On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, June 11, 2009

It's Time To Get Serious

It's time to get serious about studying for an exam that I have to take in just over 7 weeks. It isn't that I haven't been studying, I have, but not really systematically (but when did I ever in my life study anything systematically:). Still there are topics I definitely need to know better than I do right now. So the question is do I bite the bullet and spend money on more health e learning courses or not? I also need to find a time to actually shadow my local LC before taking the exam.

Everyone I know tells me I'm going to do fine, but every time I try to actually recite the proteins in found in human milk, or describe the components of a good latch I feel like my brain has turned to mush. I'm trying mnemonics to remember the proteins, but then I forget the mnemonic. I do know that the ingredients that fight infection include lactoferin, bifudus factor, lyzosome, interferon, macrophages and some others that I would recognize if I saw them in a question as being among the anti-infection agents, but which I can't seem to list at the moment. I know that a good latch is assymetrical, that the lower lip should be neutral, that the tongue should cover the bottom gum in the front. The problem is that what I'm realizing is that a latch can "look" good and still not necessarily "be" good. I'm also realizing more and more how little I really know (and from what Diane Weissinger said at the LLL conference) how little perhaps any of us actually know about how a particular dyad is going to work their way into coming together successfully. I do know that some of the tried and true practices of maternity nurses (jamming babies onto the breast) may work to a degree in the short run, but seem to create problems in the long run. I'm also realizing, to my dismay, that the protocol one book claims is best will be disputed by another book (and not just because one book is older than the other either). That means that in addition to the texts I'm having to become somewhat familiar with research studies. The good thing is that I do have the IBLCE's book that has the Core principles and I should be ok if I go by those in answering questions. However, that's where the mnemonics and memorizing come in and so far that could be going better.

What all of this studying has done so far is to instill in me a real sense of wonder. I marvel at the incredibly complex system that lactation is and how incredibly well it has been designed by the Creator to allow us as women to nourish our babies with something that the smartest men in laboratories have been unable to replicate. You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a biochemist to produce the perfect food for your baby. All you have to do is put it to breast. The other thing I'm marveling at is the amazing way in which mothers and babies if given time, space, and encouragement find their own way to work through the various wrinkles in the process. They may have to work on fit for awhile, but eventually if they keep at it, it does work.I still want to become an LC, but what this year of study has taught me more than anything else is that the LLL founding mothers had it right all along. The most important thing we can teach a mother is to listen to and watch her own baby. Occasionally she may need some additional information, and rarely even some devices, but for the most part if she just pretends she got stranded on a desert island and her husband is off killing a pig or picking coconuts, she and her baby will figure out how to get themselves connected and the milk will flow.

That's the normal way of things and that's what I want to encourage. Learning all these facts are simply a way of getting to the point where I can have credentials to help more moms. I feel sort of like I'm cramming for this big test when in fact most of the information is something that I will be able to refer to books to remind myself once I manage to get through the exam. Since I've always been pretty good at cramming, it shouldn't be a big deal. The fact that I've paid so much money just to get qualified for and be able to take the exam makes it a bigger deal than it would be otherwise I think.

So...it's back to the books. Meanwhile, I can breathe a sigh of relief that my daughter and her baby are doing well and finding their way along this path. I can be fascinated by the differences in the babies in our LLL group who can be the same age and totally different in size, personality, and skills while all being totally normal, and at the same time totally incredible. I can honestly say it's been a very interesting year and a half. I'm amazed at how much of learned, I'm amazed at how much I already knew (and hadn't totally forgotten). I'm amazed at mothers and babies. What makes me angry is the fact that so often from the medical professionals that make birth an abnormal experience to the society at large that discounts the value of mothering. we have taken this totally normal human experience and made it more difficult than it has to be. Thus the need for Lactation Consultants to advocate for and help mothers and babies back to a place called Normal Fed.

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