Stepping Up During the Pandemic

May 18 2021

Angela Blouin has been a lactation consultant for Youville Centre for 18 years and has been pleased to watch as services to support families have expanded in that time. “As a community of public health professionals, we’ve done a good job getting the message out that breast feeding is one of the best things you can do for your infant,” she says. “But that also puts a lot of pressure on women to get it right, and it’s not a one-woman job. There is so much that we can and should be doing to support families as a whole.”

Daily peer-support programs, home visits and others support normally available to families ground to halt during the pandemic as many public health nurses were called away to do contact tracing and other tasks related to Covid-19. “When we realized what had happened to services, we knew we had to do something,” continues Blouin. “As a team here at Youville, we reorganized our workloads so that I could start providing 12 appointments a week compared to the two or four I was offering pre-pandemic.”

These extra slots mean the world to families who are struggling to find the right routine for them and their baby. “Some of the people we support are very vulnerable,” explains Blouin. “Last week, I worked with an immigrant who had recently arrived in Canada with her young toddler and a newborn. Her husband hasn’t gotten here yet, she can’t drive and has no support system in place. This is the type of person who truly needs a home visit.”

Finding the balance between in-person care and pandemic safety has been an interesting challenge. “I’ve created a series of videos that cover topics like latching,” Blouin says. “So we start with a phone call and review the videos together. We strategize some things families can try. If that works, wonderful! If not, we can look at an in-person visit, while following all public health guidelines. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that about 30% of our appointments with just phone and video have been able to resolve many of the issues families are facing.”

The impact a lactation consultant can have on a family’s breastfeeding experience is incalculable. In a culture where many expect women to breastfeed, but there is still often a veil of secrecy and a desire to hide the act itself, it’s hard to know where to start. “In cultures where breastfeeding is the norm and celebrated, there’s no need for lactation consultants,” concludes Blouin. “Here in Winnipeg, we have women saying that they have never had someone support their choices or their baby’s preferences. The act of listening and offering advice is incredibly validating for these families. With the right supports, they find success and create a happy, healthy, bonding experience for them and their little one.”

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