08 JulThe Accidental Lactation Teacher – From housewife/mother to airline secretary, to student to nurse to practitoner to teacher – Finale


During the course of working, I became involved with other projects.   My children were older and one away at college when UCLA Extension asked if I would become part of their teaching team for their new lactation educator (CLE) program in 1982.  This unique course was the first lactation educator course in the nation and became the leader in training all those who wanted to enter the lactation field. The six member teaching team went at least once a month to many states all over the USA to teach this course.  The program expanded later to a lactation consultant course.  My expertise on the team was the practical, clinical aspects of lactation and breastfeeding.  I drew from the experience of working with mothers and babies in the outpatient setting for the previous twenty years.  I met so many enthusiastic women ( and a few men!) who wanted to make a career out of helping nursing mothers.  So…. I was now a teacher……………….and would have made my school guidance counselor proud. Yet again.

A few years prior to that, University of Southern California (USC) asked if I would be the attending in a newly formed Breastfeeding Infant Clinic in order to teach the pediatric physician residents lactation management.  I  did that one morning a week beginning in 1979… again a teacher.   We saw mostly Hispanic families in this clinic and I tried to learn Spanish. Breastfeeding is part of the culture but often got derailed with the cultural view to do “las dos cosas” or to give both breast and bottle of formula from the beginning.  The residents and I solved any problems the mothers had with breastfeeding in hopes that they would do only that.  Much has been studied about this cultural belief in starting breastfeeding with formula added and sadly not much of a solution to change this paradigm has been found.

In time, after 10 years, UCLA ended their Lactation Educator and Consultant courses as there were many fine such courses across the US. Then, in 2006, USC asked me to resign from the clinical pediatric private practice and come on board as full time Clinical Instructor in Pediatrics for the Keck School of Medicine at Los Angeles County University of Southern California Medical Center.  So at the age of 63 when many consider retiring, I switched careers and accepted.   Now I enjoy teaching very bright, newly minted, physician interns on the newborn service.  I focus on how the physical exam of the baby is a key to predicting breastfeeding success and integral as well in managing any lactation problems that come up. Graduates of our Pediatric and Med-Peds Residency program are incredibly efficient in managing lactation with their own patient population. The continuity clinic in which they do their well baby practice boasts of 61.5% of the moms are still doing some breastfeeding at 6 months of age. These physicians will be an asset to the lactation community wherever they decide to practice after residency.

This USC job took me out of the post-discharge experience and on to the inpatient newborn service where I learned how the newborn progressed and developed in the first few days of life. I was taken under our RN’s wings in learning what their job entailed on the post postpartum ward, labor and delivery and the NICU.  Such a different perspective and broadening of my knowledge/experience base.  Any criticism that I ever had of what happens in the hospital after delivery vanished.  I was asked to develop the 20 hour course for all of our nurses and to teach it so that our hospital was designated Baby Friendly in 2012.  I had nothing but respect for the openness of the nurses who had been there for 20 or 30 years and were willing to embrace new ideas.

Lets backtrack a little. I am a multitask-er so while all of this was evolving I became involved in film back in 1986. When I realized that most breastfeeding films done in the 1970’s and early 80’s were negative and most made by formula companies, I decided to try and make positive breastfeeding films. It was so much fun and awakened the creative teaching side in me.  The feedback from moms was that they really learned to make breastfeeding  easier. And so my little film company, Geddes Productions, was born. www.geddesproduction.com   I have produced 12 films that are currently on the market and with the other language translations that expanded to 30 films. Moving into the 21st century we now have them streaming on the “video on demand” section of the website.

When I was practicing in the Santa Monica pediatric office, the doulas would often come with the parents and the baby.  They sat in on the first well baby exams and were very much a part of the questions the parents asked. The doulas in our area asked me to teach them a class on breastfeeding and the baby’s perspective in the care giving that they do. Some doulas felt that what some parents were asking them to do for them was dismissive of the baby.  They felt conflicted and I agreed with them.  In 2004, I designed an 18 hour course as I was really enjoying the teaching role. I taught the course during three full days and really learned a lot from the doulas and baby nurses about what was REALLY happening in the homes after delivery.  Soon the class filled with midwives, IBCLCs, nurses, OTs and dieticians. We filmed the last class and this became the popular distance learning course entitled THE BABY’S PERSPECTIVE.  Be a part of this lively discussion as you view each three hour DVD.  www.babysperspective.com   (CEU contact hours and CERPS available)

I have had quite a diversity of experiences in lactation from the outpatient perspective to hospital inpatient postpartum, labor/delivery, NICU as well as my own home visits plus wisdom from the doulas. Truly a well rounding that has enhanced my teaching role.

So, school counselors from the 1960’s, I became it all … housewife/ mother …   secretary at an airline …   nurse    …  teacher. —  AND the physician’s role as a nurse practitioner  AND somewhere in all that I also became a  film maker. I can truly say that I got to do it all. I didn’t start with a business plan (that non planning makes male folks crazy). It just happened to roll out through the years. This year West Aurora High School inducted me into the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor……………..I was embarrassed but smiled to myself because I fulfilled all of their expectations for the female student of my era.

My thought?  Believe what you will.  I believe I was guided by the Holy Spirit.  God knew my marriage would end and He prepared me ahead for a means to support myself.  God gave me each of those gifts through experience and a wonderful insight for babies along the way.  It is a privilege to use these gifts in helping parents and physician residents to catch the wonder of how He created the amazing dyad of breastfeeding and nurturing babies. So my future blogs will share some of the insights that I have been taught and fun stories along the way.


One Response to “The Accidental Lactation Teacher – From housewife/mother to airline secretary, to student to nurse to practitoner to teacher – Finale”

  1. Mary Kay Turner Smith says:

    You rock! You have been my mentor and teacher since we first met in 1983 at the LLLI Conference in Kansas City. What a treasure you are!

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