Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Specialist, WIC Service
12 years of service
Got any favorite quotes?
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Theodore Roosevelt
Who inspires you?
My peers inspire me every day. Many mothers assume breastfeeding is a natural process that will come easy to them — and for many women, it does. However for others, breastfeeding is actually quite challenging. Some women find it to be painful, others do not produce enough milk, or they may have difficulty getting their infants to latch. Women may agonize over these frustrations, not knowing what to do, and some parents switch to formula, frustrated by the process of breastfeeding altogether. Peer counselors and IBCLCs help parents who are having difficulties figure out the breastfeeding process. They talk to parents, listen and validate their goals, and help them come up with solutions. They help parents understand how they can still breastfeed while attending school or going to work and assist with breastfeeding equipment. Therefore, the community of breastfeeding support inspires me the most.
If someone was interested in a public health career, what advice or encouragement would you give them?
The field of health and nutrition are blossoming in unique and exciting ways. We all want to live longer, healthier lives, avoid disease and feel happy with the bodies we have been given. And yet, there’s still a mountain of work to be done in educating people about the simplest of nutritional concepts. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) you will have your work cut out, but it is definitely rewarding!
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are specialists in breastfeeding that help new mothers learn to breastfeed and help troubleshoot when problems arise. They provide care in a variety of settings, while making appropriate referrals to other health professionals and community support resources. Working together with mothers, families, policymakers and society, IBCLCs provide expert breastfeeding and lactation care, promote changes that support breastfeeding and help reduce the risks of not breastfeeding. IBCLC is a relatively new credential, but this medical profession is gaining in popularity. This is a great career choice for somebody who wants to help other moms, enjoys the medical field, is passionate about breastfeeding and is good with problem solving.
How did you start working in public health?
I really enjoyed the community rotation and experience I received with the Women Infants & Children (WIC) clinics in my post-graduate dietetic internship. Years ago, while researching jobs in the nutrition field, I came across a posting for a position with the Oklahoma State Department of Health WIC Program. The job description included implementing a new peer support program for pregnant and breastfeeding WIC mothers. The opportunity could not have presented itself at a more suitable time, after having a baby and breastfed and looking to return to the workforce. Therefore, I applied and got the job!
Can you share a few highlights of your experience in public health in Oklahoma?
In 2005, I assisted with implementing the Oklahoma WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor program in four WIC clinic sites. Currently, the program has continued expansion to 31 clinic sites in 18 counties. The Oklahoma WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program has been successful in providing additional support to breastfeeding families and is having a positive impact on both breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in the Oklahoma counties it serves. Recently, I achieved licensure as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), which was a professional goal I relentlessly pursued. I am excited for what adventures await in the coming years.
In your role, how do you educate people about public health?
I provide nutrition and breastfeeding education to people so they can make an informed choice on feeding their infants and children. My current role also involves training breastfeeding peer counselors with basic lactation management skills so that they are able to counsel and assist mothers with common breastfeeding problems.
What is the most difficult part of your job?
Correcting misinformation about nutrition and breastfeeding is a continual battle, which can sometimes be defeating. After providing evidenced-based research and information, people still choose to believe what they read on the internet or social media and share it with the world at the touch of a button, and it makes our job as nutrition and breastfeeding educators a challenge.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had in public health?
I find it rewarding when I follow up with clients and they are successful with reaching their goals, no matter how small. It makes me happy when the information I provide to people actually “clicks,” and they make changes to their lifestyle to eat healthier and move more. I find it fulfilling to see healthy infants grow up to be healthy children throughout their participation in the WIC Program. Through nutrition education, healthy foods and breastfeeding support, many families in Oklahoma are able to live healthier lives.