Baby Talk: New mothers need to know they are not alone in facing their challenges

Working with mothers is one of the most rewarding, fun jobs there could be.

There are many ways to help mothers from being a childbirth educator, labor and delivery nurse, NICU nurse, post-partum nurse, lactation counselor, doctor, midwife, pediatrician, neonatologist, doula and lactation consultant.

Or by being another mother helping a mother.

They all play a special role. And all of the roles are different.

A certified childbirth educator has attended special training to teach women and their partners about the process of childbirth. They prepare families by teaching them how to understand what is happening to the body during the labor process.

They also teach how to manage the stress and pain of childbirth by using concentration and relaxation techniques. It took me two years to become a certified childbirth educator.

A labor and delivery nurse is specially trained to help manage the labor process and insure a safe delivery for mother and baby. The majority of labors follow a normal process.

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Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace.

However, when something goes wrong, things can go badly quickly. A skilled labor and delivery nurse understands the normal process and is able to assess quickly when the mother or baby’s life might be in danger. They work as a team with doctors and midwives.

Obstetricians are skilled physicians who have not only obstetric skills, but also medical and surgical skills. Certified nurse midwives are RNs who have continued their education to a masters level in nurse midwifery. Lay midwives have taken courses in the art of midwifery.

Post-partum nurses take care of mothers during the first few days after birth. The post-partum nurse not only acts as a nurse, but also many times has to deal with interesting family issues.

NICU nurses and neonatologists have specialized training in helping our most fragile babies. Pediatricians take care of babies and children.

A doula is a professional coach. The word doula comes from the Greek word for “a woman who serves.” They are trained to support mothers during labor and post-partum.

A certified lactation counselor (CLC) has taken a 45-hour course followed by a test. It includes practical skills. CLCs help mothers and babies by counseling them when they face breastfeeding challenges.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) has several requirements before sitting for the IBCLC exam. One must be a college graduate, a RN, a registered dietician, a physical therapist or a physician. Also required are 14 college-level health science classes and 90 hours in lactation specific courses.

Before taking the exam one must also complete up to 1,000 hours of clinical experience helping in lactation.

Mothers who come to a support group are also wonderful at helping each other. It is always good to know that you are not the only one facing challenges.

Most importantly mothers need to know they are not alone.

There is a sisterhood of support and an army of professionals to help them on their motherhood journey.

Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital’s Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living in the Bradenton Herald. Contact her at

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