updates from their friends or celebrity endorsements.  Clearly, it is a medium that breastfeeding advocates and supporters should be aware of. And with nearly 4 million “mommy bloggers” on the scene, finding the best of the best can be a challenge.

I recently was involved in a conversation with other lactation consultants about what blogs we were reading to stay up to date on the current conversation about breastfeeding.  I am an active blog reader (if you are new to reading blogs, I encourage you to use an RSS Reader such as Google Reader) and enjoy hearing what other mothers, volunteers, professionals and the general public are saying. Many of my colleagues expressed that they enjoyed reading blogs as well but were a bit unsure about where to go to find the ones being most accessed by breastfeeding mothers.

What are your favorite breastfeeding blogs?  Where are the mothers you support telling you they get their information? Here are some of my favorites * (in alphabetical order) and why I love them:

  • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine:  Physicians, such as breastfeeding research Dr. Alison Stuebe, weigh in on current breastfeeding trends and “hot topics”.

    Best for Babes

  • Best for Babes:   Bests for Babes is a non-profit organization focused on addressing the “cultural, institutional and legal barriers to breastfeeding”.  I sometimes write for their “Celebrity News” section but my favorite posts are Tanya Lieberman’s series on the “Booby Traps”, those things in the breastfeeding process that a mom isn’t expecting and when she steps on them, everything blows up.  Doesn’t that feel familiar?
  • Breastfeeding Reporter:  Nancy Mohrbacher shares her insights on current breastfeeding issues.
  • Fearless Formula Feeder:  I am well aware that some will take issue with the addition of this blog to my list but I consider it essential reading for lactation consultants.  We must be very aware of how our message is perceived by many mothers and we must be willing to listen to the stories of those who have chosen/been forced down a different path than we would choose.
  • The Leaky Boob:  Jessica Martin-Weber is doing really innovative work in regards to reaching breastfeeding mothers through social media.  While her Facebook pageis where most of the magic happens, her blog is truly compassionate.

    The Leaky Boob

  • MamaMilkandMe: Written by Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC (previously profiled in our “Clinicians in the Trenches” series)  in Manhattan.  I so enjoy her perspective, not only on her practice, but also on her own experience as a breastfeeding mother.
  • Mammals Suck: Katie Hinde is a professor of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and Director of the Comparative Lactation Laboratory.  I particularly enjoy her scientific perspective along side humor.
  • Milky Way: Milk sharing, through organizations such as Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies has become a very “hot topic” in our field.  This blog shares the stories of those mothers who are currently either donating or receiving donor milk through milk sharing.
  • Motherwear: This is the very FIRST breastfeeding blog I ever read.  Tanya Lieberman, IBCLC writes for breastfeeding mothers, interpreting new research and breastfeeding news in an accessible way.
  • Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress

    Normal, like Breathing: Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC share her wisdom and insight on her blog.  I particularly enjoyed her recent posts about breastfeeding beyond infancy.

  • PhD in Parenting: Another “must read” in my book, Annie Urban covers a variety of parenting topics and often talks about breastfeeding and specifically the WHO code.
  • Postpartum Progress:  A fantastic blog about mental health issues surrounding pregnancy and birth.
  • San Diego Breastfeeding Center:  Robin Kaplan, former co-editor of this blog, has really been a standout in using her blog to build her lactation consulting private practice.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list but just a taste of what is available.  I add new blogging voices to my reader all the time and have found that they contribute greatly to my practice.  

* These blogs are my personal favorites, not those endorsed by ILCA.  Obviously, being located in the United States gives me a bias towards blogs authored there.

Do you have a favorite breastfeeding related blog not on this list?  Do you blog yourself?  What are the best breastfeeding blogs NOT based in the US? We’d love to know about it!  

Amber McCann, IBCLC

Amber McCann, IBCLC is a  board certified lactation consultant in private practice with Nourish Breastfeeding Support, just outside if Washington, DC and the co-editor of this blog.  She is particularly interested in connecting with mothers through social media channels and teaching others in her profession to do the same.  In addition to her work here, she has written for a number of other breastfeeding support blogs including The Leaky Boob and Best for Babes and served on the Communications Team for GOLD Conference . When she’s not furiously composing tweets (follow her at@iamambermccann) or updating her Facebook page, she’s probably snuggling with one of her three children or watching terrible reality TV. 

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