Leaders in Lactation: Meet Recipients of Momcozy’s Lactation Consultant Scholarship Fund 2023

Leaders in Lactation: Meet Recipients of Momcozy’s Lactation Consultant Scholarship Fund 2023

Momcozy launched its Lactation Consultant Scholarship fund in 2023, aimed at assisting mothers pursuing careers in lactation. Recently, the organization proudly announced the selection of 14 recipients. This fund offers full exam reimbursements to mothers who successfully passed their IBCLC exam in 2022 or 2023, enabling them to attain certification as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, the highest accreditation in the field of lactation.

Below they share their stories, and words of encouragement to breastfeeding moms and those pursuing lactation as a profession. 

Natasha Jovin

 

Natasha Jovin, an IBCLC since fall 2023, is dedicated to supporting breastfeeding mothers in Golden Isles, Georgia. Her passion for women's health ignited in 2009 while volunteering at an infant care facility in Haiti. Struggling with breastfeeding her daughter, now 8, as a single mother, Natasha understands the challenges firsthand. Her journey to becoming an IBCLC stems from this experience, driven by a desire to assist others facing similar struggles. 

Every moment with a mama and baby fills my heart. It is so sacred to me to be allowed into those spaces and I won’t take that for granted.”

  • What does getting the scholarship mean to you? 
  • The world. Some so many worthy women deserve this. As a single mom trying to make a better life for my daughter and me the reimbursement of the exam makes a big impact on our day-to-day. It takes some weight off of me, allowing me to make more space to do what I love. 

  • A word of encouragement, or, advice to moms who are navigating their breastfeeding journey. 
  • I want mamas to know they are already enough, they are just what their baby needs and they deserve to be seen and supported too. That it’s okay to ask for help and to listen to their gut. 

  • A word of encouragement or advice to lactation professionals who are navigating their journey to becoming an IBCLC.
  • It can feel like a lot, but it’s so important. To remember why you chose to pursue lactation in the first place, to be grounded in that, and to keep one foot in front of the other. To not be afraid to ask for help and to stay the course, is worth it.

  • What have you been able to accomplish? 
  • Over the years of my learning and training, I have helped countless moms and babies. During my internship, I helped conduct a Spanish-speaking breastfeeding 101 class for the local community.  

    Latrina Harris 

    Latrina Harris became an IBCLC in December 2023 and following maternity leave, will practice at WIC. The scholarship will help her set the groundwork for her private practice to serve underprivileged families in Metro Detroit. 

    “My ultimate goal is to promote, protect, and educate families on breastfeeding, especially within BIPOC communities, and contribute to raising breastfeeding rates for Black families.” 

  • What was your reason for becoming an IBCLC? 
  • Obtaining my IBCLC certification was important to me because I struggled with breastfeeding as a new mother. I vowed to pay it forward and help other women facing similar challenges. Starting as a breastfeeding peer counselor, I eventually became an IBCLC to continue supporting families in their breastfeeding goals.

  • What words of encouragement do you have for breastfeeding moms? 
  • Know that you're not alone. Breastfeeding can present challenges, regardless of whether it's your first or third child. Seek help, utilize available resources, and remember, it's okay to ask for assistance. Be gentle with yourself, and know that with patience and support, things can improve.

  • What advice do you have for aspiring lactation consultants? 
  • Take each day as it comes. Embrace learning, seek mentorship, and acknowledge your weaknesses to strengthen them. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and remember that collaboration is key to growth in this field.

  • What is a common misconception people have about lactation consultants? 
  • That we're anti-formula. In reality, our goal is to support mothers and babies in their feeding journey, whether it involves breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of both.

    Mari Wills

    Mary Wills, an IBCLC with Aloha Nutrition and a registered dietitian, proudly represents the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. Her journey to becoming certified stems from her breastfeeding struggles as a young mother. Joining a local breastfeeding support group proved transformative, inspiring her to become an IBCLC to provide similar support to others.

    “This experience left me so inspired and grateful, that I knew I wanted to become an IBCLC to offer the same kind of support and encouragement to others.”

  • What words of encouragement, or, advice to moms who are navigating their breastfeeding journey?  
  • While breastfeeding is natural, it is not uncommon for families to encounter challenges along the way. Even some lactation consultants need a lactation consultant! It is ok to reach out for help. We are here to help families gain confidence and feel supported in their unique breastfeeding journey. 

  • What are you doing now with your IBCLC designation? What have you been able to accomplish? What do you look forward to doing or what are your plans?
  • I've had the privilege of merging my IBCLC designation with my role as a registered dietitian (RD), working alongside Allegra Gast at Aloha Nutrition as a lactation consultant and RD contractor. This unique combination has enabled me to assist families globally with both breastfeeding and nutritional guidance. Furthermore, I'm deeply committed to contributing to my local community as a La Leche League Leader in Hawai’i, offering free breastfeeding support to families throughout the state. La Leche League of O’ahu facilitates both in-person and online support groups, alongside warmline support calls. I'm incredibly passionate about ensuring all families have access to free breastfeeding support. Looking ahead, I'm excited about the prospect of organizing complimentary classes on breastfeeding and nutrition within the community!

  • A word of encouragement or advice to lactation professionals who are navigating their journey to becoming an IBCLC.
  • Connect with other IBCLCs in the area, whether it is at a local lactation conference or simply inviting one out for coffee. It is insightful to learn from those with experience. Connecting may lead to mentorship or friendship!

    Alicia Hubbel Fernandez

    Alicia Hubbell Fernandez, IBCLC and licensed home birth Midwife since 2011, supports pregnant and birthing individuals. With formal studies at the Nizhoni Institute of Midwifery, she apprenticed in San Diego and developed her doula practice. Alicia's diverse experience includes home births, hospital births, and birth center work. Pursuing IBCLC certification to enhance her lactation support, she mentors new midwives with a focus on uplifting BIPOC individuals in the Inland Empire and Southern California.

  • What’s a word of encouragement, or, advice to moms who are navigating their breastfeeding journey?  
  • There are so many roads to nourishing your baby, reach out for help, educate yourself, and give yourself grace. 

  • What’s the biggest myth or misconception that people have about lactation consultants that you’d like to clear up? 
  • That we all believe that breast is best and the only way. I would say we are here to support the mother and baby dyad and to offer many types of support and there are many ways to breastfeed and to feed your baby. 

  • What do you look forward to doing with your designation?
  • Starting a breastfeeding/chestfeeding support group in my area and supporting individuals one-on-one. 

    Briana Shelley 

    Briana Shelley is an IBCLC and a U.S. active-duty Air Force spouse. Living overseas, she is currently the only IBCLC at the base and the surrounding area where she offers free lactation consultations through Health Promotion. Additionally, Briana runs a breastfeeding support group twice monthly bringing much-needed support and encouragement to those interested in entering the field of lactation.

    “Even though I do this work for free, I am incredibly fulfilled and feel very accomplished being a part of a solution to help families meet their goals and needs.”

  • A word of encouragement, or, advice to moms who are navigating their breastfeeding journey? 
  • No one knows your baby better than the person who birthed them, and that is

    you! You were born with the intuition to know what is right and do it for a reason.

    When in doubt seek out a lactation professional over Google and always trust

    your gut. You and your baby deserve advocacy and it starts from within!

  •  A word of encouragement or advice to lactation professionals who are navigating their journey to becoming an IBCLC.
  • This is a marathon not a sprint for a reason. Do not get caught up in how long or

    arduous the journey seems compared to others. Every single day you spend

    studying and learning about this field is another day of future success in practice.

    Take your time and embrace every hard case and roadblock. Your future families

    deserve it and so do you!

  • What’s the biggest myth or misconception that people have about lactation consultants that you’d like to clear up?
  • For me, the biggest misconception I encounter is that you need to be a doctor or

    nurse to do this work effectively or to be considered legitimate. I started working

    on this credential, IBCLC, in 2019 and was accepted for testing for the March

    2023 cycle. While I understand there is a certain level of trust with medical

    credentials, it does not make someone a better IBCLC, it just broadens the

    scope. Non-medical IBCLCs are just as knowledgeable and trustworthy and I wish

    we were valued more for the in-depth work we are often doing.

    Carol Crisafi

    Carol Crisafi is an IBCLC in Miami, Florida with Florida Health and a proud twin mom. Her passion for lactation stems from her breastfeeding journey where she struggled with misinformation. As a part of public health, Carol goes the extra mile each day advocating, educating, and doing community outreach for breastfeeding. She also spearheads The Big Latch, a prominent event during National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Carol is working on opening her LLC to help other moms in Miami-Dade County. 

    “My greatest joy was breastfeeding and I discovered that the next best thing was helping mothers experience that same joy with their babies.” 

  • What does getting the scholarship mean to you? 
  • This scholarship meant setting myself up for success. The IBCLC process is not inexpensive and for some of us, it can take financial planning every step of the way. The financial burden of the test is a thing of the past now!

  • A word of encouragement, or, advice to moms who are navigating their breastfeeding journey.
  • Knowledge is power! If your goal is to breastfeed, learn as much as you can about how breasts function, focus on evidence-based research, and dispel myths. Our bodies are capable of incredible things, I promise what you learn will be empowering.

  • Why was getting your IBCLC certification important to you? 
  • I wanted to be an IBCLC because I believe moms deserve a high standard of care. I wanted to make sure my scope of practice included everything that can effectively support the breastfeeding mother-infant dyad.

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