Leah Virgin, IBCLC, RN
I have extensive training experience with the nursing staffs of each department (postpartum, nursery, med-surgery, intensive care unit (ICU), NICU Levels III and II) of the hospitals I have worked in. I helped improve the staffs knowledge, procedures, and bed side manner when working with new mothers.
I also trained other aspiring lactation counselors in both one on one and in a group settings; mentoring them through their novice lactation years including follow ups to their assessments and encouraging their continuing education through conferences and online resources such as webinars.
Under the ABC Program in Tampa Florida, I taught breastfeeding and newborn care classes to new and expectant mothers. These classes help those referred to the program to better understand the developmental and physiological needs of the newborn while encouraging families to take responsibility for the growth and attachment of their children.
My breastfeeding journey started 13 years ago when we welcomed our eldest son into the world. For me, I thought that reading about breastfeeding, taking a newborn class, and knowing that I wanted to do it would be all that I needed to give our son a great breastfeeding journey. If you're reading this, then you most likely know that wanting something is not the same as knowing how to do it.
I had received a myriad of helpful and not helpful advice during my many weeks of pregnancy. I knew from reading that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt even though I was told time and again that it would be painful in the beginning weeks. I assumed that since I knew what a latch looked like from the books and birthing class that I would be able to recreate it and avoid pain.
After a very, very long labor we welcomed our son into the world who was quickly whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for observation since he had swallowed some meconium stained amniotic fluid. I did not get my skin to skin or first feed. In my mind I didn't think much of it, I was just so excited he was here and alert and healthy. He was discharged from NICU soon after I was wheeled into my room on the postpartum unit, thankfully no NICU extended stay. He was completely asleep and I was beyond exhausted myself. During that era of time, skin to skin was not encouraged where I delivered, and no one pushed me to wake him to feed. Sooo… we slept. After my son continued to be sleepy all the time I started to worry. I started to ask questions, but unfortunately the nurses were not able to help as their training, education, and experience was limited in the practice of breastfeeding. I would come to learn many years later when I became a nursing student, that nursing students are taught a minimal amount of information about breastfeeding.
So with a sleepy baby, an exhausted mother, a staff that thought things were going well, and an obstetrician who encouraged me to circumcise in the hospital, even though he had not fed much at all, we headed down a steep hill toward nutritional disaster.
Once home things progressed toward sore nipples and an excessively sleepy baby who was attempting to conserve what little calories and energy he had. Those little stores of fat on his little body were slowly disappearing while he tried to get more from an incorrect latch and a slowly diminishing breastmilk supply.
Our first pediatrician appointment revealed that indeed we had a baby who was trying to conserve calories and was failure to thrive. He was losing weight quickly and my nipples were beginning to look red and swollen. My breasts hurt because he wasn't transferring the milk I was making and I didn't realize I was quickly losing my milk supply because he was not effectively nursing. So, of course, the pediatrician prescribed supplementation. I was devastated by the end of that appointment knowing how much I wanted to provide for my newborn son. Seeing my tears, the pediatrician handed me a card for an IBCLC and told me she might be able to help me.
Once we were home, exhausted physically and emotionally, I called the lactation consultant and she assured us she could help us at her office or my home. As exhausted as I was, we chose to pay extra for a home consultation. Although the cost initially seemed beyond our young married financial situation, it was worth every cent and more for what she provided.
Our Lactation consultant identified and changed what I was doing incorrectly and gave us a plan to get our son nutritionally back on track. While I wish I could remember her name, I will never forget what she did for us. She saved our breastfeeding relationship, my sanity, my sons health, and my perceptions about breastfeeding. She even impacted the course of my life! I was working in politics with a public relations degree. Little did I know that I would become so passionate about helping other mothers to breastfeed that I would become a certified lactation counselor, then sit for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants exam to become and IBCLC, go to nursing school to help in-hospital mothers breastfeed and have my own lactation practice!
I know that my story is similar to other's breastfeeding journeys. I wanted to tell about my story so that my clients know that I’m not just an extremely well educated lactation consultant, but a mother who has surmounted breastfeeding difficulties and the emotions that go with that process.
In addition to our eldest son, we have a middle son who I tandem nursed with an oversupply, and an adopted daughter who I successfully exclusively breastfed. I look forward to helping you with your breastfeeding journey!