Jennifer Caplan, MD, FAAP, IBCLC
North Scottsdale Pediatric Associates, AZ USA
I joined ABM after going to an AAP conference in 2008 with my nursing baby. At the conference, I ended up spending almost the entire time with the Section on Breastfeeding because my baby was not interested in staying with my husband—so I brought her with me. And I felt more comfortable hanging out with the breastfeeding crowd. I ended up riding in an elevator with some of the organizers and one of the women told me I should join ABM.
I had been so energized by the discussions at that conference—learning how to do frenotomies, hearing about the “Ban the Bag” efforts in Massachusetts, finding out about Baby Friendly Hospitals for the first time. So, I joined ABM and attended my first conference in 2009.
Being at an ABM conference is amazing. I’m really not a conference person—networking does not come easily to me, I don’t really like the marketing/advertising hall, but I do love learning about new things. ABM is the only conference I really enjoy going to. I always come away from the conference with at least a dozen new ways to practice and a new energy to spread my knowledge to others. And I love the people I meet at ABM conferences—so many perspectives, so many different ways they express their passion for supporting the mother-baby dyad. After another couple conferences, I had been convinced to become a lactation consultant.
I usually make it to the ABM conference, but even in years where I don’t go, I still get a lot out of my membership. I probably use the protocols more than anything else—always the most up to date, comprehensive source on breastfeeding topics. I enjoy seeing the new research coming out in the journals. And just knowing I’m a part of an amazing group that is a political force for advancing breastfeeding and advocating for women is important to me.
Kristina Lehman, MD, FAAP, ALC
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Internal Medicine and Pediatrics – Hiliard
When I started as a primary care provider (Internal Medicine and Pediatrics) I didn’t have a “focus”. I work at a large academic center so often felt “less than” because I didn’t have a special interest or skill. When I had my first son I knew I would breastfeed but I didn’t know how breastfeeding would build my confidence and help me grow my practice. I have taken the courses to be an Advanced Lactation Consultant, plan to take my IBCLC this year, do lactation specific medical visits, run an elective for medical students at my university, run a support group for our health plan, and participate in a huge online support group for women physicians who want to know more about lactation.
Being a part of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine validates my interest and gives me a place to pursue academic excellence by becoming a fellow. The annual meetings give me a chance to meet with people from all over the world who think and practice just like me. The meetings are like coming home and visiting with my people. I prioritize it every year!
Amber N. Price, MD
University of Chicago
Comer Children’s Hospital – PL3 pediatric resident
I have been attending ABM conferences since I was a medical student. I vividly remember myself, and a fellow medical student (along with our nursing toddlers) “crashing” a meeting the OB/GYN’s were having. Thinking back, I’m sure they thought, “Who are these girls?” However, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Throughout the years, I have continued to feel embraced by the conference attendees. I absolutely LOVE the energy, networking, and professional development that take place every year. As a pediatric resident you would think it would be easy to connect with others who have a passion for breastfeeding education and medicine, but surprisingly it can be a challenge. However, when I attend the conferences I am surrounded by others who share my enthusiasm and I leave with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.
I have had so many doors open for me as a result of connections made at the ABM conferences. The size of the conference is perfect. It is small enough to really get a chance to know people, yet large enough to establish vital professional contacts. Also, the fact that ABM supports and encourages physician mothers to bring their nurslings in tow shows how family oriented and progressive the organization is. This means so much, especially for those who have not always received positive feedback with trying to be a breastfeeding mother and physician in the workplace. Personally, this is a must attend conference every year and a priority for my career development. I clear my calendar a year in advance in anticipation of the next conference and always know that it will be a great time!
Melanie Stone, MD FACOG
ObGyn of Lancaster
As an OB-Gyn generalist, I am so glad to have found The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. I have now attended two ABM conferences and plan to attend my third in Atlanta this fall. Through the course of my career, I have discovered a passion for Breastfeeding support and activism. Sometimes, this can feel like a lonely position for an OB-Gyn. Even though we are the experts in pregnancy and women’s health, we get shockingly little training about Breastfeeding in residency. We are often seen as part of the problem with Breastfeeding in America. I want to be part of the solution. Breastfeeding Medicine is an exciting discipline because there is so much to learn and so much amazing research happening. It is also a field which incorporates preventative medicine and global health. Advocating for Breastfeeding is fighting the good fight for better health for everyone. Once I expressed an interest in Breastfeeding Medicine, my partners began turning to me with all their questions. ABM membership and conferences help me have the knowledge to be an advocate for my patients and a resource for my colleagues. I am excited to see what we learn and where we go next. I’m not a lonely ObGyn Breastfeeding advocate anymore, I found my people in the ABM.
Holly W. Cummings, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
During my residency training in OB/Gyn, I received what I thought was an adequate, and even above-average, amount of education about breastfeeding. I placed babies skin to skin immediately after birth, encouraged breastfeeding, and learned about all-purpose nipple ointment from the hospital lactation consultants. I was happy to encourage and support breastfeeding to the best of my abilities and was ready to treat mastitis (antibiotics and encourage continued nursing) and breast abscesses (incision and drainage) on both my in-service exams and in real life, as the occasion rose. But when my own first baby was born, breastfeeding was a challenge I could not have ever previously imagined. The number of potential breastfeeding problems that might occur before a patient can even breastfeeding long enough to develop mastitis is enormous. For me, cracked and bleeding nipples and excessive neonatal weight loss within the first 48 hours led to triple feeds and a nipple shield to allow my breasts to heal for the first few weeks. After struggling with latching for 12 weeks, I turned to exclusive pumping and found a success story of sorts, pumping for 14 months. That was also my first year as an attending physician, and I found my patients were going through similar struggles once their babies arrived and they faced the realities of breastfeeding. I supplemented my standard residency breastfeeding education with my real-world experience and tried to support my patients as best I could.
Thankfully, my second baby didn’t have any latching difficulties, we’ve had a pretty uneventful (in the sense that there haven’t been any problems; there have been many happy events) breastfeeding relationship, and this round of personal experience has supplemented my breastfeeding education further. I continue to support, teach, and treat my patients’ breastfeeding issues, but I still feel the most comfortable medically with the issues I myself have faced. I’m a novice, learning as I go, as I address other lactation challenges with my patients. For instance, I have never had a problem with milk supply, and therefore have no personal experience with galactagogues.
However, this shouldn’t matter. In every other field of medicine, there is no instinct to treat patients based on our personal experiences; in fact, we are explicitly trained not to do this. Why am I relying on my personal experiences to supplement my Breastfeeding Medicine knowledge? It is with this mindset that I attended the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine conference in 2016, and was introduced to a community of like-minded professionals and a wealth of Breastfeeding Medicine knowledge. I was heartened to meet so many others physicians who treat breastfeeding mothers, across so many specialties, and impressed with the research presented. My basic medical training and personal experiences are now supplemented by evidence, and this has allowed me to improve my skills as a physician. I look forward to future ABM meetings and the evolution of my abilities as a lifelong learner practicing evidence-based Breastfeeding Medicine.
Liz Langthorn, MPH
University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, MS3
ABM is important to me because it is critical to raise the professional training and credibility of physicians supporting lactating parents.
I’m coming to medicine after being a birth doula, working in public health, and serving on a Fetal Infant Mortality Review Board. Through all of these, there is a disconnect between the messaging around breastfeeding, the mission to reduce infant mortality and morbidity, and actual boots on the ground support for lactating parents.
I’m coming to Breastfeeding Medicine after personal experience with the lack of medical training around breastfeeding when my beloved family doctor was not trained to support breastfeeding in the presence of tongue tie. It struck me how badly we need a Breastfeeding Medicine doctor in our area, to support families with babies with ties, support lactating parents undergoing their own medical care, and support lactating physicians to meet their own breastfeeding goals.
I am with the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine because it helps me communicate to other physicians the advantage a local Breastfeeding Medicine doctor, and how they and their patients will ultimately benefit from the specialization. I attend the ABM conference to stay up to date on research from around the world and to meet others working in the field. I read the ListServ as a form of case-based learning to augment my medical school education. I use the protocols to help families advocate for themselves as they navigate lactation and healthcare decisions. Ultimately, I am grateful for ABM so I am not alone in my journey to support breastfeeding at the highest level of healthcare.
Dr. Erin E Appleton
MD, CCFP, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Medicine Specialist
Lethbridge Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic
What has it meant to be a part of the ABM?
For me, it has meant the world. It has represented t
he end of one time in my career, and the beginning of my passion. It has meant friendships and connections forged. It has meant passion ignited and pushed the winds of change in my practice after each and every meeting. The beginning of my journey toward fellowship, the middle and now steering to the end of the road. Almost there!!!! This next meeting will be the last before reaching my current career goal! And then I feel certain, ABM will help me find my next goal.
Together, we are as one; one singular and uniting purpose: promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation. ABM and all its members, you are the foundation for that exact purpose. And I am so very grateful every day for the existence of such a wide reaching and powerful voice.
Compiled by Laurie B. Jones, MD, IBCLC. Dr. Jones is a pediatrician in Arizona and founder of Dr. Milk. You can follow her on Twitter @DoctorDrMILK
Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.