Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Copy Right! Using Images in Your Presentations and Teaching Materials Appropriately

December 3rd, 2013 by avatar

Today on Science & Sensibility, contributor Andrea Lythgoe, LCCE, birth doula and photographer shares information about using images and text in your work as a birth professional – for teaching, marketing or other purposes.  Using images and other works responsibly is the right thing to do, but you may be confused on how to go about it.  Today’s post will help and on Thursday I share information on how to locate materials that you are free to use. – Sharon Muza, Community Manager

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/

When you are a childbirth educator or other birth professional, you may find yourself teaching a class, giving a presentation, designing a website or making attractive handouts and marketing materials. You take great pains to make sure that your work is visually pleasing and attractive.

You may be inclined to find images for your work by quickly searching online for exactly the right picture to get your message across.  It’s easy, it’s quick and free.

Photographs, drawings, paintings, music, writing and all other artwork are protected by copyright laws, and you cannot use them without the permission of the artist. Ever. It does not need to say “copyright” in order to be copyrighted. It does not need to be watermarked. It does not need to say “All Rights Reserved.” The copyright exists the moment the work is created. There are serious consequences for taking others’ work without permission.

When you are producing something that will be used for educational purposes, you might wonder if the laws allow you to use copyrighted images under those circumstances. There is an exception to the copyright law called “Fair Use” where it might be acceptable to use them without permission or payment. But what exactly constitutes “fair use” can be very complicated and hazy. I’m not an attorney, but I do have some suggestions to keep you firmly in the realm of safe use.

Don’t use images without permission for commercial use

Don’t use images without permission for anything remotely commercial, unless they are images you acquired under a Creative Commons license.  (See this Thursday’s post for more on Creative Commons.)  If your web site, blog or social media site is promoting your childbirth classes, you’re advertising a commercial venture. If your handout is used during classes that you’re being paid to teach, that’s profit making and probably not OK. If you’re presenting at a conference and being paid to present – ask permission. Even if you are not being paid, check to see if the conference is going to be selling a recording of your presentation. At the most recent Lamaze International conference, a company recorded audio that was synced to the presenter’s Powerpoint, which was then made available for purchase. Any images in those presentations are therefore being resold for profit. This means you need permission for commercial use of those photos, diagrams, and graphics.

Don’t modify anything without permission

Modifying includes cropping, removing a watermark, turning it black and white, making it part of a collage, adding text to turn it into a meme, or anything else you might be tempted to change. As a birth photographer, I am very careful of my client’s privacy and want to make sure that their family’s personal moments are only used in the ways they are comfortable with. I may turn down a request to use a photo in a meme because the parents declined to allow me to give third parties a right to use it. I might not allow you to use it in a poster because the parents would prefer limited exposure. Imagine how upset the parents could be to come across it somewhere they did not expect it. Consider the difficult position that puts me in – it appears that I have violated their trust in allowing me to share their images at all.

Credit appropriately

When you are using images with permission, inquire from the photographer or artist how they would like to be credited.  Most people will be happy with their name and website (linked if possible) near the picture, so people are aware of the source.  Find out how to type the “©” symbol for your particular keyboard/computer/software and use it. Alternately, in your presentation, be sure that the owner of the image is credited on the slide where the image is placed.  Printed marketing materials can include information close to the image or in a discreet location at the bottom if appropriate.

Share on social media appropriately

When you see something you want to share on social media, make sure you share rather than download and post as if it were your own. If sharing is blocked, there’s likely a reason! Don’t share from someone who has obviously uploaded other’s content as their own already, either. As a photographer, I’d love it if my images are seen by a wider audience, but I want that audience to be able to know who created the work. I often see beautiful paintings or photos shared without that connection to the artist maintained.

Do not copy and paste text

When it comes to text, don’t ever copy and paste. Writing your own content is crucial to having your own voice. Plagiarizing content is not a victimless offense. I will never forget an experience I had earlier this year when a woman I had been mentoring posted a link to her new web site asking for feedback on the template she used. The wording was mine. It was the wording I’d spent weeks working on to get just right. And just when I thought I had it perfect, I’d had friends and family read and give me feedback. This triggered another round of edits.

And with a simple copy and paste, this woman had stolen my hard work. I must be honest and tell you that it hurt.

Even if you plan to change a few words here and there, that is probably not enough to make it your own. If you’re using enough of someone else’s words that you need to copy and paste, it’s likely too much.

You can quote someone – no more than a paragraph or two – but it needs to be clearly attributed as a quote and should be in the context of your own writing. The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Perdue University suggests:

“Use quotes that will have the most rhetorical, argumentative impact in your paper; too many direct quotes from sources may weaken your credibility, as though you have nothing to say yourself, and will certainly interfere with your style.”


As you create your web sites, presentations, class materials, marketing pieces and illustrate your own writing with visuals, please remember that artwork, including photographs, is still work, and that the artists have families to feed and clothe as well. They deserve the respect of honoring that work with a respect of their copyright and payment if they request it.

Please don’t look at copyright law as “Can I rationalize this as an acceptable use?” but instead think in terms of “How can I make sure I am using this appropriately?” – As an artist, my livelihood depends on it.

When in doubt, leave it out!

Check back on Science & Sensibility on Thursday, when Sharon Muza will share information and resources on how to find and access Creative Commons images and other works that you might be able to use freely or even modify if needed for your purpose. Let us know in the comments section what challenges you have faced in creating your own presentations and teaching materials, and any solutions you might have found.


Childbirth Education, Continuing Education, Guest Posts, Science & Sensibility, Series: Finding and Using Images and Copy, Social Media , , , , , , ,

Insta-gram or Insta-gasp? The Ethics of Sharing on Social Media for Birth Professionals

October 24th, 2013 by avatar

Attorney and Lactation Consultant Liz Brooks, President of the International Lactation Consultant Association, takes a look at the issues that childbirth professionals might want to consider before sharing information on a social media platform like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or others.  Do you follow the HIPAA guidelines, even if you are not bound to do so?  What has been your experience?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in our comments section. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.


Is it ever ethical for a healthcare provider (HCP) to post a photograph or video of a patient on a website or Facebook page? My first reaction is “Heck No!,” but the question deserves a deeper look, especially since social media platforms serve as a predominant means of communication, marketing and information-sharing. It is the way we can speak to today’s mothers, and it is the way they insist on reaching us. 

Privacy and confidentiality are hallmarks of the traditional healthcare professions. I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and right there, in my ethical code (called the IBLCE Code of Professional Conduct for IBCLCs, or CPC), it says at Principle 3 “Preserve the confidentiality of clients.” Further, I am required under the CPC (a mandatory practice-guiding document) to “Refrain from photographing, recording or taping (audio or video) a mother or her child for any purpose unless the mother has given advance written consent on her behalf and that of her child.” 2011 IBLCE CPC, 3.2. Translation: If I want to take a picture of a mother for any reason at all (to document healing of a damaged nipple, perhaps), even if I drop it into a patient folder only I will ever see, and which I lock away in a file cabinet, I had better get the mother’s written consent first. 

But what about a doula or childbirth educator? Are doulas or educators considered “healthcare providers” in the way a doctor, nurse, midwife or IBCLC would be? Or are they removed from the rules in healthcare?

The Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) describes the doula as an important informational and emotional link between the pregnant/laboring woman and her healthcare providers … a part of the birth team. DONA International, another doula organization, describes the role as “a knowledgeable, experienced companion who stays with [the mother] through labor, birth and beyond.”

This is what else we learn from CAPPA and DONA International: It is clear that privacy of the mother is paramount. Any person who is certified through CAPPA is expected to follow a Code of Conduct that is quite plain in its requirement to protect privacy: “CAPPA certified professionals will not divulge confidential information received in a professional capacity from their clients, nor compromise clients’ confidentiality either directly or through the use of internet media such as Facebook or blogs.” (Page 1, Bullet 4, CAPPA Code of Conduct.) The Code of Ethics from DONA International echoes this requirement: “Confidentiality and Privacy. The doula should respect the privacy of clients and hold in confidence all information obtained in the course of professional service.” (DONA Int’l Code of Ethics Birth Doula, 2008.)

Childbirth educators are held to a similar standard. Lamaze International, which offers an international certification for those who are working with pregnant women and their families, has a Code of Ethics for its Certified Childbirth Educators. That Code indicates “Childbirth educators should respect clients’ right to privacy. Childbirth educators should not solicit private information from clients unless it is essential to providing services. Once a client shares private information with the childbirth educator standards of confidentiality apply.” (Standard 1.07, 2006 Code of Ethics, Lamaze International.)

So it seems that healthcare providers, childbirth educators and doulas alike should NOT be posting pictures of their clients/patients on the Internet. So why are we seeing so many of them?

Because if the mother agrees to have her picture or personal information shared, her informed consent changes everything. The notion of protecting privacy is that the patient or client ought to be in control of whatever information gets shared with the outside world. Anyone who has attended a conference, and benefited from education that included clinical photographs, knows that some clients/patients are willing to allow their images to be seen by others. They may require conditions of use (i.e. do not show the face), but they willingly agree.

“So all I have to do is just ask the mother?” you wonder. Well … not so fast. Some other considerations may (dare I say it?) cloud the picture:

  1. Some healthcare providers, hospitals or birth facilities may have rules of their own affecting whether or not images may be taken, by you or even the family. You will need understandings and consent up front, often signed on forms as proof, before you can whip out the smart phone. 
  2. If the doula or childbirth educator has a professional, business relationship with other healthcare providers, or healthcare facilities, she may well be considered a “business associate” for purposes of the privacy-protecting sections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and its first cousin in enforcement, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Under HIPAA/HITECH “business associates” who have ANY kind of access to patient information (like: name and address) are held to the same standard for privacy as the healthcare provider. And if there are breaches of privacy, both the business associate AND the HCP are held liable. Enforcement actions recently have included actions against small practices, including the levying of some hefty fines. The person working with the family, who has a professional relationship with a covered entity under HIPAA, should be certain that her own business associate agreement is up-to-date and signed. It is important that she respect the requirements set by her (probably skittish) business partner, before she seeks the mother’s consent.
  3. Make sure you and the mother are very clear in your understanding of what her “consent” really means. Many a mother has been disappointed that her great and wonderful news announcing her baby came from someone else first … even if the plan all along was to have everyone share the great news once mom revealed it.

Discuss all the possibilities with the patient/client. Who can publicly discuss the pregnancy/birth/sonogram? Who can take and post pictures? What and who can be included in the pictures (faces, body parts, location-identifying background all matter). Who can text? Who can tweet? Is a link back to a website or Facebook page by the mother required? When can all of this take place?

As a savvy advocate for the mother, you may want to suggest that she have these same discussions with her own circle of family and friends. While they will not be held to the legal and ethical standards required of a doula or HCP, the disappointment will be no less acute for the mother if the glorious news of her pregnancy or birth is spilled by a friend, first. 

As doulas, childbirth educators, IBCLCs and HCPs who work in maternal-child health, we are privileged to be willingly called into the intensely personal and life-changing events that pregnancy, birth and early parenting represent. Our need to respect the wishes, dignity and privacy of the family are not diminished because modern technology makes news-sharing so easy.

About Liz Brooks

Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA, is a lawyer (since 1983) and earned her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant credential in 1997 after several years as a lay breastfeeding counselor.  Before she left the practice of law, Liz worked as a criminal prosecutor, a lobbyist and a litigator, with a focus on ethics and administrative law.  That expertise followed her to lactation:  She wrote the 2013 book, “Legal and Ethical Issues for the IBCLC,” and was lead author for one ethics chapter in each of three other books.

Liz is on the ILCA Board of Directors (President 2012-2014).  She was designated Fellow of the International Lactation Consultant Association (FILCA) in 2008. She currently is the United States Lactation Consultant Association Alternate to the United States Breastfeeding Committee and is an Elected Representative on their Board of Directors (2012-14).  Liz can be reached through her website.



Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, informed Consent, Legal Issues , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Purchased Breastmilk Overflowing with Bacteria? The Facts Behind the Sensationalistic Headlines.

October 22nd, 2013 by avatar

 By Suzanne Barston

Suzanne Barston, author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t and blogger on topics related to infant feeding discusses the new study that examines bacterial levels found in breastmilk purchased online.  Did you bother to look beyond the headlines to see what the research showed.  How will you respond to clients, patients and students who ask you what you think and wonder how safe it is to feed their babies purchased or donor milk?  Suzanne points us toward some great information and takes a level-headed look at what this study actually tells us.  To learn more about Suzanne, please read Walker Karraa’s interview with Suzanne for Science & Sensibility here.- Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

© http://bit.ly/Hc2W86

As someone who supports formula feeding parents, I’m used to sensationalized media coverage of studies that confuses real risk with relative risk. It’s taught me to look at research with a critical eye, rather than accepting what the reporters (or even the study authors, at times) claim is absolute truth. 

This week’s splashy headlines involved breastmilk, not formula, but the end result has been quite familiar: frightened parents, frustrated advocates, and confused bloggers. Everyone’s talking about a new study published this week in Pediatrics, which according to its authors “documents the potential for human milk shared via the Internet to cause infectious disease by estimating the extent of microbial contamination among samples purchased via a leading Internet Web site.” Some took the findings of this study – the discovery that most of the obtained samples contained pathogenic bacteria – to be proof that milk donation is a risky business. Others insinuated that this was a social problem; that puritanical/paternalistic attitudes towards breastfeeding and feminine bodily fluids cast unwarranted suspicion on milk sharing, and provoked a dire dismissal of relative risk (after all, formula is subject to bacterial contamination as well).

The “absolute truth”, I believe, is floating somewhere in the middle. As Alison Stuebe, MD, points out on her Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine blog, this study was limited by its methodology. The breastmilk samples were obtained through an online site where milk was not “shared” but rather sold per ounce. In order to maintain anonymity, the researchers only corresponded with donors via email, and cut off communication if the seller asked too many questions. Stuebe explains:

 “It’s highly plausible that milk sent with no questions asked, via 2 day or longer shipment, and (in 1 and 5 cases) without any cooling whatsoever, was collected with less attention to basic hygienic precautions. The bacterial load in study milk samples therefore doesn’t tell us about the relative safety of milk obtained following a conversation between buyer and seller about the recipient baby and then shipped overnight on dry ice in a laboratory-quality cooler. Indeed, when the authors compared online milk purchases with samples donated to a milk bank after a screening and selection process, they found much lower rates of bacterial contamination…”

The other important factor to consider is that we can’t know if any babies would’ve necessarily become ill after ingesting this milk; all we can be sure of is that milk transported across the country from anonymous encounters online has a good chance of containing nasty bacteria. This was an in vitro study of a biological substance – not a study that involved actual cases of sickness caused by contaminated breastmilk.

And that is what is so beautiful about it. This was an in vitro study of a biological substance. It looked at breastmilk unemotionally, separate from the individual producing the milk or receiving it. No babies were harmed or even affected by this research. We don’t need to have a defensive reaction to the results, any more than a formula feeding mother needs to have a defensive reaction about a formula recall due to bugs in the powder. 

Food preparation, storage and safety don’t need to be a personal or political issue. I doubt the local grocer feels offended when spinach gets recalled, but she probably feels concerned. Unlike guilt or shame, concern is a healthy emotion, because it allows for a solution to be found. That’s why this study should be viewed as useful information rather than an indictment on milk sharing as a practice. From it, we can learn that more stringent practices are needed to ensure safety – parents can be informed that there are some risks involved in anonymous online purchase of human breastmilk.

The real difficulty, here, is that the issue of breastfeeding balances tenuously between the medical, the personal, and the political. It may be hard to make peace with the fact that obtaining breastmilk might need to become a sterile, regulated activity, prone to corporate involvement (because anytime money is involved we run that risk, especially when it comes to infant feeding), when breastfeeding is such an intimate, personal act. Ironically, the only other solution offered in response to this study is to make milk sharing more personal – that we urge parents to get to know donors, discuss how the milk will be pumped, stored, and transported, and share locally whenever possible. This certainly might cut down on the risks, but the fact remains that unless the donor is a close friend or relative, you are still asking parents to implicitly trust someone they don’t know very well. 

© http://bit.ly/GZhyXz

Rather than angrily striking out at this research, or accepting it as the final word on milk sharing safety, we could simply use it to ask more questions. How, exactly, should milk be pumped, stored, and transported? There’s been some interesting research on how the freezing process affects the antioxidant and vitamin content of expressed breastmilk, for example – should babies fed expressed, donated milk only be given vitamin supplements? How does this affect infant health in the long term? What about ensuring that foremilk and hindmilk are balanced, by giving donating moms guidance on the best pumping practices? Does the milk of a mom nursing a toddler provide the best nutrition for a newborn, or should donations partnerships be based on age?

Lastly, rather than assuming other modes of milk sharing are safer (even if we intuitively believe that they are), can we study samples obtained from other types of donation arrangements, to put parents’ minds at rest? Do women who pump and store their own milk need to be concerned about bacterial contamination? (The lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Keim, actually did offer some concrete suggestions to Medical News Today on improving the safety of pumped milk – things like sanitizing all containers and pump parts and freezing or refrigerating the milk within 6 hours.)

We cannot be scared of research, and we can’t get angry at it. But we can get angry at a media that grabs sensational headlines and runs so fast with them that we can’t catch up; we can be scared of an atmosphere that makes moms feel that their choices are limited to the lesser of two evils if they are unable to breastfeed. It’s our job, as advocates and care providers, to ensure that women aren’t given false ideas about risk in either direction, so that their “informed choices” can truly be informed.

Suzanne Barston is a maternal health advocate and freelance writer specializing in parenting, women’s interest, and science/health topics. She is the author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t and blogs as her alter ego, the “Fearless Formula Feeder”. She’s currently at work on an initiative to improve the perinatal experiences of women by addressing infant feeding intention and outcomes in an evidence-based, holistic manner.


Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Newborns, Research, Social Media, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , ,

Pre-Conference Learning Opportunities Abound at the 2013 Lamaze International Annual Conference

September 24th, 2013 by avatar

Are you already planning on joining fellow educators and other birth professionals in New Orleans at the 2013 Lamaze International Annual Conference?  Are you still on the fence about attending?  Take a moment to read about the engaging pre-conference workshops being offered, and plan on joining the fun just a day or two early to take advantage of these additional workshops before the conference starts.

Below you will find all the pre-conference offerings.  Leave New Orleans one step closer to taking your LCCE exam.  Increase your breastfeeding support skills, expand your classes to integrate yoga into the curriculum or dip your toe a little bit further into the social media birth world.  No matter what pre-conference program you choose to participate in, you will receive engaging, hands-on learning activities delivered by skilled presenters and trainers, while earning additional contact hours!  How can you beat that?  To register, follow this link.

Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar

Wednesday: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Lunch not included)
Thursday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Presented by Debbie Petersburg, LCCE, FACCE

Enhance your knowledge and continue your path to certification by registering to attend this pre-conference seminar. You’ll save time and travel, and meet core eligibility requirements to sit for the Lamaze Certification Exam. Designed for anyone interested in providing perinatal education, the Lamaze Childbirth Educator Seminar will prepare you to:

  • Design, teach and evaluate a course in Lamaze preparation that increases a woman’s confidence and ability to give birth.
  • Promote the childbearing experience as a natural, safe and healthy process which profoundly affects women and their families.
  • Assist women and their families to discover and use strategies to facilitate natural, safe and healthy pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
  • Help women and their families understand how complications and interventions influence the normal course of labor and birth.
  • Create a curriculum using the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices as your foundation.
  • Create activities that will help you deliver engaging childbirth education classes.
  • Prepare for the Lamaze Certification Exam.

*Attendees are encouraged to purchase the Lamaze Study Guide.

Contact Hours

This program has been planned by Lamaze International for 20.0 Lamaze contact hours, and 20.0 hours of CNE credit. To earn credit, attendees must attend the entire seminar, sign-in, and complete a post-seminar evaluation onsite.

Lamaze International is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission on Accreditation.

Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #15932. Activity planned for 24 contact hours.

Lamaze Breastfeeding Support Specialist Workshop

Thursday October 10, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Presented by Rachel Levine, IBCLC and Allison Walsh, IBCLC, LCCE, FACCE


The Lamaze International Breastfeeding Support Specialist Program is a one-day workshop designed for maternal-child nurses, childbirth and breastfeeding educators, dietitians and nutritionists, and lactation consultants who wish to strengthen their ability to provide breastfeeding mothers with support, build confidence, assist with problem solving and enhance their lactation support knowledge and skills. Participants will attend a live session as well as get access to online resources and references.

After attending this workshop learners will be able to:

  • Analyze breastfeeding practices throughout history and discuss the impact on current breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity rates.
  • Identify mother’s breastfeeding concerns, and coordinate a plan of appropriate care with her health care team.
  • Identify strategies for helping women and their families prepare for breastfeeding.
  • Describe the basic anatomy of the lactating breast and the basic anatomy of the breastfeeding baby’s mouth and tongue.
  • Assess and document the effectiveness of milk transfer in the mother-baby breastfeeding dyad.
  • Discuss prevention and management of baby-centered breastfeeding issues.
  • Identify and analyze maternity experiences of mothers and babies that did and did not contribute to improved breastfeeding outcomes.

Contact Hours

This program has been planned by Lamaze International for 8.0 L-CERPs, 8.0 Lamaze contact hours, and 8.0 hours of CNE credit. To earn credit, attendees must attend the full day of training, sign-in, and complete a post-workshop evaluation onsite.

Lamaze International is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission on Accreditation.

Provider approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #15932. Activity planned for 9.6 contact hours.

Friday October 11, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Integrating Yoga Into Your Lamaze Class: Making Labor Positions Accessible to All and Teaching Effective Breathing and Relaxation

Friday October 11, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Presented by Deena H. Blumenfeld, E-RYT 200, RPYT, LCCE

Learn how to make labor positions and postures easier and more comfortable for your students in this interactive pre-conference session. Modifications for mothers and support partners will be taught. You’ll learn how basic tools like blankets, pillows, blocks and chairs can make the labor positions accessible to all. Learn the skills needed to teach effective breathing and relaxation techniques to your students.

  • Demonstrate breath awareness, and very specific breathing techniques, vocalizations and visualizations.
  • Identify the pacing, tone of voice and verbal and physical cues to guide your students into a state of relaxation.
  • Discuss the do’s and don’ts of guiding someone into relaxation
  • Discuss the practical aspects of addressing multiple demographics within the same audience

This workshop has been approved for 4 Lamaze contact hours, and is approved for Yoga Alliance credits.

Birth Your Online Presence: A Hands-On Workshop Demystifying Internet & Social Media Marketing

Friday October 11, 2013 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

© http://thinkandstart.com/

Reaching mothers today means interacting with them online. Bring your laptop or tablet! Jeanette McCulloch and Sharon Muza, experienced social media experts with birth business know-how, will be your digital doulas for this interactive session. Together, we will demystify the process of using the internet for marketing your birth business. You’ll leave confident that you can reach your audience online, even if you are new to social media tools like Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter. In this hands-on, interactive session, you will:

  • Develop an online marketing plan tailored to your business, including tools to decide which platforms are right for you
  • Establish routines to help manage your time and resources
  • Create strategies for managing common concerns, such as handling conflict, copyright issues and privacy concerns
  • Tap into resources for developing and expanding your web presence

This workshop has been approved for 4 Lamaze contact hours. 

Babies, Breastfeeding, Childbirth Education, Conference Schedule, Continuing Education, Lamaze International 2013 Annual Conference, Newborns , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Amber McCann; A Lamaze International 2013 Annual Conference Keynote Speaker

August 13th, 2013 by avatar

This year’s annual conference is a just a short two months away, and the more I learn about what Lamaze International has in store for conference attendees, the more excited I get! The venue is the wonderful city of New Orleans and the theme is “Let the Good Times Roll for a Safe and Healthy Birth.”  I know I am going to leave just brimming with new information, resources and ideas for my teaching and doula work, along with lots of information to write about on this blog.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Amber McCann, IBCLC one of the two keynote speakers at this year’s conference.  Amber is an expert on breastfeeding and social media, and this topic is *hot* right now!  Her dynamic personality along with her enthusiasm and knowledge for reaching and working with new mothers as they transition to motherhood and breastfeeding convince me that her keynote “Today’s Mothers are All Thumbs: Cultural Competency for Digital Motherhood” will be fun, funny, informative and thought provoking.

Learn more about the annual conference, the great speaker line up and registration here!  Don’t hesitate to join in the fun, I know it is going to be a fantastic weekend of learning and networking.  Look for a guest post from Amber soon on Science & Sensibility.  We will also be highlighting Dr. Richard Waldman, our other keynote speaker here as well, as the excitement for the conference builds.

Sharon Muza: How has social media and the digital age helped women who are planning to breastfeed or are breastfeeding?

Amber McCann: The world just got a whole lot bigger! Before the digital age, our opportunities to find resources were largely word of mouth. We found information and education in the same places that most of the other mothers in our circles found information and education. NOW, we are able to multiply the experiences, stories, “come, walk beside me” kind of support that we previously could only find in a limited manner. The brave women who came before us did so much to pave the way and now we’re able to take what they did and bring it to a larger audience.

SM: Has the internet, social media and other digital sources created problems for women who are hoping to breastfeed or who are breastfeeding?  What about those who found themselves unable to breastfeed?
AM: On the internet, everything is stronger, louder, and more intense. We have better resources…but it also means we have unhelpful or non-evidence-based resources. We have greater access to trained volunteers and professionals…but we also have access to those who aren’t qualified. We have a tremendous amount of cheerleading for those who reach their goals…but we also have tremendous disparaging of those who encountered things in their path that made breastfeeding extremely challenging. It can be a tough place and requires a certain amount of critical thinking and “gut trusting” for women who are new to the journey. I work very hard to help the good outweigh the destructive.
SM: What are your favorite resources for breastfeeding women on the web?
This is like asking my mother to choose her favorite grandchild! There are so many that I’ve loved watching blossom and grow. For general information, I’m a big fan of The Leaky Boob Facebook Page. Jessica Martin-Weber has done a profoundly fantastic job building the page and she supports families to make the decision that is right for themselves and their baby. She provides a well-balanced perspective and I find myself gravitating towards that kind of support. I also have a very special place in my heart for the sites/groups/communities that have sprung up around breastfeeding challenges that have an extra level of complexity to them such as the Facebook groups for moms with insufficient glandular tissue, adoptive breastfeeding mothers, and transgender birth and breastfeeding. These groups embody all that I love about the internet: bringing together those that previously might have felt they were all alone.
SM: What are your favorite digital resources for birth professionals on the topic of breastfeeding?
AM: My favorite resource for evidence-based information about breastfeeding is Kellymom.com. Kelly Bonyata, an IBCLC from Florida, has build an incredible website with easy to understand facts and support for all kinds of breastfeeding situations. I think it is a great “go to” for anyone working with new families. Of course, there will be times where we are required to dig a bit deeper so don’t hesitate to reach out to the IBCLCs in your community.
SM: What digital resources can childbirth educators use to enhance their classes when covering breastfeeding topics?
AM: YouTube is your friend!!! There are so many excellent (and often hilarious!) videos on YouTube that would be wonderful additions to any breastfeeding class. Your classes are full of all kinds of learners and videos are great at reaching several kinds. As a visual learner myself, I need to SEE what it is that I’m learning and so often, in lecture format classes, I feel a bit forgotten. But add in a video or two and I’ve been able to take in information in a way that works for me.
SM: How has your practice as a Lactation Consultant in private practice changed over the years?
AM: When I became an IBCLC and decided to pursue private practice, we were living just outside of Washington, DC and my youngest had just entered kindergarten. I love the flexibility it provided and the ability it gave me to make the business model work for me and my family. Because I recognized that the women who were in need of my services were largely congregating online, I specifically modeled my practice in a way that supported these women. It was a wonderful and busy few years!
Earlier in 2013, I was offered a position with the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh that sounded like my dream job (and I’ll admit that, so far, it totally is!). I work several days a week providing direct clinical care to breastfeeding families in our office where I am supported by pediatricans and other providers (many of whom are also board certified lactation consultants). It is very much a team model, much different that in my previous practice where I was a lone wolf. In addition to clinical care, I provide social media and marketing communications for the practice. I’m so thankful that my employer has chosen to look carefully at the skills of each employee and really plug us in to what we do best.
SM: How did you come to be an IBCLC?  What was the path that brought you here?
AM: I often tell people that my path to becoming an IBCLC started when my daughter was 6 days old and I was sitting in tears on the stairs of our home. My entry into motherhood was a bit traumatic and on that day, I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t find the support I needed and didn’t know where else to look. I decided that this pain and frustration had to be for good some day.
I didn’t put energy into figuring out how that would work until my children were all approaching school age. I knew that I’d need to put my time and energy into some new pursuits and breastfeeding was a good fit. Our pastor used to talk about “finding our sweet spot”…that place where what you are good at meets together with what you are passionate about. That place for me is in supporting new mothers. Lactation consulting affords me the opportunity to be exactly where I was made to be.
Like many in my field, I do not have a medical degree. My undergrad program was in sociology and I also did some Master’s work in Urban Ministry. As I pursued my IBCLC, I had to take classes and pour my time and energy into obtaining both the knowledge and experience necessary for the job.
SM: What has been the most rewarding thing about your work, in all of its forms?
SM: I find the most joy when the moms I work with are able to gain confidence that they can achieve whatever tiny goal we’ve set…it might be as simple as “I’d like you to sit here for 15 minutes and do nothing but hold this baby skin to skin on your chest. Do you think you can do that?” A nod of the head and smile is usually enough to energize me through the rest of the day. I want moms to feel strong and capable and so many of them come away from their early moments of parenthood as anything but. I’m honored to be one of the first people to be invited into that sacred space. I don’t take it lightly and my hope is always that the moms I encounter come away feeling as though they were perfectly created for this task.
SM: What has been the most frustrating obstacle about your work, in all of its forms?
AM: I’m sure this isn’t a popular answer but the most frustrating thing for me is when a family doesn’t feel empowered to make the decision that is the right one for them, whether it is what I would chose for them or not. I stand whole-heartedly behind the incredible public health benefits of breastfeeding and I work every day to support it in our culture. But, ultimately, it comes down to one family and the resources, support, and energy that they have. It is their child; they get to make the decisions. As new parents, we hear a cacophony of voices, opinions, and strong statements. As birth and breastfeeding professionals, we make them. As friends and family, we make them. As members of a community, we make them. I wish more families felt supported instead of preached at. Because many families have already experienced this before they encounter me, I often have to do a bit of reassuring before we can get down to the business at hand.
SM: After becoming an LC, how did you get drawn to the idea of using social media to spread your message?
AM: As you’ll hear in my presentation at the conference, the internet saved my life as a new mother…and I’m promising you right now that I will break down a little as a tell you my story. Those were the days before it was “social media” and it was instead message boards, emails, and listservs. But, even when I was completely incapacitated with fear, the deep heart knowledge that someone I had never met face-to-face could reach out through my computer screen and speak love to me was life-changing. I guess after that experience, I didn’t know how to provide support to new mothers in any other way.
SM: What do you wish that pregnant women knew about breastfeeding before their babies arrive?
AM: I wish they knew that their bodies were perfectly designed for the tasks ahead of them. It seems to me that birth and breastfeeding are the two biological processes that our culture assumes WON’T work. From the moment a family announces their pregnancy, they hear a lot of messages about how things might not go the way they hope. I wish instead that they were overwhelmed with messages that affirm that their bodies can do the things they will have to do. Of course, as in all things, these processes sometimes break down. But coming at it with a “Yes, I Can!” mentality instead of a “I’m Afraid It Won’t Work” one can go a long way towards reaching our goals.
SM: What do you think about the increase in using Skype and Google Hangouts to offer remote breastfeeding consultations?
AM: I’m quite fascinated by it and have participated in “virtual consults” myself. It is a real challenge though and I would strongly encourage families to seek face-to-face support first. I tell my clients that doing consults like this is like practicing with “one hand tied behind my back”! Even virtual consults require a consent and full history of both mom and baby. I find them especially helpful in older baby issues (mom going back to work, weaning) and rarely do them for newborns. But, often, especially when the appropriate care in unavailable in the community, these kinds of consults can be a breastfeeding relationship saver!
SM: What do you want childbirth educators to know about teaching breastfeeding in their classes?
AM: Don’t dwell on all of the things that can go wrong. Often, in an attempt to gather the maximum amount of information before their births, families desire details about the minutia of these wonderful biological processes of our body. They want a “fix” for every possible challenge. But, doing so can strengthen fear. I’m a firm believer that the best message a family can take from prenatal breastfeeding education is “You were created for this. Trust your body.”
SM: Tell us something about yourself that we would be surprised to learn about you?
AM: Hmmm…besides the fact that I’m deathly afraid of frogs and love really terrible reality TV? Many would be surprised that, until very recently, I had never seen a baby born other than my own. I’ve just returned from a trip to Papua New Guinea, where I was able to shadow and assist in the maternity ward of a remote mission hospital. Even though I’ve seen thousands of women breastfeed, I’d never seen one birth and I was both inspired and honored by the experience.
SM: Can you offer us a sneak peak about some key takeaway points of your upcoming keynote presentation?
My favorite takeaway from all of my presentations is the same takeaway we hope to give our clients and students: “You Can Do It! I Believe in You!” So many in the birth and breastfeeding field feel intimidated and overwhelmed by social media, much like those we serve who feel the same about their upcoming entry into parenthood. I hope to provide the same type of encouragement to my colleagues in regards to social media that we all provide to parents.

More about Amber McCann

Amber McCann is a board certified lactation consultant. Her current interests are connecting with mothers through social media channels and teaching others in her profession to do the same. In addition to her work as the co-editor of Lactation Matters, the International Lactation Consultant Association’s official blog, she has written for a number of other breastfeeding support blogs and serves as the social media coordinator for lactation related organizations such as: GOLD, Lactation Education Resources and Nourish Breastfeeding Support. McCann’s expertise not only derives from her experience in coordinating social media outreach and writing content for various blogs, but she has also furthered her credibility through her participation as a volunteer as well as engaging in numerous public speaking and presentation opportunities advocating for her passion.


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