So you breastfeed. And your child loves it… and you love it… but what else is there after, you know, weaning? How else can you share this overflowing passion in your heart? If your fondness for natural child nurturing goes beyond summer fling status, perhaps you’ve found your calling. Here are a few ideas that just might be the answer for you.
1. Become a Lactation Consultant/IBCLC.
It’s a great time to enter this field if your interest is strong!
LCs are professional breastfeeding experts who are specially trained in infant feeding. They are knowledgeable not only in breastfeeding but also alternative feeding methods like safe formula feeding, donor milk, supplementary nursing systems, and more. A mother typically employs an LC to assess a baby’s latch, to troubleshoot breastfeeding problems like milk production issues, recurring breast pain, a baby who is slow to gain weight, and more. LCs are sometimes called “breastfeeding consultants” or “lactation specialists” and anyone can technically designate themselves as one after taking workshops or attending enough classes to feel qualified.
Somewhat different are IBCLCs, which are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies, and are considered health care professionals who specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They earn this designation through a formal educational process that requires they meet minimum standards and fulfill thousands of hours of clinical experience. As far as getting hired in the majority of hospitals, pediatric offices, birth centers, or other health care practices, the IBCLC status is necessary (in fact, many hospitals prefer to hire IBCLCs who are also RNs and WIC often hires IBCLCs who are also dieticians).
According to Marie Davis, RN, IBCLC here:
“IBCLC’s adhere to a Code of Ethics and work within professional Standards of Practice. They are required to keep their knowledge and skills current, and must re-certify every 5 years through continuing education or re-examination. Lactation consultants with IBCLC have the one credential that is recognized by all national and international lactation consultant professional associations.”
Find out how to get started on the IBCLE and ILCA web sites.
How can you become a lactation consultant? by Debbi Donovan, IBCLC
What does it take to be a lactation consultant? by Marie Davis, IBCLC
2. Become a La Leche League Leader.
Have you attended local LLL meetings and wish you could participate in leading the sessions, too? Driving interest and determination to help your community of new mothers is a great starting point for a wannabe Leader!
So what is an LLL Leader and what are their responsibilities? According to LLL:
“The general purpose of the organization is to help the mother learn to breastfeed her baby, to encourage good mothering through breastfeeding, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding and related subjects. LLL is an international, educational, nonsectarian, nondiscriminatory service organization with a strict policy of not mixing causes. We have that policy in order to offer breastfeeding help to mothers with a variety of personal beliefs. Leaders know the importance of one mother helping another to recognize and understand the needs of her child and to find the best means of fulfilling those needs. Leaders provide information and support so that each mother can make the decisions which are best for her family.”
FAQ about LLL leadership can be found here.
Steps to becoming an LLL Leader are found here.
3. Become a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.
There are different types of Breastfeeding PCs. Keep in mind that the qualifications and training needed are much less stringent and exhaustive than that are required to become an IBCLC, PCs get paid significantly less, and the job focus is on mother-to-mother support rather than direct professional diagnosis.
1). WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, per USDA.gov:
“Peer counselors are mothers who have personal experience with breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other mothers with whom they share various characteristics, such as language, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Peer counselors reinforce breastfeeding recommendations in a socially and culturally appropriate context, and promote breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the mother and baby.
In WIC, peer counselors are recruited and hired from WIC’s target population of low-income women and undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling through telephone calls or visits in the home, clinic, or hospital.”
A WIC Breastfeeding PC named Star shared her thoughts on the good and bad sides of her job role in this article.
2). LLLI Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, per LLLI.org:
“Peer Counselor work is similar to Group Leader work in many ways. PCs hold support group meetings, help mothers by telephone and talk to mothers in waiting rooms, in the workplace or wherever mothers are. PCs may hold meetings in any location, calling them any name that does not include “LLL.”
PCs may call themselves LLLI Breastfeeding Peer Counselors but they are not authorized to speak for LLL nor are they covered by LLLI liability insurance. Ideally, the women (yes, there are a few male PCs) have breastfed but the need for PCs is so great that we do not withhold training from interested and enthusiastic people who have not breastfed. The people we train usually work with populations that have little or no accurate breastfeeding information and support. Who better to train these interested individuals than La Leche League? … Peer Counselor Programs not only give Leaders another avenue to pursue, they also provide an opportunity for others who want to help breastfeeding mothers but may not have the qualifications or inclination to become Leaders.”
3). Breastfeeding USA Counselor (BC), per Breastfeeding USA:
“Breastfeeding Counselors (BCs) are accredited representatives of Breastfeeding USA who participate in mission-related activities in their communities, online, and with the national organization. A mother who has breastfed her baby for at least one year and fulfills the other Personal Experience Requirements can become a BC by successfully completing the application and education program.
Breastfeeding Counselors understand the significant role that mother-to-mother support plays in women’s overall success and satisfaction with breastfeeding. Accordingly, their primary function is to offer evidence-based breastfeeding information and support to women through in-person meetings, by phone, or online as representatives of Breastfeeding USA.”
4. Start a support group, either online or in person.
It could be as simple as creating a group on social media that calls out for local expecting mothers and those who are already breastfeeding. You can promote it by sharing the link in local online parenting groups or posting it on Meetup.com if you’re interested in real-life interaction.
The Badass Breastfeeder offers a Mama Tribe network on Facebook that spans across the nation. Is there one in your city? If not, how about starting one?
Also consider lending your support at a Breastfeeding Hotline (find a list here).
5. Write a breastfeeding blog, or share your written nursing journey with an existing author.
Starting a blog doesn’t have to be complicated. If you already have favorite bloggers about your chosen topic then it’ll be even easier to determine how you can make a spot for yourself in the blogosphere.
A few blogs featuring breastfeeding content that I’ve enjoyed reading (in alphabetical order): Beauty and the Binky, Best for Babes Foundation, Every Child is a Blessing, I Am Not The Babysitter, Mammals Suck Milk, Native Mothering, Paa.la, The Alpha Parent, and The Badass Breastfeeder.
If you don’t wish to commit to a long-term blog, you could offer your breastfeeding story to an already established publication like La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA Horizons (or feel free to send my way!).
6. Write a children’s book about breastfeeding.
Children aren’t as critical of literary content as adults can be, so there’s no need to worry about your audience’s disapproval or a bad review on Amazon!
Check out this post for ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
7. Become a breastfeeding photographer.
Just think — all the beauty of mother-baby bonding you’d get to witness, capture, and present back to them in 2D! All the subtly exchanged expressions of gratitude and devotion you’d preserve forever in single frames!
Click here to read my post on the special gift of breastfeeding photos, and here for tips from my favorite local breastfeeding photographer on how to have an amazing nursing photoshoot.
8. Paint breastfeeding portraits or get crafty with nursing-themed art.
As with anything related to crafts or projects or any kind, Pinterest is your friend for this. You can also browse my Mama’s Milk Museum pages for milky inspiration from the great masterpiece makers!
9. Design, create, or sell breastfeeding apparel and accessories.
Someone awesome started knitting these boobie beanies and boy did they become a hit among mothers who frequently nurse in public! Lots of jewelry vendors have also found quite a market making personalized breast milk necklaces and other keepsakes.
What marvelous nursing-friendly item will YOU come up with next?
10. Invent a product or app that will help breastfeeding moms and babies.
From breastfeeding apps to improved pumps and breast milk storage supplies to milk alcohol test screens and an endless list of other products… it seems like someone has already thought of everything, doesn’t it?
Have you heard about or tried Google Glass as a lactation consulting device? It’s a pretty neat concept! Click here to read more about it.
In this world that becomes increasingly dependent on technology, there’s still plenty of room for innovation and improvement — so get brainstorming while the nursing passion still has you!
11. Strengthen or create breastfeeding laws in your state.
Krisdee Donmoyer of Keep Austin Nursing in Public has done a lot for breastfeeding laws in our home state of Texas by working on amendments that nursing mothers need (for example, making it illegal to interfere with or restrict breastfeeding, giving mothers recourse if they face discrimination, and helping public employees and teachers to have time and a place to express breast milk at work).
What can YOU do? First, get acquainted with the range of breastfeeding laws. Now follow Krisdee’s lead and figure out how the laws in your area could be better!
12. Hand out “Thank You for Nursing in Public” cards.
Never underestimate the power of such a simple gesture. This could really make someone’s day, so why not make it your regular mission? Keep a variety of these cards on hand somehow — side pocket of the diaper bag, wallet, tucked into your bra (kidding!)…
Check out a selection of cards here (Spanish version also available).
13. Donate your breast milk.
Why do women donate their surplus milk? Many women get more milk from a pump than their child could ever need (find out who holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Donated Breast Milk”), and donations are in constant demand for premature babies and those with mothers in medically precarious positions.
It’s a wonderful gift for an older baby who might otherwise be forced to have formula supplements that she cannot tolerate, for adoptive parents like same-sex couples who cannot produce their own breast milk, for single fathers, or as I’ve seen several times, bestowed by a mother as a way to grieve the tragedy of infant loss. Milk donations can also hold a gold mine of clues in breast cancer research.
Breast milk donations help babies like Charlotte, Levi John, the ones in these success stories, preemies with the highly morbid condition called nectrotizing enterocolitis (see the “Premature Babies” section) and this meth-addicted baby. Breast milk donation helped breast cancer victim Jamie Thomas and THESE TWO MAMAS who received some of my own surplus milk. Breast milk very likely would have saved Micah.
Find out more about how and where to safely donate your breast milk here.
14. Help animals learn to breastfeed.
Some primates in zoos are shown videos of breastfeeding so they understand what they need to do. In an Ohio zoo in the 1980s, La Leche League moms nursed in front of a new mother gorilla so she could learn by example — more proof that this is meant to be a learned skill. Mother Nature has always assumed that by our child-rearing days, we would have already observed many babies being fed. Other mammals may breastfeed with a more automatic reflex instinct as they may not be social pack animals with the advantage of furry nursing peers, La Leche League, or the internet.
Now, I’m not sure it’s the best idea to just call up your local monkey sanctuary and inquire as to how many new mama gorillas are in need of breastfeeding assistance. Instead, perhaps you could volunteer at a wildlife rehabilitation center or animal shelter and — given your expertise at positioning, latch and the signs of a good nursing session — can help teach injured, sick, or developmentally challenged pregnant or postpartum creatures learn how to offer the teats to their litter.
Maybe a bit of a reach, but if you’re determined enough I doubt many would try to stand in your way!