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Kristine Keller, BS, IBCLC owns a private practice in Austin, TX and it is called Operation Lactation. She has been an IBCLC since 2010. Kristine is married with 2 mostly breastmilk fed boys. She tells us that she had a miserable time breastfeeding. It was hard for her and her two babies. She became an IBCLC to help others prevent the same struggles that she endured. Kristine left her employment in aviation to pursue a career in lactation. She now teaches prenatal classes and provides in home postpartum consultations.
She had a hard time with working and pumping. With her first baby who was born in 2005, she was told to pump in the bathroom. She started doing that said it was gross so she switched to pumping in her car. This was not ideal because it was hot in Texas. However, she continued to do so because providing milk for her baby was important to her. With her second baby, who was born in 2009, she was told that she could not pump during business hours. So she pumped before work, during lunch and after work. There were no laws in place for her first baby. There were for her second baby, but she did not understand that this covered her also as she thought that because she worked in a small business that it did not apply to her employer
She struggled really bad with breastfeeding. She learned later that both her baby boys had tongue ties. This went undiagnosed and breastfeeding caused cracked and bleeding nipples and was too painful. She asked for help from her sister and her mother-in-law, who both breastfed. Noone was able to provide answers for her. She quickly switched to exclusive breastpumping. She later found out that her boys were tongue tied. She found out that her sister had speech issues when she was younger and she did have a tongue tie that was revised when she was 6 years old. She found this out after having a casual conversation with her parents because her son was having speech issues. Her parents mentioned that her sister was tied. This started her thinking about her own kids so she had them checked out.
The ENT that she took her baby too said that her oldest was tied and her younger one was not. This did not make sense to her because her youngest boy had speech issues. She was told she was obsessed as she could not stop thinking about it. Her mom intuition could not let it go. She needed to find out. A pediatric dentist diagnosed both with ties. Immediately after the procedure, both boys were speaking much better. Night terrors that her oldest was having seemed to go away. Shortly thereafter, her youngest was speaking so well, he did not need speech therapy anymore.
Not having answers when she was having her breastfeeding challenges.
Needing to switch to exclusive pumping.
Not having answers to her questions and try and figure this out. These are all reasons that motivated her to become an IBCLC
Kristine sought help from hospital IBCLC. She kept being told that the latch was good and she just needed to keep working it and get the baby to latch deeper.
She did not know about IBCLCs who come to the home. She also felt that she already did have good support between her mother-in-law and sister. Even after she switched to exclusively pumping, she still had painful nipples. Kristine has learned a lot along the way and enjoys sharing tips with moms on how to make pumping more comfortable.
Kristine’s motivation to help with Hurricane Harvey:
Kristine was keeping a vigilant eye on how the major organizations were managing the aftermath of the Hurricane. She was worried about both the pregnant moms and the new moms. The new moms may have had all their supplies reach to be used but had to leave in a hurry without their supplies. What about the exclusively pumping moms who had to flee in a hurry and did not have the time to take their pumps and accessories. They were now going to be without them.
She learned that WIC and the Red Cross were helping with feeding their babies, but she was not sure how they would meet all the different needs. She was contacted by Safely Fed Canada, an organization that helps to ensure food security of infants and children in emergencies. Kristine said she initially thought about going to the shelters and helping moms directly with breastfeeding and pumping challenges. However, Safely Fed USA said that it is not a good idea to have people pump in a short term, temporary situation because of sanitation issues. She realized that the support is going to be more needed in people who were in more permanent housing and getting back to work and getting back to pumping and figure out a way for distribution. So, she needed to have a shift in her focus. She now needed to figure out a way how to get these items to people who needed them and not locally.
She decided to start a group on Facebook and called it simply Hurricane Harvey:
Her initial post said:
I am a local LC and I want to help the moms who have been displaced from Hurricane Harvey. Would you be willing to donate breastfeeding related or infant feeding items, that you are not using anymore. I would like to distribute them to moms in need.
This led to her requesting people to agree to be drop off locations. She wound up with 10 drop off sights. She was using her mini van and realized that she had so many items, that her car would not hold it all. She began running out of space in her home as the house became filled with donated items. She ran out of space in her garage and enlisted the help of her neighbor who donated space in her garage for these items.
Cleaning and sterilizing the pumps:
She has a guage to test the pumps to make sure they are in good working order. The last thing she wants to see happen is a mom using a pump that doesn’t work very well and have her lose her supply. All the pumps she received, except for the Medela Pump In Style could be cleaned. These pumps have been shown to be safe as long as they were clean and tested. Medela told Kristine that they were donating hand pumps to moms in the shelters. The pump i styles were cleaned. She has cleaned the exposed part of the diaphram, face plate, front and back and tested the motors. Kristine did not want these pumps to go to wThose pumps are going to be donated out with the notation that this is a used pump, there is a risk of contamination and there is no longer a warranty.
And I am working with La Leche League and anther organization just to get the pumps into the community that it will help fill the gap until government and the pump manufactures and insurance company and WIC can get them a new pumps. She has discarded all the tubing. She did have some replacement tubing donated and this has gone out to some LLL leaders.
What has happened to all these donated items:
She receive a wonderful variation of items such as pump accessories, breastfeeding pillow and nursing pads. All these items need to be cleaned and sorted and this was quite time consuming. She has had volunteers helping with sorting items and doing all that needs to be done to get these items to who need them. She is hoping to get together with the other volunteers to meet them and thank them. Kristine is amazed that if you get a lot of moms together, the power is there to get the job done.
Anything else that Kristine is doing in her community for moms who are in need:
She still has a lot of pumps in her garage that she needs to get to moms. She is working on getting some of the pumps being sent South and being sent East to moms. She plans on doing some Free breastfeeding classes once she completes the bulk of the volunteer efforts for Hurricane Harvey. She wants people to have a place to turn to for help with breastfeeding and plans on working on building her practice.
What changed In 2015 with her business:
Kristine talked about wanting to build her business and yet felt like she would be looked at as being greedy for charging for her services. Her husband reminded her that she is an expert in a well respected profession and she should be charging for her services. Kristine thought about it, agreed and got her website up and running within a week of this discussion w
We talked about how fortunate we are to be able do work in a profession that we love to do and be paid to do it. So many people are in jobs that they are not happy with. There is nothing wrong with being paid to do a job that we love. We talked about the fact that it does not have to be an “all or nothing.” We can work and charge for our services. We can also volunteer and donate our time and talent when it is convenient for us and with organizations that we choose to do so.
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