Today, I have the honor of sharing an interview I did with Austin Rees, a local Maryland IBCLC, Babywearing Expert, and owner of Breast Skin Sling. I first got to know Austin through some local Facebook groups. She was so helpful and took a lot of her own time to answer my questions. I then met her in person at a birthworker gathering and later at a Gena Kirby Rebozo workshop. Her warmth radiates from her core and is felt by everyone who comes in contact with her. Her knowledge of breastfeeding, babywearing, and honoring the sacred in us all is a welcome blessing to our community. Check her out at BreastSkinSling.com.
How did you get into lactation consulting?
My mother was a La Leche League Leader (LLL), and one of the first International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC). I grew up in an environment where I was taught to trust my body to carry, birth, and nourish my baby. Soon after my first daughter was born in 2003, I began attending regular LLL meetings and began my process to become a LLL leader at the end of that year.
What made you choose IBCLC?
I chose the IBCLC path to enhance my clinical skills to combine with the communication and counseling skills I acquired as a LLL leader, to meet the needs of more families.
How is IBCLC different than other lactation consulting certifications?
There are many forms of breastfeeding support to meet a mother's needs. Examples are peer counselors, educators, specialists and professionals. IBCLCs are recognized as a health professional. In order to become an IBCLC, one must complete 90 hours of lactation-specific education and specified college level health courses, obtain 300-1000 clinical practice hours, and successfully pass the board exam.
What’s your favorite part about working in lactation consulting?
My favorite part by far is watching a mother lean back into her own instincts and observe the deep relationship blossom with her child.
When do you start seeing clients?
I specialize in prenatal consultations. I have found over the 11 years working with mothers that if they have the foundations of how Milk works, how birth affects Milk, and skin-to-skin, they emerge into Motherhood trusting their bodies, their babies, and their milk. Misinformation or common "booby traps" can be avoided if they have the foundations before the baby arrives. I include in my prenatal consultations time to create a local core support team complete with professionals and peers. Parents have a list prepared to rely on if they have any questions, concerns, and needs that include specialists and contact information. They enter parenthood supported by their community and not alone. Postpartum lactation supported is beneficial to observe the mother/baby dyad and address any concerns one-on-one. I do not provide postpartum hands-on assistance at this time, but do recommend other local IBCLCs. However, I am able to provide virtual support through phone consultations in situations that do not require hands-on care. Examples would be questions about returning to work, starting solids, weaning, toddler nursing, and sleep.
What lactation consulting services do you offer?
Currently I provide in-home or virtual prenatal consultations and virtual postpartum support.
What other services do you offer?
I offer personal Babywearing consultations, and classes. I host Sacred Mother Blessings, Sacred Baby Blessings, Sacred Weaning ceremonies, and local Milk Circles. I am the Co Founder of Sacred Milk, and will teach others how to facilitate Sacred Weaning ceremonies online, and assist in facilitating live Sacred Pregnancy Instructor retreats this year. Locally, I will provide Sacred Pregnancy and I AM Sisterhood full and mini retreats.
Why is breastfeeding important to you? To our culture?
Breastfeeding is important to me because it is an intimate relationship with our children. We communicate through our Milk. Our stem cells in our milk turn on genes in our baby's organs. Milk is more than a form of nutrition; it nourishes not only the child but ourselves. It is important in our culture because the breast is a living organ. How we feel about our breasts before Motherhood, during pregnancy, and the outcome of our Milk relationship impacts us emotionally. Providing education that empowers women to trust themselves and their bodies and their babies creates a community of attached, secured, healthy families.
Why is babywearing important to you? To our culture?
Babywearing is important to me because it provided a safe, secure environment for me to connect with my children and keep them close. Babywearing is important to our culture because it provides skill that meets the needs of both child and caregiver. Babywearing promotes bonding, security, support, and a safe way to keep baby close during the day. Babywearing has been passed down from many cultures and because of this we have a variety of types of carriers to meet different body types and situations.
How have you seen skin-to-skin help parents adapt to parenthood?
Skin-to-skin care is an expectation of our newborns. A mother, or a caregiver's chest is a newborn's natural environment. When parents provide this time with their child it turns on specific nerves needed for development and increases the love hormone, oxytocin. This affects the dyad's brain. Fathers who provide skin-to-skin to their babies express a greater sense of responsibility, more confidence, and report they feel in control.
What’s your number one advice you give to pregnant women?
Wow, the number one advice? Create your core support team prenatally to include both peers and professionals who can support you in all ways- postpartum care, lactation, local Sisterhood, bodyworkers (for both mother and baby), spiritual guidance, meal support, home support (care for other siblings, household needs) etc. Have these things set up and available before you need to call on them.
How do you feel you’ve contributed positively to our local community?
I am still new to our community, but so far I feel I have been able to impact the women who have attended the Sacred Pregnancy retreat, and I AM Sisterhood retreat I've co-hosted with Jessie Bernstein through the Sacred Living Movement MD. By providing the platform for deep listening and self-growth for these women, they emerge into powerful community members. My wish is to continue supporting families as they prepare for the birth of their child and begin their Milk relationship. May word of mouth spread and I consistently provide the care and support local families and community members need to lead confident lives.
Two Saturdays ago, I made my way to the Edgewater Community Library in Edgewater, MD to attend a Babywearing International of Southern Maryland meeting. BWI of SoMD has various meeting times and locations, which you can check out on their “Free Meetings” page. The one at the Edgewater Library is usually held on the 3rd Saturday of the month at 9:30am (but double check their calendar before you head over).
The four volunteers at BWI of SoMD were (from left to right):
These volunteers were very knowledgeable of the many different types of baby carriers out there and helpful in finding the right fit for every parent that came in. They even gave prenatal advice to help parents-to-be! Libby took time to answer my questions and show me how to use a Meh Dai, a woven wrap, and a ring sling.
Anyone who is interested in learning about babywearing and baby carriers is welcome to attend for free. BWI also offers a membership ($30/year) that allows parents to check out and borrow any carrier for one month at a time. This is a wonderful resource because as infants grow, their baby carrier needs change, so instead of investing a lot of money in a carrier that you may not need or use later, you can try on and check out one of their carriers. This particular chapter of BWI had 2 overflowing suitcases worth of carriers so there are plenty of options to choose from!
Babywearing International was founded in 2008 and has since grown to over 85 chapters throughout the United States. Their mission is “to promote babywearing as a universally accepted practice, with benefits for both child and caregiver, through education and support.” (1) Benefits to babywearing include: happy and healthy babies, bonding between parents/caregivers and babies, and comfort and convenience. There are lots of different carriers and BWI volunteers want to help teach parents about their different uses to maximize the benefits for parent and baby.
To find your local chapter, check out https://babywearinginternational.org/chapters/.
I'm thrilled to introduce you to Reagan Dickson, a local Maryland photographer and owner of Ash Grove Images. Her passion for life and laughter helps bring comfort, ease, and joy to her photography sessions that will give families memories that last for years. From maternity to newborn to family photos, she has a keen eye and a talent for capturing candid moments of sincere love and warmth.
How did you get into photography?
My interest started in High School, where I learned the basics of aperture and shutter speeds. I loved working in the dark room and shooting on film (photography has come a LONG way)!
After High School I became a “hobbyist” of sorts. A few years ago, a friend of mine needed her family pictures done ASAP and didn’t know anyone who could take them. I was new to the area and offered to do it for fun. And it was FUN! I loved it, and started my small business to be able to do something I love as my job.
What types of pictures do you take?
I mostly do families, seniors, engagements and newborns/kids. I have some experience with maternity and birth photography as well. Families are my very favorite.
What area do you serve?
I work out of Eldersburg, but I have done shoots at locations within an hour of my home, including Bowie/Crofton, Columbia, Ellicott City and Washington D.C.
What’s your favorite thing about being a photographer?
I love being with people and I love capturing emotions on camera. I love seeing a Mom snuggling her newborn baby, or two siblings laughing at each other, or an engaged couple nuzzle noses. It is a joy to be able to capture those moments for families to cherish forever. Memories are so fleeting, kids grow so quickly, and life absolutely passes us by at a rapid pace. The moments I create can last lifetimes! That’s pretty special to me.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Do you have any future goals for your photography business? If so, what are they?
I set goals for myself to increase in education and experience of my work. I don’t necessarily plan to rapidly expand my business out as much as I plan to deepen and enrich the business I already have. I want to be the best, and that will simply take education and practice.
What’s your best tip for people who are planning their photography session with you?
Relax! The best shots are ones you didn’t plan for, the candid ones I grab when you aren’t looking. Come and have fun with me for an hour and you’ll love the results!
How have you seen your work directly benefit your clients?
For me there is no greater honor then seeing a picture I took as a canvas on someone’s wall in their home. That is their family and their memories, and it is an absolute pleasure to be involved in the process.
How does your work benefit you and your family?
My business has helped me learn how to balance my work and my family. I am not as available to my family as I used to be, but the time I spend with them is quality. Being with clients and seeing their special moments in life helps me to remember to live in the moment in my own life. My business has been a great blessing to me.
Guest Blog Post by Bethany Melton, RN, BSN, CCBI, CD (DONA) of Boulder County Birth
Dads play such a valuable role in pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period. Often times when we talk about these topics we are referring to the mom and her perspective. While clearly she is the one acting as the oven for their new child; dad is very much expecting as well.
We’ve come so far from what dad’s role used to look like. I was discussing this was my husband’s 80 year old grandma recently. When I asked her, how did she do it all- literally. Clean, cook, raise the kids, have brand new babies- all with little to no help. Her response: we just did. Her husband had no time off work when she had new baby, she still had two other kids at home. It wasn’t until she had pneumonia with a brand new baby that her family doctor called her husband and told him he had to come home and take care of the kids. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be a part of things, it just “wasn’t the way it was done.”
This makes me proud of how far we have come in including dads to be a part of this wonderful journey and process. Dad, when allowed to come into his role, is a vital part of the process and is himself, becoming a father. One of the reasons I love teaching Birth Boot Camp is that I feel like it fully equips and prepares dad to be emotionally, physically, and mentally supportive, no matter what the journey looks like. Now I realize that all dads won’t take this course; so here are a few things dad can do to prepare himself throughout the process.
Bethany has been an RN since 2011 and has worked in various healthcare settings, including Boulder Community Health. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with her Bachelors in Nursing and a minor in cross cultural studies. Transitioning to the doula profession has been a very natural part of her journey. From an early age, she found herself intrigued and curious about pregnancy and the birth process. She has been trained through DONA as a labor and birth doula, and has had the privilege of being a part of many birth stories. The journey continued as she became a certified Childbirth Instructor through Birth Boot Camp. She has a passion for educating moms and their families in order to support them in the birth of their dreams. She is so pleased to be able to offer childbirth education classes and birth doula services in Boulder County and the surrounding areas!
Bethany is a Colorado girl at heart and a lover of the outdoors. Outside of the birth world, you will find her enjoying life with her two kids and her blue heeler, Lincoln.
Four years ago, when we decided to pull our kids out of public school to home school, life got a little busy (that’s sarcasm for very busy). I had to learn how to be flexible and adapt my schedule. I had to learn how to get used to having 4 little bodies around my house all day long, along with all the noises they bring as well. Needless to say, my once quiet and clean home was no longer that. This prepared me very well for homeschooling while pregnant and nursing. Here are 6 things you can do to help homeschooling while pregnant and nursing go more smoothly:
Birth Boot Camp Certified Doula (BBCD)