Since 2016, HealthConnect One partnered with the Healthy Children Project, Inc. to offer Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) Training Scholarships to Community-Based Doulas and Breastfeeding Peer Counselors who were (1) Trained under the HealthConnect One curriculum and (2) Providing breastfeeding support in their communities. In response to questions from HealthConnect One Program Coordinator Helen Dimas, Hannah White shares about her experience after receiving one of three CLC training scholarships in 2017.
My name is Hannah White. I’m the mother of two, ages 13 and 3, both of whom breastfed over the three year mark. Seven years of my life so far have been spent with a baby or child at the boob.
I first heard about HealthConnect One when I trained with them to become a breastfeeding peer counselor during my year of service with AmeriCorps. Supporting breastfeeding has been a mission of mine since I started reading Mothering Magazine at twelve years old. It has saddened and angered me to hear and see women and babies being deprived of vital nutrients for lifelong health and the precious bonding and joy of breastfeeding, due to the spreading of misinformation and manipulation by formula companies and careless “health” protocols that were anything but. Being a peer counselor was the first step on my journey to support families and nurture the breastfeeding relationship.
Already more than half a decade has passed since I became a peer counselor. Without this scholarship, it would optimistically be years before I’d be able to become a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) on my own. When I first learned that I was a recipient of the CLC scholarship, I was ecstatic. It was one of those feelings you have when it seems like the universe is conspiring to help you fulfill your life’s purpose. Becoming a CLC is a crucial part of my being able to provide the best care possible for the families I serve, and being able to reach more people.
Earning the CLC credential has allowed me to further my learning—to improve upon my knowledge of how breastfeeding works. I care about having the most up to date information at my disposal. I care about having the tools to actually help families with more than just good intentions. I hope to extend the care that I am able to offer moms in any setting, including through doula work, personal relationships, community outreach, through education campaigns, and more. My ideal position is in a hospital setting—to help mothers at a critical time—and to work with hospital administration to improve their protocols and policies for infant care and feeding.
Breastfeeding is such an important part of life. It’s our introduction to the world as human beings—held close in our mother’s arms—learning that we are safe and loved. It teaches babies to be calm, to trust themselves, to respect their source of nourishment—both their mother, and the earth. It teaches us that the human connection is an important aspect of every part of the way we live. It teaches families and societies to be inclusive and respectful of women and the power that they contribute to the well-being of humanity. It teaches families and society to act with tolerance, patience, love, and spontaneity. It teaches us to work together.
The joy that I have known in being able to nourish my children at the breast and to watch them grow in confidence, independence, kindness, health and intelligence—pushes me to want to help other people to know these gifts. The trust and connection that my children and I share is beyond comparison. I want to create in this world, the possibility that every mother, baby, and family gets to learn and grow in the gift that is breastfeeding, and as grandiose as it may sound—I want to counter the evil forces at work to deprive them and us of this experience.
Breastfeeding is the normal, biological way that babies eat—and humans—well, all mammals—feed. Because mothers and babies depend on the rest of society to be able to accomplish this, the normal thing would be for fathers, families, friends, employers, and healthcare workers to follow suit. It would follow that medical researchers would treat alternative feeding methods and nutrition as just that—alternatives—interventions. Shockingly, this has not been the case.
Due to the success of formula company marketing, breastfeeding has been touted as a “bonus,” a deviation from the norm. This faulty paradigm has caused errors in “scientific” research, where controls and variables were flip-flopped. It has caused errors in how people analyze the health, nutrition, and biological and psychological development of infants, children, and humans in general, including the psychological and biological health of postpartum women.
Thankfully, this is starting to change. I absolutely LOVED that the CLC course emphasized the biological norm of breastfeeding, and the use of breastfeeding for norm referencing. I LOVED that they taught us normal feeding first and foremost, and then taught us problem-solving as it relates to deviation from normal healthy infant feeding.
The CLC course was jam packed with information. It was thorough and extensive, but also rapid fire and lecture-based. There is no way that it can all settle-in after one week. It still requires extensive reading and rereading of the texts they provided, as well as hands-on experience talking to moms, listening to moms, and working with other experienced providers to learn how to best help moms. I’m glad that I went to it as a peer counselor with professional experience, providing places for the information to settle.
I am so glad that I got to participate in this training, to earn this credential, and to be surrounded by many intelligent, passionate and driven women who are going to use their gifts to change policy, to change practice, and to improve how people think and act about breastfeeding. This was a beautiful unexpected benefit of the course. Being in the room with this incredible female brain power was a transcending moment for me. These women, my classmates, have taken the initiative to improve who they are so that they can cut through the day-to-day b.s. of going-through the motions in their personal and professional interactions. Instead, they are choosing ways that are personal, meaningful, positive, transformative, and make an impact. I’m moved.
Most of the people in class were not there because they had to be there or because it was going to give them a pay raise. Most were there because they wanted to be there and they were going against the grain, taking time away from work, from their families, and from their paychecks to do so—only to go back to workplaces, families, organizations, and whole societies where they will continue to work against the grain to foster agency for babies and their families. My classmates were women who are committed to having meaningful, competent interactions that provide a lifelong benefit to the people they touch. I’m honored to have participated in the course with them.
Hannah White started supporting mothers as a breastfeeding peer counselor and health educator through AmeriCorps. She continues to volunteer with mothers in Chicago and supports mothers as a private doula and as a volunteer with Chicago Volunteer Doulas.