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Breastfeeding advocates win international acclaim

August 12, 2015

Helping breastfeeding moms garners lactation consultants internaltional acclaim

Story by Sherri Gallant

When new mothers in southern Alberta are frustrated by difficulties with breastfeeding, award-winning help is available.

Public Health lactation consultants in the South Zone have won international acclaim for their support of breastfeeding mothers. The Community Care Award, presented recently by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), has honoured Lethbridge Public Health and Medicine Hat Public Health for excellence in lactation care.Trena Parkyn, a Lethbridge mother of two boys, says if it hadn’t been for the help provided by lactation consultant Joan Smith, she’s certain she wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed either Jax, now two years old, or Duke, four months.

“I like to say breastfeeding is the most unnatural ‘natural’ thing you’re going to do,” says Parkyn, whose troubles began a day after coming home from the hospital with Jax.

“I was engorged, and I knew that wasn’t good because we’d learned about that in prenatal classes,” she recalls of the time her breasts painfully overfilled with milk. “And because I was engorged, the baby couldn’t latch on properly.

“I knew I needed help.”

Smith arrived at Parkyn’s home, bringing with her an aura of calm.

“She just came in and put me at ease. She spent a good two hours with me, without any judgment at all. I felt desperate, and I was in pain. She helped me with the latch and calmed me down. She had me get into the shower, and taught me how to pump just a little bit off to ease the engorgement.

“I also wondered how to know how much milk the baby is getting, and how do you know when they’re full? Joan was able to show me the signs.”

It’s all in a day’s work for a lactation consultant.

“We have provided training and updates to staff for supporting and protecting breastfeeding for our communities,” says Anna Marshall, Maternal Child co-ordinator, Wellness Services, in Lethbridge, noting that World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7. “Because of this work, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat Public Health have been recognized for the IBCLC Care Award Facility. We are the only two in all of Canada for this 2015-2017 certification period.”

Decalie Brown, President of ILCA, agrees.

“This recognition highlights the efforts being made by maternity facilities all across the world to help mothers get off to a good start with breastfeeding,” Brown says.

When Parkyn had her second child, she knew what to expect, but still called upon Smith for assistance. “We sat on the couch, had a cup of tea, and she just calmed the waters,” Parkyn says. “It wasn’t even so much about the breastfeeding, but more about just being a support. I can honestly say I would not be breastfeeding today if it weren’t for her.”

There are more than 27,450 lactation consultants in 101 countries worldwide that are certified by the IBCLC. To find one, visit Follow the “Find a Lactation Consultant” link and search for an IBCLC by postal code, city and state, or country.