By BMSG Editorial Team
As part of recognising the work of our volunteer counsellors, we will be featuring our counsellors regularly in our monthly newsletter. Our counsellors come from all walks of life, which adds diversity to our counsellor team. This month, we feature Ellen Nepilly, a mum of three children who hails from Germany. Ellen has also recently obtained her International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) certification!
Hi Ellen! It’s been a year since you joined the BMSG! Tell us more about yourself and what inspired you to become a breastfeeding counsellor.
It all started with the birth of my twins in 2009. They were seven weeks early and I needed a lot of help and support, especially emotionally, to manage all the pumping and hand expressing. I had a lot of support from the wonderful nurses and lactation consultants (LCs) at the hospital in Japan back then when I was still living there.
I was also in touch with Iona McNab who is an IBCLC and a La Leche League (LLL) leader. She was my rock as I could always call on her when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. I suffered from mastitis and all kinds of issues but she never ceased to be positive and encouraging. I will always thank her for that and wanted to pay it forward.
We also hear that you recently have obtained the IBCLC certification. Congratulations! Could you tell us more about your experience going through the certification? Is it a route that counsellors can or should take?
Back then I already knew that I wanted to become an IBCLC one day but never thought I would get there because I have no midwifery or nursing background and had to catch up on extra college courses to sign up for the exam.
It was not easy having no background as a healthcare professional. It was certainly the hardest and most stressful exam I have ever taken. I was required to fulfil 1,000 hours as a breastfeeding counsellor helping mums and 90 hours of lactation-specific studying and complete 15 college level courses.
The college level courses can be taken online so it was possible and manageable for me. I had already obtained a Bachelor’s Degree, and as such I was used to studying and writing papers. I was also able to use my health coach certificate for the nutrition course, and had taken sociology already. I luckily found a group on social media that helped finding all the online courses I needed. Figuring out which courses to take is already quite a lot of work so I’m very thankful for that group. It helped me a lot.
Becoming an IBCLC is not necessarily something every counsellor should aim for. You can help mothers as a counsellor in many ways. Often emotional support and positive words are all that a mother needs in order to push through and keep going.
The reason I wanted to become an IBCLC was because I wanted to do it as a full-time profession, which may not be every counsellor’s goal.
How has being part of the BMSG changed your life or impacted the way you help mothers?
As an expatriate here in Singapore, it has certainly helped me meet more locals. It feels like being part of a big family of breastfeeding supporters. Our counsellors are all awesome mums who spend a lot of their free time supporting fellow breastfeeding mums, so it’s a very special tribe.
As a counsellor with BMSG, I am really enjoying getting to know the different cultures and customs that come with all the different ethnicities here in Singapore. I met an Indian mum the other day whose aunt was there to help her with her newborn. She had a lot of breastfeeding knowledge and showed me an infant feeder that I had so far only seen in a textbook.
What is your dream for the breastfeeding community in Singapore and where you come from?
My dream is that governments will become much more supportive of breastfeeding by helping to provide increased education and awareness in this area, thereby weakening the influence formula milk companies have over doctors and hospitals. I will be happy if all hospitals could achieve the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) status, as that would mean that mothers can easily receive all they help they would need after giving birth.
What is your best advice for individuals who are interested in becoming breastfeeding counsellors?
Just go for it. We have a new mentorship programme in our Facebook group. Unfortunately, we currently have more mentors signed up than mentees so we cannot assign them all. But starting out in our breastfeeding group by giving supportive advice to breastfeeding mums is a good way to see what other mums have to deal with and it will give you an idea of what to expect as a counsellor. Come to our breastfeeding group programmes and support mums there by sharing your story with them! Come to our events, get to know us and we’ll hopefully see you when our next batch of counsellors are being trained.
Interested in joining the BMSG as a breastfeeding counsellor? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on the waitlist for the 2019 intake of counselling training!