Meeting Nancy Mohrbacher

Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending a La Leche League Leader seminar in Fountain Valley, CA. Three of the day’s four sessions were presentations by Nancy Mohrbacher. This was particularly exciting for me because I read her book, Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, cover to cover in preparation for the IBLCE exam last year, and I still find it to be my go-to book for any question I don’t know the answer to off the top of my head. I was thrilled to get to meet her in person, and very excited that she was willing to sign my book.

Nancy’s first session was about the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes (and subsequent World Health Organization resolutions) in the context of her experiences while working at Ameda. Several years ago Ameda was acquired by Evenflo, and Evenflo decided to become code compliant. This was a formidable task, which they took very seriously and got great support for. Since the economic downturn, Evenflo has decided not to be code compliant anymore and is marketing their bottles again. This topic and Nancy’s story are very relevant to IBCLCs because part of our code of professional conduct states that we should adhere to the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes. Her talk cleared up a few things for me - in particular that the code only applies to the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and artificial nipples, not to nipple shields, breast shells, hydrogel pads and some of the other tools I carry with me to home visits. And even if I do carry formula and bottles in case of emergency, it turns out I am not violating the code as long as I don’t market them.

Her next session was about nipple pain and trauma. Some interesting, but not really surprising, research she shared was that women with nipple pain are more likely to have postpartum depression than those without pain. She also talked about some comfort measures for nipple pain that I hadn’t heard of including peppermint gel, peppermint water, green tea, olive oil, coconut oil, and medihoney. (PLEASE NOTE: Medihoney is sterilized honey and does not contain live botulism spores. Children under the age of one year should not be exposed to even tiny amounts of regular honey because of the risk of botulism.) Some but not all of these remedies have had research studies conducted with them in relation to breastfeeding. Many of these, in addition to having healing properties, work on the basis of moist wound healing, which helps damaged nipples heal more quickly and comfortably than keeping them dry.

Nancy’s third session was about transitioning babies to the breast. One of the most exciting aspects of this talk was information about women in Australia adopting babies from age 8 months on up to preschool age, who have been encouraged and successful in transitioning these babies and toddlers to breastfeeding! The keys to this were spending lots of time cuddling skin-to-skin, laid back breastfeeding positions, keeping the breast a fun and positive place, and lots and lots patience. Breastfeeding was extremely valuable in helping these babies and children bond with their new families. She also spoke at length about premature babies breastfeeding which was a good reminder of the research showing that breastfeeding is actually less stressful for premature babies than bottlefeeding.

It was a great day connecting with other La Leche League leaders, many of whom, like me, are also IBCLCs. The education portion of the day was extremely useful and I look forward to integrating Nancy’s experience and ideas into my practice.