Jessica came to me while she was a student, interested in learning about my approach to lactation support. She then took the initiative to design her own training program with me, creating an intensive year long fellowship that has moved her from apprentice to competent practitioner. Jessica has successfully absorbed the dynamic relationship between lactation and infant bodies that is the backbone of our work here at Teaching Babies to Nurse, and also brings her own sense of wholeness and curiosity to her visits. By the time a family leaves, she has drawn out a complete story, explored life from different angles, and has touched on and cared for many aspects of postpartum life that go beyond simply fixing an infant suck.
We joke about Jessica’s extensive neighborhood network, about how often she ends up saying, “Oh, that’s my neighbor!”, but I think this actually speaks volumes about who she is and what she brings to this work. She is good at connection, she thinks about how we can support ourselves and others holistically, and she thinks about feeding babies as part of the whole postpartum experience - keeping breastfeeding a source of happiness no matter what that looks like.
I am honored to work with her. Read on to learn more about Jessica. With love,
Introducing Jessica Luginbuhl
Where are you from and how did that shape you growing up?
I am Swiss-American and my parents first met and worked in South America, but moved back to the US so my dad could attend graduate school at NC State, so I was born in Raleigh, NC.
Like my parents, I share an insatiable curiosity about the world and its inhabitants (flora and fauna), and have deep reverence and respect for traditions and beliefs that inform and guide individual communities worldwide.
As an adult I have spent time living and working in the Southeast, on the West Coast, and internationally in Europe and different parts of Africa. I speak French fluently and I can stagger through some basic conversations in Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic because I lived in Morocco for 9 months. Feel free to try me, elhamd’Allah!
What brought you to North Carolina and why did you stay?
After originally growing up in Raleigh, I’ve moved back to North Carolina more than once! I first moved back from Oregon to attend graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill, where I obtained a Masters in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health in 2007.
After graduation, I completed a fellowship with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta and then moved to Oakland, California for about 10 years where I worked in public health, specifically focused on the inequitable social conditions that disrupt health and burden communities of color.
Following my own birth and breastfeeding experience in California, I was inspired to combine my public health program management work with supporting families directly in lactation. This led me to adjust my career path and move with my family back to North Carolina in 2017, this time to attend the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative at UNC’s Global Breastfeeding Institute. My family and I love living near our family and old friends again, being surrounded by big trees, and experiencing the four seasons!
What do you do for fun?
I love to dance and I perform improv comedy a few times a month in Durham with a small troupe. I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family and friends, like hiking and swimming at the Eno River State Park.
I also spend a lot of time at my children’s various sporting events and dance classes. On Sundays, our family participates in a local all-ages mindfulness meditation community, which is a nice break from our full lives.
What initially drew you to working in lactation support?
It may sound cliche, but becoming a parent changed me. Early on, my breastfeeding and parenting journey was bolstered by a complex web of support, which gave me a new perspective on the importance of community and the impact of my public health work.
I had been working with families through public health programs for years, but now I showed up at community meetings caring for my own child.
I’ll elaborate here on the importance of community to me. My own birth, breastfeeding and early parenting experiences started in the East Bay of Northern California, where I worked with exceptional and loving midwives at Pacifica Family and Maternity Center. I had a very long labor and shortly thereafter had to transfer my son to the NICU where he stayed for several days. The help I was able to receive, even with the rocky start— the visitors, the food, the birth center’s mothers’ group, the chats on my gray living room couch—all made it tolerable, and even wonderful (at times).
Breastfeeding, and parenting, for me, has real highs and lows. I knew I needed experienced friends and trained professionals by my side (and my partner, constantly being loving and supportive, performing daytime and nighttime tasks, and ensuring my huge water bottle and beloved snack tray was always full.)
The midwives at the birth center provided great prenatal, birth, and postpartum care, as well as thoughtful and necessary lactation support. My experience inspired me to start an informal advisory committee for the Center, as I saw how much it gave me and all the families in the community, and I wanted to give back in-kind. I had experienced first-hand how the work I did in maternal and child health for 15 years made a critical difference for both individual families as well as the community, and felt compelled to help amplify that impact in a different way. These experiences led me to move with my family back across the country, to NC again, to be near family, and for me to adjust my career path and eventually go back to school to become a lactation consultant.
What is unique about your experience with lactation consulting?
Previous to lactation, I worked with women and children worldwide in a variety of public health settings. Most recently, for ten years I had the privilege to implement and manage public health programming focused on the most disinvested communities in Alameda County, CA. There, I grappled with a complex array of social, economic, political, and cultural factors that influence families and their communities.
My experiences have encouraged me to hold onto the belief that when children and parents are provided appropriate support, they can and will succeed.
This conviction has driven me to explore the crucial early months of a child's life, where the bonds between parents, baby, and family are formed.
My public health background and understanding of the complex issues that affect health dovetails with my natural inclination toward a holistic connection with the families I care for. When you spend time with me, my goal is that you leave the visit feeling seen and heard. During a visit, we will start with the macro (“how are you feeling about this new time in life?”) and get into the micro (“what are the challenges in the actual suck that can be alleviated?”). By the end of the visit, I want to have touched on not only the challenges and needs you are experiencing with breastfeeding, but also the layered issues that surround breastfeeding. At times, they can be even more complex and challenging to manage than the lactation difficulty itself. And if more than a lactation consult and supportive conversation is warranted, I’ll connect you to the “right” people and places that are a part of our postpartum support community.
Before working at Teaching Babies to Nurse, I trained in local hospitals, community clinics and the former birth center in Chapel Hill. I sought out working with Ellen Chetwynd after the Mary Rose Training Intensive because of her unique approach to breastfeeding and her ability to manage complex cases of pain and ineffective nursing, not to mention her calm demeanor and loving presence. And I feel extremely fortunate to be working alongside her now!
What do you wish more parents knew about breastfeeding/chestfeeding?
Breastfeeding/chestfeeding, although often intuitive after you’ve mastered it, can be very challenging at the beginning. And I know firsthand that it can take a community to support you along the way!
I also believe that there are lots of different ways to feed your baby, and that there is no one perfect way to do it. I’m here to provide support in whatever shape your feeding journey takes you.
What is your favorite aspect of lactation consulting?
Hands down, helping families with the essential act of feeding and eating is the most gratifying work I have ever done. Feeding and nurturing your baby is truly a sacred and unique experience and being invited to be part of that with a family is a true privilege and honor. I cherish every moment and every family I’ve had the honor of working with.
What are you most looking forward to expanding with your work at TBTN?
I enjoy using my holistic public health lens in my clinical practice. As I noted above, it gives me a broad perspective and I naturally think about the patient(s) multi-dimensionally, rather
than just as one human feeding another. Once I have a good grasp of all the pieces at play, I can also connect patients with a variety of providers in our vast network. A goal of mine is to establish more linkages within the postpartum care community.
I also love the opportunity to begin with a prenatal visit. I get an interconnected view of the family right away, and it’s such a great way to start infant feeding off on the “right foot” and get ahead of some of the common pitfalls that can arise early on. Also, it's an opportunity to form a relationship with me and establish some clear feeding goals together (even if they change!). Those very early days are so special because everything is so new, and so difficult. Early lactation visits can really decrease the potential challenges.
I really can’t say that I prefer working with one age over another - every relationship I have is unique. But as you can see from reading this post, I’m a generalist at heart and it’s important that I stay on my learning edge to stay engaged. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and your family!