This week on the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast I had a chance to chat with Katie from The Breastfeeding Mama. Katie is a mom of three boys, and after the birth of her second baby, she faced a ton of challenges with breastfeeding.
That’s where her journey towards becoming The Breastfeeding Mama started, and really where her passion for helping other women succeed at breastfeeding began too.
It all started with a Facebook support group back in 2015, and at the time she had no official certifications. When she saw the success and interest in her support group, she knew she wanted to gain some accredited certification to better serve her community, and she hasn’t stopped learning since.
She is now a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Lactation Counselor, and a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist. Katie is also currently working towards her IBCLC – which is an amazing accomplishment!
In today’s episode, you’ll hear us talk about different types of breastfeeding educator certifications and the details of Katie’s challenging breastfeeding journey with her second. Then we dive into the signs of low milk supply, tips to cope, oversupply, and so much more!
So, without further ado, let’s get into this week’s episode!
- Breastfeeding educator certifications
- Why Katie became a breastfeeding educator
- Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)
- Low supply vs. normal milk supply
- What are common reasons why someone would have low supply?
- What about oversupply?
- Last words of advice for mamas that are still pregnant and planning to breastfeed
- About Katie
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Breastfeeding educator certifications
After Katie shared a bit about herself and her own certifications in the world of breastfeeding education, I thought it would be interesting to have her share a bit about what those different certifications involve!
In the intro you learned that she actually has three different certifications and is working towards her fourth, so let’s break down what they’re kind of all about.
Certified Lactation Educator
This allows you to learn more about breastfeeding and allows you to support and help educate breastfeeding families. This certification really emphasizes providing education but does not allow you to do one-on-one consults or anything like that.
It’s not clinical but is all about providing education. Katie shares that this is a wonderful starting point for someone interested in helping others learn!
Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and Certified Lactation Counselor
Katie explains that these are two different certifications through two different agencies, but they are very similar in what they allow you to do. After receiving one of these certifications, you can do one-on-one consults and support mamas directly.
CLCs and CBSs can have their own private practices but there is some limitation over the care they can provide vs. a full-blown IBCLC.
Breastfeeding USA and La Leche League Leader
Next, you’ll hear Katie talk about a few other certifications that don’t involve university credits or care in a clinical setting. The ones she mentioned include becoming a Breastfeeding USA counselor, which emphasizes education and support. And becoming a La Leche League Leader, which is also more peer support-based program.
Katie says these are two wonderful options for someone that is just starting out and interested in connecting with and support breastfeeding mamas.
International Board-Certified Lactation Counselor (IBCLC)
This is the gold standard, top-of-the-line certification when it comes to breastfeeding educators. An IBCLC has to go through an extensive program that involves college credits in science, and between 300 and 1000 hours of clinical practice.
This can be done through a few different pathways, including hours in a hospital, with a mentor, in a degree program, and/or through hours spent in another breastfeeding educator role such as a La Leche League Leader. Becoming an IBCLC allows you to work in a hospital, at doctors’ offices, or have your own private practice.
At the end of the day, Katie emphasizes that these certifications are very important, but so is experience and time spent helping real moms. Over the past several years, Katie has worked with thousands of women and is always excited about learning more and gaining as many certifications as possible.
Why Katie became a breastfeeding educator
As we continue our conversation, Katie and I talk about the importance of lactation education in general, and she shared that so many of the IBCLCs she chats with first go into this line of work because of their own breastfeeding challenges.
After Katie’s first baby was born, breastfeeding was actually very easy for her! She had no issues and even remembers thinking, “Why do people this is so hard?” But then when her second baby came around, she had every problem you could possibly think of.
Katie gets more into her personal story with her second son and how he was admitted to the hospital with failure to thrive. Breastfeeding was stressful and very, very painful. She saw many different people, and was constantly doubted and never really taken seriously. From suspected tongue ties to mastitis, over and over she was made out to feel like she was making a big deal out of nothing.
Finally, after two years of painful breastfeeding, a pediatric dentist confirmed her suspicion that he had a tongue tie. Through all of this, she realized that there was a ton of misinformation out there and a lack of support surrounding breastfeeding.
Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER)
While Katie was talking about her breastfeeding journey with her second son, she mentioned that shortly before she weaned him at almost 2 years, she developed something called D-MER. This stands for Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.
It’s a phenomenon wherein moms experience extreme sadness or rage while their milk is letting down, and it can really affect your ability to have a successful breastfeeding relationship.
For Katie, her D-MER didn’t occur until later in her journey, but some moms experience this for the entire time that they’re breastfeeding. So many moms that Katie has talked to about this were shocked to learn that they weren’t alone and that this is a real thing!
There is information out there and things you can do to address this issue and still have breastfeeding success.
Low supply vs. normal milk supply
At this point in the episode, we shift towards talking about low milk supply and how to deal with it. And to start, Katie wanted to go over what exactly is a low supply vs. normal supply anyway! So many moms don’t have a good handle on what a normal supply is and can easily get caught up in thinking they have a low supply when it might not really be the case!
In short, she says that a normal supply is NOT having tons and tons of milk. It’s making enough for your baby’s needs! She goes on to say that pumping about a quarter ounce to two ounces per breast (when you are also nursing) is totally normal! And that your breasts often can and will produce very different amounts.
When she shared about this on IG recently, she said that so many women were absolutely shocked and thought that their total yield of around 4 ounces meant they had a low supply – and this is simply not the case!
She then goes on to say that the most important things to look for include:
- Are they gaining weight?
- Are they having enough wet and poop diapers?
- Are they having any signs of dehydration?
Tune in to hear her elaborate more on these signs and to hear her talk more about cluster feeding and what that’s all about as well!
What are common reasons why someone would have low supply?
Katie explains that there are a few physical or anatomical reasons why someone might have a low supply. You’ll hear her talk about IGT – insufficient glandular tissue. This is when a woman hasn’t developed during puberty or pregnancy to produce enough milk.
She also talks about how 1/3 of women who have PCOS may have low supply, and women that have a postpartum hemorrhage or retained placenta after birth might have low supply issues as well.
Then she mentions some other common culprits of low milk supply. The big one that she talks about here is not nursing on demand and too closely following a clock. The first few weeks are critical to bringing in and building up your supply, so nursing as much as possible during those weeks makes a huge difference.
When you listen in, you’ll hear Katie elaborate even more on specific things you can do during pregnancy and immediately after birth to set yourself up for supply success!
What about oversupply?
Low milk supply definitely gets the most attention when it comes to breastfeeding education (and for good reason!) but oversupply can be just as challenging and frustrating for the mamas that have it.
She talks about how some women with an oversupply have a larger storage capacity in their breasts and there are no problems associated with their oversupply. On the other hand, for many moms, it can cause recurrent clogged ducts and recurrent mastitis because they’re unable to empty their breasts fully.
Women with an oversupply can also face feeding issues because they often have a really fast letdown that can lead to baby coughing and sputtering, and in some cases, there are reflux issues too.
We talk about how you can accidentally create an oversupply by pumping too much or using the Haakaa too frequently, especially in the early weeks after birth. Tune in to hear more tips on how to prevent and deal with oversupply if you are struggling with this!
Last words of advice for mamas that are still pregnant and planning to breastfeed
We wrap up the episode with some final advice. I told Katie that most of our audience is either currently pregnant or newly postpartum. Here’s what she had to say,
“If you haven’t given birth, learn all you can – learning all you can doesn’t mean you’re not going to have problems, but it can help you better prepare to navigate them and to know when you’re getting bad advice. Because there is a lot of bad advice out there.”
She goes on to say,
“Educate yourself all you can, get a lactation consult. And even if you’re not sure you want to breastfeed, still learning is really important. I know a lot of people that are like, I didn’t want to breastfeed until my baby was here, and then I wanted to and then I had all these problems!”
Katie Clark is a proud mother of three little boys who happens to love all things breastfeeding. Through her own breastfeeding journies, she has discovered the joy that comes from helping other mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.
She is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC-in-training and has run various online breastfeeding groups since 2015. She enjoys providing realistic and entertaining information about breastfeeding to help new parents make the best decisions for their family.
Connect with Katie:
- On her website: https://thebreastfeedingmama.com
- Instagram: https://instagram.com/the.breastfeedingmama
- Tik Tok: https://tiktok.com/@thebfmama
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0VRbLeer_BZZhvQ-K9O4_Q
- Inside of her online breastfeeding course: https://thebreastfeedingmama.com/courses/