We ask health and wellness professionals the same six questions we always ask. This week, TWO DOULAS talks to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Melissa Woodward.
Melissa Woodward BScN IBCLC has been working and volunteering with breastfeeding mothers and babies since 2007 and received her IBCLC accreditation in 2014.
When she isn’t working with clients, Melissa can be found training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, inventing allergy-friendly recipes for her family, and perpetually stepping on Lego.
How would you describe your job in just one sentence?
I guide new parents toward achieving their breastfeeding goals through evaluation, education and compassionate support.
What made you want to be an IBCLC?
The more time I spent working as an NICU nurse, the more I saw the difference that breastfeeding and breast milk make to mother and baby dyads. I have developed a passion for human lactation and have turned that passion into a career.
How can new or expectant parents benefit from your services?
I see clients in the comfort of their own home, usually within 48 hours of their call. I evaluate and identify the challenges, help them to develop and execute a plan, and then support them along their journey. Breastfeeding can be hard. Having your own expert, who is both a knowledgeable teacher and an empowering coach, beside you (or just a text away) on that journey can make all the difference.
What happens at your first meeting with new or expectant parents?
A big information exchange, some shared laughs, and perhaps a couple of tears. All followed by a HUGE sense of relief and empowerment for the parents.
I begin by going over what they can expect from my visit. After obtaining their consent, I collect the medical history of the mother, the baby, and of the birthing experience. We discuss the current difficulties, what has been suggested, what has worked and not worked. I perform a physical evaluation of the mother’s breasts and of the baby, looking for both causes and symptoms of the described issues.
I then observe a full feeding, gently guiding the mother as needed and providing education that is informed by evidence-based research. We work together to find the position and latching style that works best for the pair and we go over all the signs that would indicate baby is latched well, swallowing, and getting enough milk.
I bring tools to each appointment, including a baby scale and a supplemental nursing system, however most of my interventions do not require anything more than a mother and a baby. By minimizing the use of gadgets and by focusing on the mother and child’s natural strengths, I help to break those seemingly large problems into small, attainable goals.
I write everything out in a neat, organized fashion, so that the family has something to reference when their poor, exhausted minds draw blanks. My package includes two weeks of text, email, and phone support; that way, moms have their breastfeeding coach in their pocket. Depending on the case, I may not need to return in person for a follow-up. Often, however, I am back in a few days to check in on the progress and make any necessary adjustments to the plan.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about your field?
That “some women just can’t breastfeed.” While this is true, it accounts for less than 1% of women. The vast majority of women CAN breastfeed, though some moms and/or babies have real medical, anatomical, or psychological challenges that require expert support to develop a sustainable nursing relationship.
What do you love most about working with new and expectant parents?
I love solving puzzles: crosswords, jigsaw, whodunit mysteries, etc. In my work, I get to use those critical thinking skills every day. Although on the outside, I am calm, compassionate, and encouraging, on the inside, I am sifting through the data, identifying the key issues that are contributing to the problem, and systematically working out the best ways to approach them for my particular client. My work is challenging and incredibly rewarding.
Also, I get to work with babies. Babies are awesome.