After I decided to start Mighty Milk, my most important task was finding the best Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to lead the classes. I searched across the country for the right person to do the job. This involved putting up Indeed ads and combing the depths of Google and LinkedIn. First, I knew I wanted somebody deeply experienced, who had worked with many different families at various stages of breastfeeding. Second, I wanted to find somebody who knew what it felt like firsthand to have a difficult time with breastfeeding. I interviewed an IBCLC who was great but didn’t have firsthand experience with how deeply disappointing and frustrating it can feel to have things not work out. But I moved on because it felt important for the person leading these classes, especially the Breastfeeding for Newborns class, to have “walked the walk” herself. Third, I needed somebody awesome on camera–who not only had a clear message but could deliver it. Of course, this is a skill totally outside the realm of normal IBCLC-ing, so finding somebody with this quality was not easy.
I ended up stumbling upon Lex Beach, who happens to live pretty close by. I kept hearing Lex’s name from local moms. She had a stellar reputation from people I trust. Once we got to talking, I learned that Lex was inspired to become an IBCLC after difficulties breastfeeding her twin boys. And, as luck would have it, Lex is fantastic on camera. She had all of the qualities I was looking for! And now, after working with her for many months, I can tell you that Lex has such an important message and platform. I saw many lactation consultants when I was struggling with my baby. Her approach is different from anyone else’s. I’m so excited to introduce you to Lex and hope that you can “meet” her through our classes.
Kate: Tell me about yourself and your family
Lex: I grew up in Cambridge, MA, but moved to Northampton, MA in the fall of 1998 to attend Smith College. I’ve lived in and around Northampton ever since. My wife Meg and I have seven children. Jasper and Lukas are 17-year-old twins, Aviva is 15, Zeben is 13, Liesl is 12, Leo is 11, and Edith is 2. We also live with two cattle-dog mutts (Hector and Beezus), six chickens, and a duck called Lizzo. I’ve had a wide range of personal breastfeeding experiences. I’ve exclusively breastfed twins; I’ve breastfed babies I didn’t give birth to; I’ve breastfed both with an extreme over-supply of milk and with hardly any milk at all. I’ve been a milk donor, and my family has also been the recipient of donor milk. I’ve tandem nursed children of different ages, and no two weanings of any of my kids looked exactly alike.
Kate: How did you decide to become an IBCLC?
Lex: I decided to work toward becoming an IBCLC soon after my twins were born in 2003. I’ve been a baby-lover for my whole life, and I’d always known that I wanted a career in the maternal-infant world. Before my twins were born, I thought that career would have something to do with pregnancy and birth. But after I became a mother, I discovered that my true passion lay in the postpartum period. I overcame a multitude of breastfeeding challenges in order to establish a successful, long-term breastfeeding relationship with my twins, and I decided to become an IBCLC in order to spread the love and help other families reach their breastfeeding goals.
Kate: What do you like the most about your job?
Lex: It feels like a huge privilege to be welcomed into the homes of families during the tender early weeks with their new babies. I’m usually welcomed with great enthusiasm—”the lactation consultant is here!”—and most of the time, I get to leave people in a much more hopeful, relaxed, and cozy state than I found them in. New families need so much more support than they generally have access to, and I love getting to be part of the solution to that unfortunate reality. I have a deep love for and understanding of babies—I like to say that “I speak their language”—and I love the part of my job that includes helping families to better understand their new babies and how to soothe and assist them.
Kate: What’s a common mistake or misunderstanding you see?
Lex: One thing that drives me crazy about this work is how many families come to me after having been told that their babies aren’t gaining weight well and need to be put on supplemental milk, without anyone ever questioning or investigating WHY their babies aren’t gaining well. While my top priority is always that the baby is well fed, it matters very much to me to help families get to the root of their breastfeeding struggles rather than just putting a band-aid on the problem. So while we make sure that the baby is getting plenty of milk, I’ll also work to figure out exactly why a mother isn’t making enough milk, or why her baby isn’t transferring enough if supply isn’t the issue. And if the mother’s goal is to sustain a long term breastfeeding relationship, I’ll make sure that whatever methods we’re using to ensure the baby is well fed will also be supportive of long term breastfeeding success.
Kate: What’s a favorite story about a client?
Lex: I’ve had many clients who start out really struggling—maybe not even nursing at all, or otherwise relying heavily on bottles and supplemental milk—and I always reassure them at the beginning that absolutely anyone can breastfeed, and that with my support they can still achieve the long-term breastfeeding relationship they’ve imagined. Not everyone will choose to stick with it through all of the stages of transitioning their baby to the breast, and I wholly support families in whatever choices they make. For the families who do stick with it, the majority will eventually follow up with me to say, “You were right! I didn’t believe you when you said we could do this, but you were right!” And the days I get those kinds of messages are definitely my favorite.
Kate: What are your (non-breastfeeding-related) hobbies?
Lex: I also work as a photographer, though these days it’s more of a hobby than a profession. I take lots and lots of pictures of my family. I love visiting the ocean, and my family spends time every summer camping on Cape Cod. I collect beach stones with a passion that I think other people reserve for collecting jewelry or material goods (it drives Meg a little bit crazy). I’m generally interested in child rearing and family systems, and fantasize about someday writing a book.