This month’s Phenomenal Woman is Denise Chears, BSN, RN, IBCLC. I have the pleasure of working with Denise and witnessing first-hand how she encourages and assist new mothers in achieving one of the sweetest moments in life.
Denise, I am so glad to feature you on WWHT! Tell me how long you’ve been a nurse and what kind of nursing had you done prior to lactation consulting?
I’ve been a registered nurse for 30 years. Prior to becoming a lactation consultant, I spent the majority of my nursing career in Maternal Child care; primarily as a labor and delivery nurse serving in the role as staff nurse and clinical leader.
What motivated you to become a lactation consultant?
As a staff nurse, I enjoyed assisting new mothers breastfeed their newborns. I was always excited when a mother chose to breastfeed. Breastmilk was the food that I believed mothers should feed their babies. After all, it was the food choice for my own children as newborns. I later took on the role as Perinatal Instructor and this role allowed me the opportunity to seek the credentials of a lactation consultant in order to provide evidence based breastfeeding information and or assistance to new mothers and my colleagues This role has allowed me as an African American to be a representative for especially African American women in which statistics report as having the lowest breastfeeding rates among the races. My goal was to bring about breastfeeding awareness with education and support.
Where do you work and how long have you been the lactation nurse there?
I work at Methodist Healthcare South as the first and only lactation consultant for 15 years. I also have the pleasure of working among approximately six lactation consultants at Methodist Germantown for at least the last 10 years, usually working 2-3 part-time shifts per week.
Why is breastfeeding so important? How long should women breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is important because it provides multiple benefits for both baby and mother. The most important reason is breastmilk is nutritionally superior to formula with very few exceptions. It also naturally changes to meet the baby’s growing needs, provides health benefits and immunity to babies, facilitates mother-baby bonding, as well as decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers and so much more.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for one year and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years. I also advise mothers to breastfeed as long as it is healthy and comfortable for mother and baby.
As a labor and delivery nurse I find that a lot of women believe that their milk supply is too low to exclusively breast feed. In your experiences, do most women have an adequate milk supply?
Yes, if they follow the principle of “supply-vs-demand” (the more mothers breast are effectively stimulated by baby or breast pumping- preferably with baby, the more milk the breast makes). Hand expression is also very helpful in the first few days while the first milk called colostrum is present. I believe that most women, because they can’t measure the volume of milk when the baby is actually breastfeeding, feel that they don’t have enough breast milk. Sometimes the belief that there isn’t enough breast milk may be due to cultural beliefs and or simply a lack of knowledge.
Usually, when mothers begin to introduce other forms of feedings or return to work while decreasing the number of times the breasts are stimulated, there is a decrease in their milk supply. There are other factors that can also possibly affect or decrease a mother’s milk supply, such as a history of breast surgeries (reduction/implants), untreated breast engorgement (swelling of the breasts), hormonal issues etc.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in breastfeeding?
I believe the biggest challenges are lack of knowledge and support, especially from mate and family members; lack of breastfeeding exposure to other successful breastfeeding mothers; and a lack of commitment and self-empowerment. To be successful with breastfeeding mothers must possess the later. I also want to congratulate you, Karin on your continuing success with breastfeeding. I’m sure you can attest that your breastfeeding experience has come with changes and perhaps challenges.
Thanks Denise! I certainly didn’t plan to breast feed past one year but I’m headed for two. And yes, my breastfeeding journey was really tough in the beginning and without support from my loved ones and some major commitment, I would have given up after a few days.
You have an awesome program at Methodist South where you teach prenatal and child birth classes. Who can attend these and how can expecting mom’s sign up?
Thank you! All expecting women in their 5th-7th month can enroll in a 5 week series of classes. Classes are taught on Mondays from 5:00- 7:00 p.m. for five consecutive sessions to complete a class. All classes prepare mothers and support persons for labor and delivery, newborn care, breastfeeding, and so much more. I’m also excited about my new class “Girl Talk- Let’s Start the Conversation”, this class provides factual education about puberty (changes & challenges). The class is for girls age 9-12 and their mothers/guardians. Classes are taught during the school year fall and spring breaks. All classes are FREE! If you are interested:
Contact Denise Chears (901)516-3475 to sign up.
I love that you are doing “Girl Talk”! I know that mother/daughter classes like this can make a difference in a young girls future choices. That is awesome! Mommy readers with adolescent girls should jump on this!
Well Denise I have loved learning about you and the services you are providing to the Memphis community. Thank you for all that you do and for taking the time to share your knowledge.
Before you go, tell us your favorite quote.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer
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