LCANZ Member Spotlight: Anita Bearzatto

My name is Anita Bearzatto. I am a General Practitioner and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant from Melbourne. I work in private practice and do some sessions at the The Royal Women’s Hospital. I see families with complicated breastfeeding problems and I continue to see general practice patients with a focus on maternal and child health. I enjoy providing lactation education to health care professionals and to the community. I also continue to educate myself at every opportunity and I am a member of LCANZ, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), a professional member of ABA, and a member of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Here is the story of how I came to be working in this career that I love.

After completing my medical degree at Monash University I found myself drawn to a career in General Practice. I found fulfilment helping individuals in all stages of their lives. I also thoroughly enjoyed my time completing a diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology which gave me more experience in maternity and newborn care.

On a personal note, from an early age I was conscious of my own maternal instincts and love for babies and I always knew that bringing up my own children and enjoying my family would be a priority. I also wanted to ensure I had time for my other interests such as travelling and maintaining good relationships with family and friends. I was conscious of making career choices that would enable a satisfying work/life balance.

My journey into a career in lactation kind of found me. And I’m so pleased it did. After many years of working as a GP I moved to live overseas for my husband’s work. Breastfeeding my first child sparked my interest in learning about lactation. I embarked on studying for the IBCLC exam being unsure where it would lead me. There were two things I worked out very quickly. One, I was blown away learning about the science of lactation (nothing I’d ever learnt in medical school) and two, that studying (and later working in this field) connected me to my strong maternal side. As many of you would appreciate, I was drawn to that special feeling Oxytocin gives. To have stopped my own breastfeeding experiences but to continue to get such fulfilment in helping others. I say Oxytocin is the hormone that keeps on giving!

I obtained my IBCLC qualification in 2007 (and recently re certified by exam). I started working as an LC in Singapore. I was unable to work as a doctor there due to restrictions placed on overseas trained doctors. Whilst I was initially despondent that I couldn’t work in the career I’d trained in I knew I loved clinical work and thoroughly enjoyed working as an LC. I worked at a fantastic organisation called Mother and Child, Singapore. I taught antenatal and postnatal classes, worked in well baby clinics and lactation clinics including doing home visits. I thank the lactation consultants there for giving me an amazing foundation of knowledge and clinical skills. I also learnt so much from the varied cultural groups I was exposed to. I learnt to be open minded and that there were so many different ways to do things ‘right’.

On returning to Australia I was fortunate to be able to combine my role as an LC into my work in General Practice. I commenced work with Dr Lisa Amir who has and continues to provide me with encouragement and support. Mentors such as Lisa have inspired me to help others especially any doctors interested in learning more about breastfeeding. I am acutely aware and frustrated by the lack of teaching doctors receive about lactation. I am pleased to be connected with some very motivated doctors who share my concern and hopefully this situation will improve in future years.

I feel I am learning every day from the families I see. There are tough days trying to help mums with nipple pain and unsettled babies. Then there are the special days seeing joy in a parent’s eyes as their baby self latches or seeing the wonder of the body that enables breastfeeding without birthing.

Finally, my own breastfeeding experiences with my three children varied from amazing to hard work. I think this in itself has helped me to be better at my work. I understand the mother whose breastfeeding experience is one of the most special experiences of her life, and the mother who will try to get it right at all costs, and the mother who is disappointed that things haven’t worked out. Most are doing the best they can with the supports they have. My experiences (personal and work) have taught me respect, patience and perspective. In particular I respect those in this field that have more experience than I.

Now that it has been more than twenty years working as a Doctor, and more than ten of those as an LC, I feel very happy to be working in a career that I love and I feel blessed to have achieved that work/life balance that I strived for so many years ago.

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