Breast Pumping Association. These three little words put together mean so much to me. After reading this, I hope they will mean just as much to you because it took a lot of work to get here!
Breastfeeding is not Breast Pumping!
First, just a small history lesson on IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Counselor Educators). It was founded in 1985 using a $40,000 loan from La Leche League International, as a start-up. It was set up in response to the “need for standards and management of skills” in lactation counseling. This was a new profession and mothers in the US wanted specialized breastfeeding care, like the Australian Breastfeeding Association was already doing. Moms were demanding scientific and practical clinical skills in order to practice in the field. At the same time, the Commission for Health Certifying Agencies was created by the USA Health and Human Services Department to start regulating the health care industry. This was how Lactation Consulting became a certification program.
I was born 7 months before the IBLCE was created! Never would I ever have imagined attempting to create an entirely new certification… A Breast Pumping Certification! If you are new to Save The Milk, I will provide you with a little back story on me. Hopefully you will be as excited as I am right now about how far I have been able to come.
Back in late 2018, I started helping moms with their flange sizing. I was in several Breast Pumping Facebook groups because I was pumping for surrogate twins. I was mostly seeing moms that had issues with Spectra and Medela breast pumps since those were the most common free pumps provided by insurance. I was a member of several different groups, including Exclusively Pumping, Spectra, etc. The one thing that these breast pump companies (Spectra and Medela) had in common was that they were not providing correct flange sizing information to their customers. All I wanted to do was to help these moms with their flange sizing issues but I was kicked out or blocked from several of these groups for trying to help. I was very hurt by these actions taking against me. I was told by professionals, Facebook administrators, and pump companies that I was not to provide advice on sizing because I was not a professional and there was no proof or scientific evidence that my methods worked.
My Results Are My Proof!
After this occurred, I wasn’t sure I should continue to help moms. I would still get dozens of messages, tags, and referrals from moms pushing me to pursue this as a business. This is how Save The Milk was born. I looked deeper into flange sizing and worked on perfecting my sizing methods, techniques, and support that I was providing for moms. During my research, I realized that companies, private parties, Facebook administrators, and professionals did not have a clear understanding of how to correctly size flanges. There was no right way to size, no proper sizing tools, and no support to help them with their clients’ issues. They didn’t even know that they might need to size their clients smaller than 24mm. When I dug even deeper (and to my astonishment), LC’s and IBCLC were being taught limited pumping information mainly sourced from manuals from breast pump companies.
Fast-forward to late 2019, when I refocused my goals. I wanted to figure out a way to change how LCs and IBCLCs were educated on flange sizing. I dug deep into my state laws and the requirements needed to change the opinions of the IBCLE and found that the number one thing that they wanted was Evidenced-Based Research. My state confirmed that there was no violation in helping moms with breast pumping, because breast pumping is not breastfeeding.
I would like to paint a picture for you of just how hard it has been to be accepted as a breast PUMPING advocate in a breastFEEDING world: I had a great relationship with Breastfeeding Counselors (BC), Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC), and IBCLCs. I was provided great information on how the training was lacking in all breast pumping areas. Several enforced that no one would listen to me since I had no professional standing in the LC community. Just imagine what an uphill battle it has been for me since 2018 and why Facebook groups run by breast pump companies, LCs, and IBCLCs have not been too accepting of my views versus what they were taught regarding breast pumping. I was steered away from contacting the IBLCE and focus on building my customer base to use my results as proof.
I knew this was going to be a process and I had to figure out what avenue I was going to take. The one thing I did know was that my sizing process was working. I am one of the first to try to shine the light on the “importance and need for breast pumping standards and management of skills” as was done in 1985 with the IBLCE. I started my consultations and took those funds to create some products that would provide an “Evergreen” to my business bank account. Of course, there was huge up-front costs to making my own products, but the goal was to get a sizing tool into homes so that moms could use them. I also hoped that this tool could be used by LCs and IBCLCs that knew the importance of flange sizing. This could open the gate to clinical research being done with the sizing tool. In early 2022, Nipple Queen Ruler was released along with Pumping Pretty Inserts. I now have a little more time to work on my next goal…which brings me to what I had my original sights on, a Breast Pumping Association (BPA). This is happening NOW!!
The BPA is centered around breast pumping. Thousands of moms have been continuously stating the same thing, “Breast pumping is not the same as breastfeeding”. However, no one has been addressing it. Now is the time. We are focusing on consistent training and evidence-based research. The BPA is currently run by myself as CEO, a board of directors who are LCs, RNs, and IBCLCs. This is my call to ACTION! Funds used by the BPA will go towards scientific, evidence-based research studies on flange sizing and the best time to size nipples, which will compare to those moms that are using traditional sizes that professionals recommend (21-36mm). Once some of these basic studies are completed, we will move on to other studies like how changing to fitted sizes later in a breast pumping journey affects supply, damage caused by incorrect sizing, and percentage of moms’ journeys that will be cut short due to incorrect sizing. These, and many more questions, will now have an answer with Evidence-Based Research behind them.
The future goal will hopefully be to create our own certification for Breast Pumping. However, this dream of mine is likely years away and even though I have already spent 4 years to get to this point, I am happy to make any progress possible.
I am calling on all professionals, engineers, product designers, pump companies and entrepreneurs in the lactation community to keep an open mind about flange sizing. We are all aware of the importance of breastmilk but not everyone breastfeeds. If we want women to continue providing breastmilk for their children, for as long as possible, we should be supporting everyone with the same goal no matter how they intend to supply breastmilk and do it with consistency in the information we provide moms.
If you would like to participate in this cause, we are accepting donations. The first donations will be used towards finishing a website and paying legal fees. We will soon move forward to taking membership fees to have your name or organization listed on our website as an active supporter. We are fortunate enough to already be in the process of setting up the research studies with renown supporters and have received great feedback from hospitals that are willing to host clinical trials. If you would like to be more involved, please reach out.