For the better part of a year, we have been lucky to have Jamila Squires as part of the TBTN team, who brings a host of experience from different settings. Though she is familiar to the many patients she has already seen at TBTN, this post is a chance to get to know her better.
Jamila has done a lot of work with families experiencing high risk pregnancies in the early days of breastfeeding, which has been a good compliment to the work I specialize in, later in the postpartum period. We know things like pre-eclampsia, multiple gestation, preterm birth, small size for gestational age, or gestational diabetes can make establishing breastfeeding more challenging. Jamila is experienced and comfortable with these kinds of issues, and can help smooth the initiation and establishment of breastfeeding. We are launching a new initiative based on Jamila's areas of expertise to try to reach more patients at higher risk for breastfeeding difficulties in the prenatal period and offer close follow-up postpartum.
Read on to learn more about Jamila and the specialized knowledge she brings to the practice. Better yet, schedule a prenatal visit with her and get proactive guidance about how to manage breastfeeding in the hospital!
Where are you from and how did that shape you growing up?
I was born overseas and grew up in a small mountain town out West. Living in such a beautiful area, I developed a love for everything outdoors from an early age. I do miss family and snow that you can play in though!
What brought you to North Carolina and why do you stay?
I moved here for grad school (Masters in Public Health at UNC) and stayed because I love my work. I also love the green trees, beaches, mountains and rivers.
What do you do for fun?
I love spending time with my little family and exploring the world with my toddler. The Museum of Life and Sciences is our happy place.
What initially drew you to working in lactation support?
A classmate in grad school invited me to a lecture on the history of breastfeeding
and infant feeding that fascinated me. As a public health person, I was drawn to breastfeeding because of the high impact on global maternal and child health outcomes. At the same time, there are so many disparities and complex population level barriers to successful breastfeeding.
As I started working in a clinical setting, it became even more apparent that factors such as social support, cultural influences, access to skilled lactation support, work demands and leave options can have such strong influences on breastfeeding success.
What is unique about your experience with lactation consulting?
There are many routes to becoming a lactation consultant. I was fortunate to receive a strong university-based foundation in clinical lactation practice and have the benefit of collaborating with many skilled lactation consultants. I have provided lactation consulting in postpartum, neonatal intensive care and other hospital units as well as, birth center, pediatric, private practice, and home visit settings abroad.
These experiences have given me a good understanding of what goes on in each of these settings, and how decisions about infant feeding are made. I have learned to collaborate with other providers and help patients navigate these systems, manage medical interventions and overcome breastfeeding problems.
What do you wish more parents knew about breastfeeding?
I wish more parents knew how common early breastfeeding challenges could be, and were better prepared to navigate the healthcare system and get the early support they need.
When you look at the data, there is a steep decline from the number of women who plan to or initiate breastfeeding and the number that are still breastfeeding after the first few weeks. There are so many things that can happen with birth and the early postpartum period that can impact the breastfeeding journey.
What is your favorite aspect of lactation consulting?
There are so many rewarding aspects to this work. Being able to help a mom overcome challenges, develop confidence and feel successful and satisfied with her breastfeeding journey can be so empowering for the mom and is rewarding for me. I feel privileged and thankful to be able to do work that I truly believe in.
What are you most looking forward to expanding with your work at TBTN?
I never get bored being a lactation consultant. There is always more to learn. In this new chapter, I’m looking forward to learning more about infant body dynamics and new ways to think about and approach breastfeeding difficulties.
I’m also excited to expand access to prenatal resources and to provide more continuity of care through the prenatal and postpartum period.
I’m hoping to reach more patients prenatally who have high risk medical situations or other concerns that can make breastfeeding feel out of reach.
There is so much we can do to provide individualized knowledge and preparation in the prenatal period, and attentive, careful follow-up in the early postpartum period.
We're so glad to have Jamila as part of the team, and this new initiative will help our practice reach more people earlier.