Friday, November 16, 2012

Dedication to lactation

Julie Taylor changed her focus from helping birth babies to espousing the benefits of breast-feeding.

"I am a lactivist," says Julie Taylor of Wirtz. "I work as a breast-feeding consultant with new mothers at Roanoke Memorial Hospital."

Taylor's passion for helping mothers with newborns started when she was living in England, where health care is different from health care in the United States.

Born in England, Taylor met and married her husband, Nicholas, in 1977. His job brought them to Minnesota, where their first daughter, Claire, was born. A second daughter, Stephanie, was born in Georgia. After five years in the States, the Taylors returned to England, where their son, James, was born.

After his birth, Taylor returned to work. She knew she wanted to work with other mothers to help them bear and raise healthy children.

"I became a midwife and worked in hospitals alongside physicians," she said. "In England, midwives deliver babies when a physician determines the birth will be without complications."

Midwifery is regulated under the National Health Service in England.

Taylor had worked as a midwife for 11 years when she became interested in the benefits of breast-feeding. When the Taylor family again returned to the United States, Taylor learned she could act as a midwife with certification. The certification program would take nearly as long as it would to become a registered nurse.

So she became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant instead.

"If I had known how hard it would be to become a lactation consultant, I wouldn't have thought about taking the exam," Taylor recalled.

Her course of study included biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. While it was nearly as difficult as becoming a registered nurse, Taylor said it did not take as long.

"[Lactation consultants] are the people you turn to when things go wrong," she explained.

Odd as it sounds, breast-feeding is not as natural as people think, according to Taylor. Children born with cleft palates, premature babies and multiple births often complicate the breast-feeding process. Taylor teaches these new mothers how to nurse.

"Sit and talk with me for a while, and you'll learn more about breast-feeding than you ever wanted to know. That's why I call myself a lactivist," she said.

Part of Taylor's role at Roanoke Memorial is teaching nurses, interns and residents about lactation. She cites studies, including recommendations from the World Health Organization showing that breast feeding helps reduce the risk of developing ear infections, meningitis, asthma, overeating and obesity. By transferring maternal antibodies through breast milk, vaccinations take better, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced, she said.

"Breast-feeding offers protection against breast cancer for all women, even those who have their first full-term pregnancy later in life," said Dr. Giske Ursin, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Taylor said she believes Ursin is correct. She sees the benefits to mother and child daily.

Whether in the hospital or working long distance by phone, Skype or email, Taylor consults with new mothers who have difficulty breast-feeding. One consult was with a new military mother in Jordan. She did not meet family members until after they returned to the States. Now, she is expecting a multiple birth, and Taylor has promised to take time off to assist the mother again.

"If I do something good for a new mother, I hope she will pay it forward and help the next mother," said Taylor.

The Taylors live with three rescue dogs and two rescue cats. Nicholas Taylor is the 2000 British catamaran champion and loves sailing, scuba diving and water polo. Julie Taylor calls herself a "landlubber."