Breastfeeding Award of Excellence
Elizabeth "Betsy" Ayers, BSN, RN, IBCLC of Caldwell, Idaho
Betsy began her lactation support journey with the La Leche League during her first pregnancy. She describes her experiences this way.
“I was working as a postpartum RN at the Harvard teaching hospital,
Brigham and Women’s in Boston. My education about breastfeeding during
my BSN at Creighton in the late 70’s was sorely lacking. For example, I remember teaching that staying latched for a very short time, a few minutes, would prevent sore nipples. I guess that might work if you were able to latch very frequently. Of course this was not the case at that time, since babies were expected to only nurse at scheduled times. We planned a home birth and attended birthing classes that included breastfeeding education taught by our midwife. We knew very few couples with babies and did not live near our families.
Neither my husband nor I had been breastfed. My mom had twilight sleep (morphine/scopolamine) and doesn’t remember holding me for the first week. My husband’s mother said she had a breast infection and was unable to nurse. The nurses I worked with nursed only until they returned to work in six-to-eight weeks.
I did know that the benefits of breastfeeding were supposed to last much longer. I sought out other women that had successfully breastfed and found my tribe with LLL in a suburb outside of Boston. This is where I observed happy and healthy babies and toddlers nursing. My bible was the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which
encouraged ‘awake and aware’ childbirth and prenatal breastfeeding education including attending monthly LLL meetings with focus on early stages of latching to nutrition and weaning.
I became a LLL Leader after our second daughter was born in the late 1980’s after we moved to rural PA outside of Allentown. I had met the prerequisites for Leadership including nursing for at least one year, choosing to introduce complementary foods when we observed readiness and acknowledging that breastfeeding is the optimal way to nourish, nurture and comfort the baby. I found that I really enjoyed sharing what had worked for my family with other women, and offering mother to mother support.
Another tenant of LLL Leaders was to provide education, as well as use listening skills, to empower women to make decisions about feeding their children along with their health care provider. I was inspired by
another RN who was an IBCLC at the hospital where I worked part-time in labor and delivery to become an Area Professional Liaison between health care providers and other LLL Leaders to answer more technical
and legal questions.
After moving across the country to Caldwell Idaho in the early 90’s, I continued to be a LLL Leader and most of my friendships developed from these early groups. These friendships continue to today, 30 years later. Boise and surrounding Canyon Country and Ontario OR had at least 20 Leaders with numerous monthly meetings including basic series meetings, evaluation meetings and toddler meetings. I was also involved in robust family celebrations for World Breastfeeding Week including picnics in the park with community vendors and record- setting Latch-On’s.
I sponsored an educational human lactation opportunity featuring nursing LLL mothers in my husband’s developmental biology class at College of Idaho. This was an eye-opening experience for both male and female students. LLL also sponsored Molly Pessl RN, BSN, IBCLC, FILCA from Evergreen hospital, the 1st Baby Friendly Hospital in the US, who presented a breastfeeding educational program at St Luke’s Hospital.
Another one of my LLL accomplishments, is starting the first LLL group in Singapore during my husband’s six-month sabbatical there in late 90’s. I was also able to meet and get to know the first IBCLC in Asia, Doris Fok. I became an IBCLC in 1993 and continued as a Lactation Consultant at St. Luke’s initially in Boise, then
developed current Lactation Programs at Meridian and Nampa. I retired from LLL after 30 years. All in all, La Leche League and mothering through breastfeeding has provided guidance in both my professional and personal life.”