IBCLC – have you ever heard this term before?
I had never heard it until I met Sarah Fuller a couple of years ago, she is a lactation consultant and owner of Opus Lactation. I immediately had to ask her what it meant. It stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Maybe it’s because I don’t have children (yet) but I didn’t even realize that there were people who specialize in helping new parents with lactation! But now that I know, I think it’s the best thing ever. I admire what Sarah does so much.
I also think she’s a rad human being who deeply cares about equality and using gender neutral language in her work. Because not every person who gives birth identifies as a woman and she is doing her part to make the birth world more accessible and inviting to the LGBTQ+ community. My conversations with Sarah have opened my eyes to how gendered our language can be. She’s inspired me to be more inclusive.
She is also one of the founders of The Parent Trip, which you can read about in my most recent blog post. I’m so excited to be participating in this event again this year. And we hope to see you there as well, event details are at the end!
So, I’m super stoked to introduce you to Sarah Fuller, lactation consultant and owner of Opus Lactation.
Get to Know Sarah
Tell me a little bit more about yourself? Where are you from? Tell me about your family? What is your favorite thing to do in Portland?
Sarah: I feel like my Instagram bio sums me up real well: Mama of 3 kiddos. IBCLC. Thrift store junkie. Threshold beer slinger. Coffee lover. Singer. Chronic auto-correct victim.
But really, I’m a native Oregonian — raised up in wine country (before it was considered wine country!). I moved south to University of Oregon to be a vocal performance major but ended up with a psychology degree. I feel the most at home by bodies of water — it doesn’t matter if it’s an ocean, lake or river — it makes me happy.
I’ve been married to my husband, David, for 12 years and we have 3 kiddos – ages 10, 7 and 3. We have a 15 year old cat named Mimi that we have dubbed our “grandma kitty” because she’s the most kid-tolerant cat you will ever meet. We’ve lived in SE Portland for the last 11 years and we love to check out the ever evolving food and drink scene.
Sarah’s IBCLC Journey
When did you first know you wanted to become a lactation consultant?
Sarah: I really struggled with nursing my first kiddo. I’m an extremely stubborn person, so I white knuckled my way through a lot of pain and didn’t think to reach out for outside support. We nursed until 21 months but those first couple of months were incredibly rough. When my second was born, our midwife helped me adjust my latch on a 3 day home visit and it changed everything. It went from pinchy to perfect immediately. I think that’s when the wheels started to turn.
Being a lactation consultant really combines all of the skills and passions I’ve been honing my whole life. I’ve always loved to brainstorm tricky situations. I chose to switch to a degree in psychology because one of my favorite things to do is sit one-on-one with folks and find an emotional connection. It felt especially vital knowing what it was like to be in that immediate postpartum period. You are in the midst of an incredible change that is so personal. I want to create a safe space for those with a new baby to talk about how it is hard, how it is beautiful, how it is indescribable.
Not to mention my love of those little tiny humans.
Where did you do your training?
Sarah: I spent a lot of time at PCC working with others on their way to health professions to get some core science classes I was missing. My goal had been to apply to PCC’s program for in person IBCLC training after that, but they closed the program the month that I was ready to apply. I was heartbroken to miss out on that personal connection but it was the only option in my reach here in Portland at the time. I turned to Lactation Education Resources to get my 90 hours of lactation specific training. I was able to hone my skills in person as a La Leche League leader, where I am still a volunteer today. I’ve been a leader for 5 years this spring. I sat for my IBCLC exam in October of 2017 and am now certified to practice lactation consulting around the globe.
When did you first start Opus Lactation?
Sarah: Opus Lactation began in March of 2018.
Can you explain the different services/packages you offer?
Sarah: The majority of my services are in the new parent’s home. If I’m requested to visit in the hospital, I can certainly do that. In-home visits are so important because nursing on your furniture can be much different than office furniture would be. I also recognize how hard it is to get out of the house immediately postpartum.
The package that I wish every new parent would be given as a gift is my 4th Trimester Package. It allows us to come together for that initial visit and create a plan together, and then follow up two seperate times to see what is or isn’t working. It includes 6 months total of phone or email follow-ups and 3 hours with a postpartum doula. Who doesn’t need 3 hours to take a nap and a shower?!
Each visit is offered individually as well. I’m available to create plans for inducing lactation for parents that will not be the birthing parent. I do prenatal visits to help educate on nursing, talk about worries and prepare for postpartum. Postpartum initial visits can happen as soon after birth as you would like. If any pain that you have isn’t getting better every day, it’s time to schedule a visit.
If you could give me a quick synopsis of your business in 5 sentences or less, how would you describe it?
Sarah: Opus Lactation is private practice run by me, Sarah Fuller. It is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) run practice focusing on the Portland and Newberg areas. I specialize in inducing lactation for any parent, creating individualized plans to make this a success. No lactation problem is too small — having an outside view on positioning, timing, and any other concerns can really help. Core values include being informed and inclusive of all: body types, gender expression, partner types, and parenting decisions.
If self-employment was easy, everyone would do it. Can you tell me about the obstacles you have faced being in business for yourself? And what accomplishments are you most proud of?
Sarah: Going into private practice, I was warned about an oversaturated market here in Portland. I just don’t think that’s true. There are so many folks bringing babies into their family who could use lactation support. I think my biggest obstacle is that many folks just can’t afford it. It’s a medical service that is supposed to be covered by insurance but often isn’t. It’s hard for IBCLCs to get on insurance panels and sometimes insurance claims are flat out denied.
I’m the most proud of creating The Parent Trip with Doula Olivia. I’ve always dreamed of bringing together all of these modalities under one roof. This is such a fun way to do it. It’s been so amazing to get to know 37 different businesses on both the west and east side that work with families and their little ones.
What is the best book you’ve read that you would recommend to new or expecting parents out there?
Sarah: It’s a bit of a textbook style read, but I highly recommend Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith F. Small. What an eye opening experience to view parenting through other cultural lenses. I often found myself feeling like an outsider here in the US in my parenting styles. It made me realize how normal it was for there to be variations and that lots of folks parented the way that I did. I wasn’t alone!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Sarah: I have two pieces of advice for soon to be and current parents.
1 – Help. Ask for it when you need it and accept it when it’s offered.
2 – Trust your gut. You know your body and your baby better than anyone else in the world. No expert can match that.
Where to find Sarah:
You can come and meet her in person at The Parent Trip events:
When: Sat. April 25th, 2020
Time: 10am – 2pm
Where: Mama Space Yoga – 1306 NW Hoyt St. #306
When: Sun. April 26th, 2020
Time: 10am – 2pm
Where: Ready Set GROW – 5433 NE 30th Ave
Want to read about more Women Warriors in our community?