Katie Mugan AKA @nursingmama.ie talks to us about her career from General, Paediatric and Public Health Nurse to becoming a full time Lactation Consultant and founding her successful website Nursing Mama.
Katie Mugan provides both one to one consultations and online courses supporting and empowering new mothers on their breastfeeding journeys in a friendly and non-judgemental way. Katie’s incredible work inspired us to find out more about what she does as one of our Women in Healthcare spotlight’s for the month of March. Read Katie’s interview below:
1. What led you to become a nurse and then a lactation consultant?
Ever since I was small I knew I wanted to be a mother. I have always had a love for kids, particularly babies. So, when the time came to choose a career, Nursing stood out. I started my General Nurse training in St James’ in 1999, but quickly knew that Paediatrics was where I wanted to be.
While working as a Paediatric Nurse in Ireland my exposure to breastfeeding babies was limited. It wasn't until I travelled and worked in Melbourne, Australia that I really experienced breastfeeding as the norm. Most mothers breastfed in hospital, particularly as I worked in neonates almost all expressed and went on to breastfeed on discharge. This was rare in Ireland from my experience. The support was amazing from the start, even having partners room in while mothers were in hospital was new to me. The experience I gained was invaluable and when I returned to Ireland, I knew that helping and advising mothers about breastfeeding was something that I wanted to do.
I started Public Health Nursing in 2013 and I thought I had won the jackpot when I got the course. Finally, I could make a difference to the Mothers and Newborns I worked with to help them have a more positive breastfeeding journey. Many of my friends were having babies at the time and I was saddened by the lack of support they received. Conflicting information given by different Health Care Professionals left them feeling confused and overwhelmed. I quickly realised then I wanted to specialise in Lactation and undertook the journey to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Today, I still see so many Mothers struggling with breastfeeding when I call in my capacity as a Public Health Nurse. Many are still receiving conflicting advice and feeling completely overwhelmed and lost. Mothers not recognising the warning signs when breastfeeding is not going well and babies with large weight losses are still a frequent occurrence. The need for better education antenatally so Mothers can be better equipped with practical knowledge when their baby arrives is essential.
In 2018, I decided to take the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam, getting certified in 2019. Late August 2019, Nursing Mama was created and has gone from strength to strength,
2. Can you tell us about what a lactation consultant does?
A lactation consultant Is an infant feeding specialist that specialises in Breastfeeding. It starts with antenatal education and support right through to weaning from breastfeeding. They help educate, empower and support parents so they can make informed decisions regarding their feeding pathway and help them achieve those choices where possible.
3. Can you tell us about a time you felt rewarded in your role, or that you felt like you were able to make an impact?
Having worked as a nurse for over 20 years, I have never felt more rewarded than I do in this role now and being able to support all my clients as a Lactation Consultant. However, I have one very clear memory of a client that wanted more than anything to breastfeed but was living abroad and had no family support around her. It was covid times and there was no possibility of travel for quite a while. We had an antenatal consultation online and she contacted me once released from hospital as she was experiencing issues. This client had a very difficult delivery, a post-partum haemorrhage and had a significant infection within the first 24 hours post-delivery. Baby was born via C-section which was not her preference and she really felt like the possibility of breastfeeding may not be an option either. She was determined to give it a go and with my support and that of her partner, she got baby to the breast, pumped on top of that to help aid supply and baby did get a supplement via a bottle. Often referred to as triple feeding, this as many mothers will have experienced is not easy. She gave it 1 week and with that her supply improved and she moved to direct breastfeeding and stopped pumping. It was amazing to be able to support this family to help them reach their feeding goals and even more satisfying it was all achieved remotely.
4. What's the most challenging aspect of your role?
Trying to help parents achieve their feeding goals and when that is not always possible it can be hard. Sometimes, it's more about supporting parenting during tough times ,it’s not always about fixing it.
5. How do nurses and lactation consultants work together to help their patients?
We work very closely with our nursing colleagues, to the midwives in the community, public health nurses and practice nurses. We all have our place in supporting parents to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
6. What is your biggest achievement so far and is there something you’re working towards in the future?
Taking a step back from my HSE role as a Public Health Nurse and taking on Nursing Mama full time was a huge step for me. Creating the first online, pre-recorded, demand led breastfeeding preparation course and weaning from breastfeeding course in Ireland was a huge milestone for Nursing Mama. Appearing on Ireland Am as a lactation expert was a pinch me moment. I have lots of plans in the pipeline for Nursing mama which will come to fruition shortly and I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
7. How can lactation consultants be better supported in their roles?
Every mother should have equal access to the right supports to help them achieve their feeding goals where possible, not just those that can afford it. Having more government funded lactation support available to all parents within the HSE will help this. Better education for all Health Care Professionals so that everyone is offering the same and not conflicting advice to parents.
8. How important are female mentors in your occupation?
Female mentors are so important particularly in this profession as it allows us to share experiences, gain from the wisdom of others, challenge our way of thinking and help us strive for better. Learning from more experienced colleagues can help us to achieve a better work life balance.
9. For any nurses considering becoming a lactation consultant, what advice do you have?
If you have a passion for breastfeeding and supporting parents, then go for it. Depending on your background and where you are currently working may impact your pathway to qualify. Link in with ALCI Ireland and they have lots of resources to assist you.
If you’d like to see more of Katie Mugan you can follow her @nursingmama.ie on Instagram or enquire about her services by visiting her website Nursing Mama.
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