For World Breastfeeding Week 2016, we highlight the opportunity and work of two students, Iris Lewis and Susan Howlett.
Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week
Union Institute & University, together with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, August 1 – 7, 2016. This observance offers the opportunity to highlight the work of two students, Iris Lewis and Susan Howlett.
Health & Wellness Student
Iris Lewis’s first love is teaching the Deaf. Her second love is supporting Deaf breastfeeding mothers. She combined the two passions and is launching a career as a lactation consultant that specializes in assisting Deaf women. Her journey began with breastfeeding her own son.
“I faced challenges breastfeeding my son,” said Lewis. “I turned to the La Leche League for help. This was the first time I discovered I wasn’t alone in struggling with breastfeeding. I found out that many moms face the same problems I did,” said Lewis.
It was that revelation that piqued her interest in deafness and breastfeeding. “As the teacher of Deaf children, I had to question if hearing mothers faced obstacles, what were Deaf mothers facing?” She also knew she had to have a master’s in the field to pursue this career dream. That is when she turned to Union for her Master of Arts with a Major in Health & Wellness and a focus on Human Lactation program. “I chose Union because of its commitment to the highest standards possible. I knew a degree from Union would propel my career as a lactation consultant.”
Iris’s thesis examines how deafness impacts breastfeeding outcomes. She found that it takes specialized care in allowing deaf women to describe their experiences through the use of a certified American Sign Language interpreter. Some of the issues to consider include interpreter services, access to communication concordant medical care, access to support groups, goal setting and access prenatal and antenatal education.
While this research is just the beginning in helping the Deaf community, Iris is excited. “I am thrilled with the prospect of making a difference in the lives of Deaf mothers.”
Health & Wellness Student
Susan Howlett is a registered midwife and certified lactation consultant in Ontario. Susan chose Union for her Master of Arts with a Major in Health & Wellness and a focus on Human Lactation to be a better midwife. “I chose Union for several reasons. I wanted a program that was evidence-based, structured, would keep me on track, and allowed me to work fulltime. I found all of that in Union.”
Susan has been a registered midwife since 1994 and is a co-founder of Kawartha Community Midwives in Ontario. “Midwifery care is based on providing care that respects the birthing woman as the primary decision-maker,” said Susan. “The Ontario midwifery model of care also consists of informed choice, continuity of care, and choice of birthplace.” One of her goals in pursuing her master’s is to implement a breastfeeding clinic within the Kawartha Community Midwives.
For that reason, she chose to research sustained breastfeeding rates. Her thesis involved conducting a retrospective cohort study with 30 repeat clients at a community midwifery practice to determine the impact of the Ontario midwifery model of care on sustained breastfeeding duration rates. The study showed double the exclusive breastfeeding rate at six months compared to the provincial average, but many women were having difficulty achieving the Health Canada recommendations for continued breastfeeding “up to two years and beyond”. This study recommends capacity-building through the establishment of midwifery practice breastfeeding clinics staffed by a registered midwife lactation consultant (RM-LC) to provide on-going breastfeeding support beyond six weeks postpartum. This would further enhance breastfeeding support to help clients achieve breastfeeding recommendations for optimal health benefits.
Susan hopes her research sheds light on the need for continued support for breastfeeding moms. “I hope I have provided insight into the challenges breastfeeding mothers can face and the need for sustained support.”