This month, we wanted to spice some things up and share a little piece that helps you get to know the women behind the articles and work from Advanced Breastfeeding Support! There is more to both of these ladies than breastfeeding and we love sharing why they got into this work they’re so passionate about!
Autumn Wake (top right), is a Registered Nurse turned Lactation Consultant and has been working with families in the Las Vegas Community for the last 5 years, and is the founder of Advanced Breastfeeding Support. Laura Cooper (top left) changed her career path in psychology to become an IBCLC and has been teamed up with Autumn for the last three years.
How did you get into this line of work?
Autumn: My passion for this work started when I was pregnant with my first. I took the classes, read the books, and there was no question in my mind I would breastfeed my daughter. After having my daughter, nursing started off ok. But about the 3rd day of life, my newborn baby ended up in the NICU for dehydration — later I found out she wasn’t getting enough milk from me. After discharge, I was referred to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)by our pediatrician, and thankfully I followed through!
At that time, I didn’t even really understand that there was such a title or career, but am ever so grateful for the help I received. For the first 4 months of my daughter’s life, I battled almost every possible breastfeeding issue. From low milk supply and triple feeds (this means you pump, bottle and breastfeed- hard work!). We found out she had a tongue tie with subsequent laser release. After that I got a giant abscess which had to be drained and I had two months of subsequent care from a wound care doctor.
I fought every battle I came across and overcame every obstacle. It was literally the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I breastfed her through my next pregnancy, and for a total of 5.5 years I nourished and loved every moment of breastfeeding my kids. My second breastfeeding journey was a lot less hectic, so it was a sweet ending to my own personal breastfeeding journey.
Laura: I have three amazing children. All of them were breastfed. And with all of them I had certain challenges. I graduated in 2013 with my Bachelor’s degree in psychology. I was on track and preparing to apply to graduate programs, working in a couple of research labs on campus as a research assistant, and then we decided to have another baby. While I took time off from school to grow and nurse my third child, I started looking for a way I could help others while still staying home with my babies.
I was already passionate about helping my peers with breastfeeding issues, since I had been through many of them. I achieved my CLEC (Certified Lactation Education Counselor) online through UCSD Extension. It was at that point I realized helping families with infant feeding was not just a placeholder, but a career that I was absolutely meant for.
About a year or so later I met Autumn and she was a guiding force and helped me navigate that path. Fueled by my passion, I pursued my newfound career. A few years later I achieved the gold standard in lactation- International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I have also added a labor doula certification to the mix to be able to more fully serve our clients.
How did you and Laura meet?
Autumn: In 2014, I started the steps to become an IBCLC and I started working with a local Midwife Group where Laura also worked, and we immediately clicked and realized we were two peas in a pod! As she pursued her IBCLC education, she needed a mentor and for about a year or two she was my “assistant,” getting hours for her program. After working together for so long, I realized how sad I would be without her and how well we worked together and I asked her to join me and she did!
What is something that you love outside of work?
Autumn: Gardening! I have a huge garden that I spend a lot of time in, and hang out with my chickens. Nutrition and gut health are other aspects of my life that I take very seriously. Eating well and nourishing my family is very important to me. It’s part of what led me to get serious about growing my food, and building a little homestead in the desert. We have three chickens, two desert tortoises and a family dog on our little urban farm.
Laura: Traveling! Any chance we get, my family and I are looking to make memories and enjoy new experiences. That is absolutely what life is all about. I love being outside and we hike at least every other week. I find it healing and also provides so much family bonding time. If I’m not out with my family experiencing new things on the weekends, then I am usually enjoying a yoga class or cuddled up on the couch with my family and our three cats for a movie night.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Autumn: My favorite part of my job is that I get to work with such cute babies! However, the most rewarding part is that I get to help people at such a key point in their lives, and the beginning of a parenting journey. I remember how nervous I was becoming a mom and how much I didn’t know with my first child. Being able to teach families about the benefits of breastfeeding, optimizing infant development and helping them get through such a hard time. This makes me feel like I am doing something good to shape these new tiny humans and families.
I love helping a family overcome obstacles and getting to see their babies grow along the way. We usually see clients until they don’t need us anymore (1-7 visits or more for some families). Another rewarding part for me is getting updates from clients and referrals of their friends as their babies grow.
Laura: There really are so many things. I love witnessing the strength and innate behaviors in my clients they may not have known was there. Having witnessed people draw on “maternal drive” is incredibly impressive and drives me to keep doing this job. I love it when they come to conclusions and do things based on instinct and listening to their “momma gut.”
It’s an incredible thing to have the privilege to see and these cases always move me. I also enjoy watching families meet their goals. When all that hard work pays off, it almost always brings me to tears, especially after a hard journey. Who wouldn’t love seeing and getting to hold all these adorable babies? Seriously, our clients have some very cute kiddos and I soak in 100% of those moments.
What is the challenging part of your job?
Autumn: There are some challenging parts that go hand in hand when we’re helping people through this time of life. Hormones and stress level are high in our clients. Laura and I both tend to take on emotions of the people we are surrounded with. Separating myself from the emotional aspect has been a big growing opportunity since becoming an IBCLC, that’s for sure!
Another difficult aspect is the understanding of breastfeeding with some Healthcare Professionals we encounter. We sometimes find they often contradict what we are educating and recommending to our clients. It’s challenging because we are the experts. We have taken thousands of combined hours studying every aspect of lactation and our clients can be left wondering who to believe. I have been a nurse for almost 15 years and I can tell you- I didn’t learn anything in nursing school about breastfeeding. I learned a lot about medications that help you with Labor, but read maybe a blurb or a paragraph in a chapter about breastfeeding. Medical Doctors, Nurses, and Physician’s Assistants I have cared for have even stated that they didn’t spend any time in their medical schooling on the subject. I wish for the future HCP’s we would push for more education on breastfeeding.
Laura: We grow the most when we are outside of our comfort zone. My least favorite moments are performing active wound management after frenectomy and/or reattachment. I’ve been known to cry after these appointments. It’s difficult for me to see people struggling in any way, so although I’m happy to help, it’s hard for me to manage emotionally at times. I’m seeing my clients at a very vulnerable time in their lives – hormones are swirling and emotions are high, especially if there are infant feeding obstacles involved. In general, this is difficult to navigate and takes a lot of emotional and physical energy on my part as well as the client’s.
Client compliance can be a challenge at times as well. Working hard to provide my clients with an evidence-based care plan and then either having other medical professionals question it. Or when clients have a difficult time being able to follow the suggestions to meet their goals can be heartbreaking. Saying goodbye for the last time seeing a family always gets me as well. It’s so bitter-sweet. They are graduating to no longer needing me, but I miss seeing them regularly. I agree with Autumn that the pictures and updates they send adds to the rewarding part of my job.