I’m Anita Moorhead and have been working in the field of lactation for 23 years. My formal education was as a nurse, midwife, and graduate certificates in neonatal intensive care and health service management. I first sat ‘the exam’ in 1994 and have remained as a member of LCANZ and certified as an IBCLC ever since.
My interest in lactation was first sparked when I was working in a NICU in Melbourne and started to see the difference that breast milk and breastfeeding was making for mothers and babies. It was the very early days of kangaroo care for Australia and it made so much sense to me. During this time I had my two children and breastfeeding went ok- ABA was part of my journey too. Despite already being a midwife and nurse I needed to know more about the science of breastfeeding so becoming a lactation consultant seemed the natural progression. I remember trying to decipher the ‘blue print’ for the IBCLE exam and thinking – ‘WHAT! – we need to know all this!?’ I now know I needed all that and some. So with some great colleagues and mentors I started to hone my skills in lactation.
Soon after qualifying as an IBCLC I had the opportunity to work in a dedicated breastfeeding service in a tertiary hospital just when breastfeeding clinics were just being established and private ‘LC’s’ few and far between. There was so much to learn from the women and many opportunities to help staff understand the science of breastfeeding, especially when it doesn’t all go easily. As a team we were always having to think of the best ways to care for mothers both in and out of hospital.
I also got involved in BFHI when it was starting in Australia and became an assessor and educator for BFHI while continuing to work as a nurse/midwife and lactation consultant. Through BFHI I met people from other states, hospitals health care settings and it broadened my understanding of how healthcare and breastfeeding services are delivered. A couple of years of working in the early parenting sector, highlighted for me just how difficult and complex it can be for some families and how we have to respond in a very flexible way sometimes.
Teaching has always been a big part of my role and continues to be. I recognise the value of education across the health care disciplines and BFHI is a great framework for that. When women are seeking care with breastfeeding in the health care system many people will look after them, nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, and pharmacists – just to name a few. I’ve worked hard to always recognise the unique role each discipline has to promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding. Collaboration is key. I love being able to help a new nurse, midwife, doctor think about how he or she can sensitively help this mother and baby on this day, right now.
Recently, I found myself enrolled in a PhD working on the DAME (Diabetes and Antenatal Breast Milk Expressing) trial at the Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University. It wasn’t on my bucket list but during my career I have always grabbed opportunities as they come along and working on the DAME trial is a great opportunity. Working alongside so many clever colleagues at the university, who are all working on projects to improve outcomes for families has been very inspiring. There is so much to learn in breastfeeding research but there is so much more to do. Maybe I like to think that this is my putting back into breastfeeding, since the world of breastfeeding has given me so much (including a few headaches at times!)
I’ve always been very committed to attending conferences (thanks LCANZ, ABA and others) as I have always found that there is something to learn, to think differently about but the connections with others at the meal breaks have often been the most valuable. To hear about what others are up to, the challenges, successes and the great work. Often this is where project collaborations have been born. Recently I was fortunate enough to present results from the DAME trial on behalf of the research team at ILCA, in Toronto, Canada– a great honour. Australia and New Zealand were well represented at the conference and we can be very proud of the work that we do. My next conference will be the LCANZ seminar in Sydney in October – I hope to see many of you there.
All work and no play makes me a very boring person. I try to balance my hard work with getting to the beach with Jeff and our kids for swimming, BBQ’s and long walks on the beach. My other guilty (not) pleasure is going to the movies with a bunch of my buddies from nursing training days (37 years since we first met). We meet at an arthouse cinema and we see whatever is on. I think the movie chooses us – we don’t choose the movie. Regardless it’s a great catch-up and time out.
So, what would I tell my 20 something self if I was interested in working in the field of breastfeeding?
Get involved, join committees, learn to read (fast) ‘cos there is lot to keep up with in the journals and never underestimate what you will learn from the women you care for. Your colleagues will be important to help keeping you going, so learn to bake and drink tea. Plan some time out because there are some great movies to see!