Saturday, June 8, 2013

Breastfeeding Trauma: How I want to help and how you can too

In 1994 I gave birth to my 2nd son and thought, since I was an experienced breastfeeding mom, I'd have no problems.  I was wrong.  Not only was I wrong - I was REALLY WRONG.  What followed was nearly 4 months of an incredibly difficult situation that gave me a career as an IBCLC - but also gave me severe sleep deprivation, severe postpartum depression and a delay in my bond with my baby.   (see my story here - Why am I an IBCLC

I have worked with breastfeeding mama's and their babies since January of 1995 when I first started my training working for WIC as a Peer Counselor and becoming a Certified Lactation Educator.  (About Jaye)  In the beginning, most of my clients had very basic challenges which were easily corrected with simple latch and positioning help, milk supply support and basic counseling.  But, over the years, as my practice grew and my skills improved, I started seeing more and more complicated cases.  (My Services)

The babies I work with are struggling to breastfeed (tight muscles and/or tongue-tie).  They are often high needs, difficult to feed and/or need body work (which can get expensive adding in a financial stress to the mix).   Their mamas are struggling emotionally with the stress of pumping, nursing and bottle-feeding.  They are often exhausted from sleep deprivation, emotionally stressed and battling postpartum depression and dealing with injured nipples, painful breastfeeding (if there is breastfeeding), mastitis, plugged ducts and thrush.   

Any Mother who has struggled with breastfeeding knows that the emotional toll can be considerable.  Sleep deprivation and postpartum depression are common.  Emotional disconnect from baby due to severe breastfeeding challenges is more common than one would like to know.  It is a very difficult time for a mama when she has intense struggles to do something that should come so easily - and is instead fraught with pain, frustration, fear and emotional overload.  The emotional fallout can take months and even years to recover from, cropping up as intense fear and dread with the next baby, praying that they will not again go through the difficulties they went through last time with many fighting between just bottlefeeding and taking the risk and giving breastfeeding a try.   Many mothers describe those emotions as akin to PTSD - and I understand that all too well having faced those intense fears myself with the birth of my third son.

To add insult to injury, many of them (myself included during my struggles) are told by well meaning family, friends and HCPs to 'just get over it - it's just breastfeeding,' and  'just give the baby a bottle, formula is just as good as breastfeeding,'  and comments such as, 'I don't know why you are so worked up over this' are common.   Those who have not gone through this type of experience truly cannot understand or appreciate the depth of pain comments like these cause.

The level of counseling I do with these amazing women has gone from  basic breastfeeding support to considerable emotional support - helping them stay calm, find peace (if at all possible) in difficult decisions, get through each day, one at at time - sometimes one feeding at a time.  They know I am available to them any day of the week.  I have talked more mama's off a proverbial ledge than I can count.   Actual lactation education/help has gradually become a secondary aspect to the care I routinely provide.  Currently, the emotional support I provide is fully 50% or more of my work with struggling mama's.

When I work with a mama in a tough situation like this (which is often) I always recommend counseling to assist with the emotional distress that results from the challenges they are dealing with.  Counseling can be very effective if the counselor is familiar with the nature of the struggles that Mama is going through.  Understanding Mama-Guilt is especially important as l
earning to reconnect with one's baby can be especially painful as there is a lot of mama-guilt just from being disconnected in the first place.  But, my Mama's often tell me that their counselor, who is great with other issues, doesn't seem to be grasp the seriousness of this particular issue.  Rather, many mamas are told it's just not a big deal - not every woman can breastfeed.  In essence - they are blown off - and they do not get the help they often desperately need.

For women who have had serious birth trauma, there are counselors who specialize in birth trauma issues and emotional healing.  I want to be that person who does the same thing for mamas who have suffered Breastfeeding Trauma.  I currently offer a lot of 'hand-holding' and emotional support, doing my best to help mamas 'hang in there' while they work through their breastfeeding challenges.  But, for me, this is not enough. 

I watch and listen as they struggle with not only their own emotional stress, but the emotional disconnect or distance from their baby that breaks their hearts - and mine.  While I personally understand how it feels, and can relate and empathize with them, I do not yet have the skills needed to assist these mamas at the level they need and I want.  I want to help them heal not only themselves but also their relationship with their baby if it too has suffered.  Or better yet - be better able to assist in NOT letting that happen in the first place. 

My goal is to get specialized education that will facilitate what I already do with these amazing Mamas but take it a step or three further.   But education is expensive and I need help.  So I am appealing to you for help.  My goal is to be able to offer not only in person help, but long distance help as well.  I know it is needed - I want to provide it. 
To see how you can help please go to my website and take a look at the fund raiser I am holding.  If you are a Mother who could have benefited from (or could benefit from) this type of specific counseling, please feel free to share your story so that others can understand why it is so important to have someone who can do more than just hold you hand.  While it is an honor - a huge honor - to help the many, many women I have been privileged to work with - I am left with a sense of wanting to be able to offer more to them...they deserve it.  I will deeply appreciate any help given to fulfill that goal.

Jaye Simpson, CLE, IBCLC, RLC, CIIM, BC 
Breastfeeding Network

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Your Care Provider did what? When to file a Complaint and Why…

You have put your trust in your care provider – whether that person is a Dr. a Dentist or, in my field, an IBCLC.   You think you are getting good care, but something doesn’t feel right.  And you realize that not only have you not received good care – you (or your child) have actually been harmed in some way.  What do you do?

In my field I often talk to parents about poor care they have received from other practitioners.  They are angry, hurt and confused.  They don’t understand why their care provider would ‘do that’ to them.  In one case a mom and baby came to me 8 wks postpartum and the baby was 3 ounces above birth weight.  The Pediatrician had told mother he was fine because he was gaining – just gaining slowly.  No – he wasn’t fine.  In another case, a mother was treated horribly (witnessed by her partner and doula) by an OB/GYN during her delivery.  The treatment bordered on malpractice.  She was traumatized, baby had been injured – parents did not know what to do.  In yet another case, an outpatient-clinic IBCLC sent a baby home below birth-weight at 2 weeks of age and told mom there was nothing that could be done to resolve the baby’s anterior tongue-tie and significant torticollis and to just feed him a bottle of formula.  Another mom was told by her IBCLC that If she didn’t do the recommended treatment she was a bad mother.  And lastly another parent told me of how she had pre-paid for a consult with another IBCLC and yet, while her money is gone, no consult ever happened and the IBCLC in question refused to respond to her many emails.  These are just a few instances - I know of many more.  In each of these cases I told the parents the same thing I tell any person who has been treated poorly or harmed by their care provider:  FILE a Formal Complaint.  

All of the above examples are clear cases that warrant a formal complaint being filed.   As humans we have the right to expect our care providers will do what is best for us, treat us with respect and work to protect our health.  When they don’t we actually DO have options.  The trick is to actually follow through.  

Many parents are just wiped out, exhausted, dealing with a new baby and dealing with potential fallout from poor care by a provider.   They feel they just don’t have the energy it takes to file that complaint.  I get it – I really do.   18 yrs ago an IBCLC acted quite unethically with me and I was disgusted – but I was exhausted and working to try and get my breastfeeding challenges worked out.  My primary IBCLC was a God-Send – this other one?  Not so much.  But I didn’t know I could file a complaint against her.  And even if I had, I don’t know that I would have because of my state of exhaustion and lack of support at home.  Her unethical actions still haunt me (they taught me what NOT to do as an IBCLC!), and it is too late for me to file that complaint.  However, I wish I had known that I could have…because had I done that there is the good chance that she would have been disciplined, re-educated or even perhaps stripped of her IBCLC Credential…something!  As it was – I did nothing and her behavior continued – for years.

I knew there were procedures for filing complaints against other practitioners, and as I got into the field I learned that there was also a process for filing a complaint with the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners).  The IBLCE is the Governing Body for IBCLCs.  They tell us what our Scope of Practice is (we can and cannot do), and what our Code of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct are.  And when those are violated it’s a problem – for everyone.   

So, I started encouraging moms to FILE when they had cause.  Some did, but most didn’t because they were too hurt (betrayed) by the care provider, too tired, too busy.  They didn’t think their words would be enough to make a change happen.  I get it, I really do.  But at some point we need to stand up for ourselves and our children and take a stand that will help us and help others.  If we know others who have been harmed by a particular provider, we can work to support each other as we file our complaints.   One thing we know is that when we have been harmed, if we have the support to, and knowledge how, to stand up for ourselves it can be very healing!  And the other thing we know is that Change does not happen if no one speaks up!  This Blog Post is to help YOU out there who have been harmed stand up for yourself and your babies and file that complaint when you have cause.  

Many moms fear retaliation from a disgruntled care provider, and I understand that too.  (Believe me I will get a lot of anger and probably some hate mail over this post!)  But I believe that if we can set that aside for just a moment (and know that if retaliation does occur we have options there too) we can heal ourselves, and help others in the process.  We must recognize that if a care provider is hurting us, they surely have or will hurt someone else.  If no one stands up to stop it, it just continues.   Taking back our personal power from someone who harmed us is amazing!  Yes – I have done that – and it WAS amazingly healing!  

So – what do we do?

When our Dr. hurts us we can file a complaint with the medical board.  Google ‘file a medical complaint’ and you will find links for each state and how to file.  Same thing with a Dentist, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Midwife and even hairdresser – a Google search will bring the information up easily enough.  If you search for “Association breastfeeding complaints procedure” you will find links to file complaints against lactation professionals in other countries.  Google ‘complaints IBCLC” and you will find what you need as well if you have been harmed or treated inappropriately by an IBCLC. 

My parting comment is this:  Regarding ANY care provider – if you or your child has been harmed or think you have been harmed, been treated inappropriately, unethically, etc., investigate and make sure you have cause – and if you do - file that complaint.  Don’t just let it go; don’t fear retaliation to the point that it stops you from taking a stand for yourself.  (Blocking people via internet is surprisingly easy!)  Protect yourselves and help protect others…we all benefit with that. 

Take back your power…