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Gresham woman trains to help families with breastfeeding

Lisa Lien hopes to reach Latino families, same-sex couples in her practice


Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LISA LIEN - Gresham resident, mother and business woman Lisa Lien returned to Portland Community College last spring to study lactation education and consulting. She will take her board exam in July 2015.

Two months ago, Gresham resident, mother and business woman Lisa Lien read a proclamation at the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners meeting, declaring August as Breastfeeding Month in the county.

Lien shared testimony of her own journey breastfeeding her son, Kellen, and pumping milk for him when she returned to work after 14 weeks, commuting an hour each way. She and Kellen, now 4, held up a blue and white sign that read, “Breastfeeding welcome here.”

“Most new moms need coaching and encouragement,” Lien said. “When you feed your baby eight to 10 times a day for six months to a year on average, with each feeding taking approximately 40 minutes, you want those feedings to be as relaxed and as comfortable as possible for both mom and baby. That requires planning and time management skills.”

Visiting a lactation consultant in 2010 completely changed Lien’s relationship to breastfeeding. It also led her to a new career path.

Lien is one of 10 students in Portland Community College’s inaugural Lactation Education and Consultant Program that began last spring at the Rock Creek Campus.

The recipient of the program’s Shannon Floyd Scholarship that supports minority students or students who plan to work with people of color, Lien has a goal to work with Latino families and same-sex couples when she finishes up next summer.

Born and raised in East County, Lien graduated from Gresham High School in 1999 and Western Oregon University in 2003. She worked in the corporate business world, but always had a desire to make a difference in someone’s life. Nothing moved her soul like having her first son.

After working with a lactation consultant four years ago, Lien thought to herself, “Wow, what an amazing profession to work with moms and babies, and really, a whole family.”

Lien mulled over the idea of becoming a lactation consultant around for a year. She had a degree, worked and made good money. The idea of going back to school and helping pay the bills seemed like a huge leap of faith. But with her husband Tom, parents and siblings’ encouragement, Lien began applying to programs.

During the course of her studies, Lien’s family welcomed twins Adelina and Landon in November 2013.

Photo Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: LISA LIEN - Lien's experience working with a lactation consultant inspired her career change. Here she is pictured with her husband Tom, son Kellen and twins Adelina and Landon.

“The scholarship has given me an opportunity to continue my education and for us to not struggle financially,” Lien said. “It’s given me a drive to give back to the community.”

In her PCC program, Lien has learned the decision to breast or bottle feed is a global debate fueled by cultural issues, time constraints, partner support, economics, religious beliefs, body image and the overall health of mothers and newborns.

“There’s a movement toward many individuals thinking formula is better than breast feeding — that it’s the rich or wealthy people’s way,” Lien said.

With her background in Spanish, Lien hopes to reach Latino families in the Gresham area. Lien believes in a family approach to breastfeeding and said it has numerous benefits for both the mother and baby, providing bonding, nutrition and the reduced risk of diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer.

During the first 8-12 weeks with a newborn, Lien said the mom’s job is to eat, sleep and feed the baby. Partners’ jobs are to be supportive, cook healthy meals for the mother and make sure she is well hydrated and rested.

Partners can burp the baby, change the baby’s diapers, cuddle and sing to the baby and wash out pumping parts. Meanwhile, older siblings can help bring water or snacks or tickle the babies toes to keep them awake and feeding.

In same-sex female partnerships, Lien said it’s possible for both mothers to breastfeed the baby.

“By involving the entire family, the nursing mom is educating future moms and dads about the advantages of breast feeding,” Lien said.

Breastfeeding can help a family save an estimated $1,500-3,000 a year on formula, along with the cost of bottles, nipples, extra supplies and the time spent washing these items.

“With breastfeeding, you just bring yourself,” Lien said.

Lactation consultants may pursue their own practices, partner with hospitals and pediatricians or work with the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), said Janis Nichols, PCC's manager of community relations.

“We’re there to support, encourage and help solve problems,” Lien said.

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