Welcome to Balanced Breastfeeding! I would love to tell you more about myself and how I can best serve you!
A Conversation with Katie Madden RN, BSN, IBCLC
How long have you been doing what you do and how did you become a Balanced Breastfeeding expert?
I have been working with moms and babies since I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2004. I discovered my knack for “getting babies to latch” early on in my first job when I was working at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Other nurses would happily trade their patients’ need for help with breastfeeding issues for my clients’ need for pain medication. I’d go in and get the baby latched on to the breast lickity split. The mothers would always say to me, “Katie! Now you have to come home with me!” At the time, I was pretty damn full of myself. After all, I was “fixing them.”
It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my own daughter in 2006 that I realized that although I had a knack for latching babies, I was completely missing the point. In fact, most healthcare professionals are still missing the point. It isn’t about me getting a baby to latch onto the breast, it is about empowering a mother to take control of her own breastfeeding journey and it is about how her breastfeeding experience will impact her life long-term.
Let me back up for a moment. Before having Lucy, I had serious body image issues. I didn’t just have low self-esteem; I had body hatred. I dieted, gorged, cut, spoke meanly to and abused my body. I read everything I could get my hands on about body image to try to end my body war, but nothing worked. I simply couldn’t separate my self worth from my self image. Years of self abuse and neglect, struggles with anxiety and depression, and an adolescence and young adulthood filled with self-loathing left me feeling broken.
Then, I got pregnant. I knew deep down in my soul that I wanted two things: to birth without drugs at a birthing center and to breastfeed. It occurred to me that there was no reason why my body should do this for me after the way I had treated it for over a decade. So, I had a come-to-Jesus with my body. I said, “Body, I know I have been nothing but mean and degrading to you. I know I have said things to you that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemy, but I promise, if you give me the birth and breastfeeding experience I want, I will call a truce. I promise to never again speak badly to you or abuse you.”
And so it was. I gave birth to my eight-pound, 14-ounce baby girl; Lucy and I enjoyed an easy breastfeeding relationship for almost three years. To this day, I do not hate on my body. We have lost weight and gained weight together, but we are friends and we always will be because my body taught me that it is not decorative, it is functional and it works perfectly. Breastfeeding Lucy allowed me to grow as a woman, as a mother, as a wife. It was a truly transformative experience.
So, back to me latching babies: After my life changing experience, I couldn’t just latch babies anymore. I had to give other women the opportunity to experience breastfeeding and the power it has to change them. I had to give the power to them instead of doing it for them.
Along the way, I developed the realization that this transformation isn’t about the breastmilk and that sometimes is born from many breastfeeding difficulties, but it is the delicate balance of the breastfeeding journey that allows space for true growth and transformation.
I have made a commitment to dedicate the rest of my professional life to empowering women to breastfeed through my workshops, consulting, classes, and home study materials.
I created the Balanced Breastfeeding Method™ as a technique that starts in pregnancy and ends in weaning, because every single stage of breastfeeding is as powerful as the first.
Who do you work with exactly?
I work with women and couples who are dedicated to breastfeeding. They know it is the healthiest choice for themselves and their babies and they are not willing to leave their success or failure to chance.
The women I work with understand that there is no one right way to breastfeed, nor does it need to be done perfectly, but that there are many tools and methods to achieve one’s own personal breastfeeding goals. But it takes hard work. The women I work with are deeply committed to their goals, flexible enough to understand that there are many unpredictable paths to reach those goals, and brave enough to dig in and work hard to achieve results.
Oftentimes, but not always, the women I work with tend to have an affinity for perfectionism, anxiety, control, and high-achievement. They are used to getting what they want and need in life and they are accustomed to the effort it takes. They are not, however, used to losing control of situations. Becoming a mother is a rude entry into losing control and they acknowledge that they need support, education, and coaching to navigate this new territory.
How are you different from other Lactation Consultants?
Well, I call myself a Balanced Breastfeeding expert for a reason. Yes, I have 10+ years in the healthcare field as a Registered Nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Yes, I have experience in many fields such as the hospital, birth center, home, and community settings. Yes, I have helped thousands of women achieve breastfeeding success, but I am not your typical Lactation Consultant.
Why? Because I know that breastfeeding is about a whole lot more than breastmilk.
I approach breastfeeding with the humor, tough love, and compassion that you would get from a close friend (you know, the one who calls you out when you aren’t being your best self). I have over a decade of experience and tools under my belt to achieve any breastfeeding goal, but I have the finesse to only use them when it is appropriate and in a mother’s and baby’s best interest.
I am not afraid to use formula, pacifiers, or bottles to achieve these goals, which is a sometimes unpopular method in the breastfeeding world.
I am also intensely protective of maternal mental health, especially during the early postpartum period. I have been part of my local team’s Climb Out of the Darkness planning committee since 2014, working to bring awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and resources to mothers in need. I have also attained a certificate in PMADS: Components of Care from Postpartum Support International and I incorporate caring for mothers’ mental health and wellbeing into my practice as a Lactation Consultant.
Most importantly, to me, each of my clients is not just a set of boobs or a milk-making machine. She is a woman who is learning how to be a mother. Her baby is a person, with unique personality traits and temperament. Together, they are a breastfeeding pair that exists within a family. It is a multi-leveled, dynamic, and ever changing relationship that deserves unwavering love, time, and energy.