Student Blog: August is National Breastfeeding Month

17 Aug 2020 5:00 AM | Amy Habeck (Administrator)
  • August is National Breastfeeding Month

    WRDA Celebrates Lactation Professionals


    By Kristen Nicolai, WRDA Student Volunteer

    Hunter College Graduate Student, MS 2022

    August 14, 2020

    August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and is celebrated to promote the benefits and importance of breastfeeding. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position on breastfeeding is that exclusive breastfeeding offers optimal nutrition and health protection for the first six months of life, and that breastfeeding with complementary foods from six months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants.

    Breastfeeding offers the following benefits for mothers and babies:

    • Protects babies against a variety of diseases and conditions such as respiratory tract infections, onset of diabetes, childhood obesity, and other infections
    • Provides all necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and antibodies from the mother that can help babies fight disease and infection
    • Promotes earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight for mothers
    • Lowers mothers’ risk of breast and ovarian cancers and post-natal depression
    • Helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and decreased postpartum bleeding
    • Creates a special bond between mother and baby

    Andrea Ventura, MS, RD, CDN, IBCLC, is a clinical nutritionist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She became certified as a lactation consultant after becoming a mother and breastfeeding her own children. Andrea found it difficult to find reliable nutrition information to help her successfully continue her lactation journey after one of her children had a dairy protein allergy. After this she knew she wanted to use her nutrition knowledge to work with breastfeeding moms. 

    The lactation consultant profession is accessible to anyone interested in the field. The credentials require a 90-hour lactation specific course, a clinical internship, and 14 health science classes. Medical professionals are also able to use past experience or credits to apply to clinical internship hours and coursework. Some IBCLC students must also compete a 300-500-hour internship working under an IBCLC.

    Elaine Carlevaro, RDN, CLC, is a Certified Lactation Counselor with the Department of Prenatal Services at the Montefiore Nyack Prenatal Center. To become a Lactation Counselor Elaine participated in a one-week program through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice to receive a CLC certification. While IBCLCs work one-on-one with moms, as a CLC Elaine works more broadly to make sure that breastfeeding is being supported. What she particularly loves about her job is the many hats she can wear as a nutritionist, and the work she does with many organizations and committees in her community such as Child Care Resources in Rockland and the Department of Health to bring training to childcare providers. As a CLC she works breastfeeding education into the overall health resources she provides moms, specifically higher risk moms, including education on the benefits of breastfeeding.

                Like many professionals in the field, during the current COVID-19 pandemic lactation consultants are working virtually to assist nursing mothers. While virtual appointments can allow mothers to work with a lactation consultant from the comfort of their own home, it can also be difficult for consultants to use all the senses used when helping mothers in-person. This can make it harder to fully assess mothers’ breasts or see how a baby is latching or listening to sucking and swallowing. Elaine has also encountered that mothers with the least amount of resources are a population harder to support during the pandemic, as they have less access to virtual visits. Both Andrea and Elaine agree that peer support groups are one of the most helpful tools for new mothers. These programs are able to give women the opportunity to connect with other mothers experiencing the same challenges, giving them the support needed after many prenatal services end postpartum.

                When it comes to the roles that hospitals, pediatricians, and OB/GYNs can play in successful breastfeeding, Andrea and Elaine both emphasize the importance of promoting the benefits of breastfeeding and recognizing when to refer a mother to an IBCLC. Through her work as a lactation counselor in Rockland County, Elaine works to improve support for breastfeeding through the Breastfeeding Coalition and has worked to have hospitals become a part of the Breastfeeding Friendly initiative. Elaine also works with early childhood educators, WIC, and many other community organizations to help mothers breastfeed well and support initiatives to lower infant and maternal morbidity and mortality.

                Andrea recommends that every RDN who works with mothers and babies can help normalize breastfeeding and educating themselves on a mother’s nutrition needs while lactating. Elaine also encourages RDNs to focus on the benefits of breastmilk when working with clients and knowing how best to inform moms. It is also important to know what is recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics, ACOG, NIH, WIC so consistent communication is shared.

                When it comes to choosing a career as a lactation consultant, Andrea advises that many hospitals will not hire an IBLCL that is also not a Registered Nurse, so working as a Registered Dietician in that capacity is not always possible. Andrea works with some breastfeeding mothers through her work at an inpatient psychiatric hospital but does home visits for mothers on the side. She is also bilingual, speaking both English and Spanish, which is an asset that helps her to communicate with many different people and helps the mothers she works with feel validated and understood in their native language.

    As a lactation counselor, Elaine expressed she is better able to meet the needs of her clients, and it has opened up avenues to be able to promote breastfeeding in ways she didn’t realize were possible. She also notes that RDNs that have a bilingual education can have more opportunity for direct communication with clients, rather than having to converse through a translator, as this can be challenging as almost 80% of her patients didn’t speak English. For RDNs or nutrition students interested in working in lactation consulting, Elaine recommends starting to research the different avenues within the lactation profession. While breastfeeding mothers are a specific population, it is an important time to invest in women, as breastfeeding can play a role in their overall health after pregnancy, as well as the health of their future generations. She concluded that an RDN with a lactation background is a perfect position to not only impact that individual mother, but many lives from generation to generation.



©Westchester Rockland Dietetic Association 2020-2021

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software