I recently contemplated changing the way I do business.
Although I offer several services, by far my emergency lactation consults keep me the busiest. When a client or her partner has hit a wall with breastfeeding— but does not want to quit, they will seek out a lactation consultant for assistance.
Typically, an initial lactation consultation occurs in the client’s home. She is comfortable there and so is the baby. As a caregiver, I can assess how mom is coping, how helpful her partner is, and suggest ways to make the postpartum experience a little easier.
And I can help her feed her baby, which will make her feel like she is bonding with her baby once again.
These initial consults keep me in the client’s home for one to two hours. During this time I can usually view family photos displayed prominently in the living room, which gives me a sense of what my new client was like prior to pregnancy.
I can look around her environment and get a sense of what is important to her. A sleek, clean, and cohesive design says to me that she cares about her space—and this new baby may be really impacting that.
An environment that is ready for baby, with toys that may not be used for months prominently displayed, offers the information that this client has wanted to be a mother for a while, most likely.
The home that already has another child and is expanding to accommodate a new baby can help me to understand how overwhelmed this mother two children may be, with new demands imposed by the newborn.
My training as a lactation consultant did not teach me how to do this, my life experience did. I have been in these shoes before, tired and desperately trying to be the mom I had hoped to be.
By the time I leave a client’s home, I have smiling parents, a content baby, and have gotten to give a hug to a new mom who needed it—a hallmark of my brand.
Sometimes a follow-up consultation is needed. We may monitor the baby’s progress in feeding and gaining weight, or discuss an issue related to lactation that may go deeper than latch and position to fix.
Right now, I offer follow up lactation visits in the home of my clients. With a follow-up rate of over 45%, I began to contemplate if I should find a location for a clinic one morning per week.
I began to rationalize that it would give me more time for more new clients, while being able to make follow-ups easy for mom.
Many lactation consultants do this and it makes sense. You can see more clients at once, keep it inexpensive for the client, and you are not driving all over the great city of Chicago.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this just doesn’t suit me or my business.
First of all, a tired and stressed-out mom only becomes more tired and stressed when she has another appointment. This would just add in another thing she has to prepare to leave the house to do—which can be overwhelming and prevent her from attending my clinic.
Second, sometimes the baby just won’t cooperate. As a newborn expert, I know that they use their senses to regulate their emotions. Some babies are really sensitive, and won’t feed or feed well if they are not in their homes. They can smell and hear this new environment and decide they are not at home and therefore won’t want to feed.
Third, it is hard to time a baby to eat during hours that are convenient for me. I have had friends and neighbors talk about how frustrated they were when their perfect baby, slept through the clinic hours, and the lactation consultant could not witness the feeding.
Fourth, I am not good at multi-tasking when it comes to caring for my clients. If I had several clients at the same time, I would feel they were being denied my one-on-one attention. Or, I could miss something or forget to answer a question.
Finally, if my brand is all about bonding, then I need to assess just that. This means I need to be in the client’s home again, and noting things that have changed— and have not changed, this helps me determine how well mom is coping.
So, for now, I have decided to leave my follow-ups in the client’s home. And I think my client’s feel a little more special and secure because of that.