Supporting Through the Project - Jan's Story

Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC, FILCA, is another wonderful volunteer who has dedicated her time to assist with the Mother-Baby project. Her story below outlines why she was interested to help the project and apply her passion.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself? 

I am a Maternal/Child Health nurse by background and have worked in every aspect of MCH except the NICU.  I have been a lactation consultant since 1985, working in private practice for 31 years and for a pediatric practice for 23 years.  I have been teaching aspiring lactation consultants since 1995, and continue to do so. My husband is a semi-retired pharmacist, and I have three children -- my oldest daughter is a family nurse practitioner, my middle daughter is a social worker, and my son works for Save the Children in Washington DC.  I have four grandchildren, two girls and two boys.

2. How did you become involved in maternal and child health?

Truly I got started because I was teaching Fundamentals of Nursing in a two year diploma nursing program and wanted to get out of teaching first year. The only opening was in OB nursing in the second year so that was my entree into MCH back in 1971. 

3. What led you to become a breastfeeding advocate?

Breastfeeding came rather easily to me with my first two, but I was a bit puzzled by the conflicting information I would get on breastfeeding and parenting, it just didn't jibe with what I was *feeling* as though I should be doing.  My son was the third baby delivered by home birth (perfect birth!) but he couldn't figure out this breastfeeding gig at all.  Once we’d finally got it pulled together, despite making no milk on one side (we've never figured that one out), I met a woman who had taken one of the first lactation programs in the US. She was the first lactation consultant in the state of IL and we joined forces and became The Breastfeeding Connection in 1985.  The more I learned about breastfeeding and human lactation, the more I knew I needed to help other moms and families.

4. How did being a mother yourself influence your approach to breastfeeding?

I wish I had done things differently. I listened too much to my mother and not enough to my own instincts, something I have really encouraged moms to do since then.

 5. What challenges did you have and what support did you receive? 

Not much with babies one and two, but my number three wouldn't latch and was not a vigorous nurser. I produced virtually no milk on the left side and no reason was ever found. I got support from Pat, the woman who was the first lactation consultant in IL.  We muddled our way through all this together.

6. What do you think are the biggest challenges for mothers today in your community to breastfeeding?

There are too many interventions in L&D (Labor and Delivery) causing more problems with initiating good breastfeeding and latch. In addition, there are too many rules surrounding breastfeeding (feed every x hours for x minutes on each side) and not enough practical support.  Whilst there are good IBCLCs in our community there are not enough of them and they have limited resources to help all moms.

7. Why do you think that despite the evidence, the numbers of women breastfeeding are declining? Why do you think women often don't get support from communities and society in general that they should?

Part of the problem is the formula companies that are eager to "support" moms that are having breastfeeding difficulties, the nasty articles that come out about breastfeeding in the media, and a whole host of other things.  Millennials want to be able to quantify everything, and you can't quantify breastfeeding.  There is a lack of support between mom going home and her ability to connect with someone who provides good breastfeeding help during that first week at home.  Sometimes our health system processes are not terribly supportive and will encourage moms to supplement or quit all together rather than taking the time to deal with the problems and/or refer her to someone that can help further.

8. Why have you become involved in the Mother-Baby project?

I love the concept of having something that our millennials (and younger) will be able to use at 2:00am when there is an issue. 

 9. What role do you think innovation can play in promoting this age old practice?

Many people use "Dr. Google" to try and find out what is going on with their breastfeeding issues.  Unfortunately there is a veritable forest of poor information out there. Having something that is current, up to date, and easily accessed will help these moms get over the humps they are experiencing in breastfeeding.