Our Neighbor: Maternal Child Connections
"We’ve been doing this for thousands of years—we don’t need an app."
In this interview, I spoke with Lisa Zimmerman, owner of MATERNAL CHILD CONNECTIONS, a local business offering lactation consultation, education, and postpartum doula services.
MARGARET: What is a doula?
LISA: Doula comes from the Greek word for “one who serves”. A postpartum doula, which is what I am, serves as a family member or best friend that will help you with the baby, nursing, cooking, household maintenance—achieving what would be achieved by a family member. [I am also a] certified pediatric nurse and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
As an expert on partum care for mom [I] know when things are going great and [I love] accentuating that. I have been a hospital nurse and a public health nurse [with a background in] public health background, which means I can work with anyone in any situation.
I want to focus on making sure parents have the opportunity to bond with their babies—it could change the level of violence we see because it connects you with humanity.
What is your professional background?
I worked as a public health nurse for Haymarket Center, which helps women who were previously heroin addicted and now on methadone, instructing new mothers on breastfeeding and helping them bond with their babies and become mothers.
My goal is to create a business that highlights what I loved the most about my positions at Haymarket. I felt I was helping women trust themselves who never trusted themselves before—75% were repeatedly sexually abused, longtime by a family member. [I helped them] trust themselves as women and mothers and be able to learn how to have enough confidence to talk to other women about being moms, regardless of background.
What do you love most about your job?
The relationship of the lactation consultant with the mother is what attracted me to the profession in the first place. I like to focus on the importance of skin to skin contact—you know, the basics. Breastfeeding is a right brain, not a left brain activity, so I teach mom to go with her gut! We’ve been doing this for thousands of years—we don’t need an app.
[I also enjoy] specializing in sibling care. I first worked professionally in daycare and I love kids! I can be very helpful with siblings by troubleshooting how to work through emotional issues with siblings arising from birth. I also engage siblings so mom has time to bond and rest.
[As a doula I get to] focus on the family—you could hire a baby nurse or a nanny, but as a doula I work with the entire family and keep the focus on the [familial] bond.
In what other ways do you interact with the family?
I incorporate the father listen to dad’s birth story. I listen to him because he’s got to go back to work and is sleep deprived; I give him space and time to talk about the change [that has happened in his family].
I’m also the common thread for new mothers who have to navigate many different practitioners. The amount of information and opinions out there can be daunting.
How do clients pay for your services?
Clients can pay how they choose, although most just write a check. If I am a postpartum doula helping you with breastfeeding, then I can write a reimbursement form for part of those services.
What does a day at work look like for you?
As a small business owner who provides emergency lactation services, it is hard to describe a typical day. Sometimes it is all business work and projects, sometimes it is all clients, and sometimes I have meetings for networking purposes.
Usually one hour working on something business related like blog posts, following up on networking and advertising, and emails. Then I have meetings with other processionals and lactation consultations with mothers. 8am to 12pm is my busiest time of day. I also run 2 support groups for breastfeeding moms.
Why did you go into business for yourself?
When I worked in public health and had the job of my dreams: I spent a lot of time doing grant-related tasks and I started realizing I could create something and sustain it [myself]. I had never used the skill set of grant writing and keeping data and managing the project [for myself]—I needed to write the grants to keep my job. Those business-associated tasks came very easily to me [even though] I never thought it was in my skill set.
[I was also] looking for better work life balance (Lisa has a preschool-aged son at Ravenswood Elementary, just across the street from E&S). [I haven’t always been] convinced that hospital interventions create a lasting impact, but I think my care can and has—I’ve seen it. That’s why I’ve modeled my business around what I did before.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners?
Network with your peers because in a city as big as Chicago you’re better off joining forces. Network with your community because word of mouth referrals are VERY important. Be prepared for your self-confidence to hit highs and lows you haven’t felt since high school
What service(s) would you like to offer in the future?
I was trained this month to offer placenta encapsulation, a recent trend in postpartum care. A woman can take a pill containing dried fragments of her placenta (the organ that fed her baby all through pregnancy) and this has been said to provide more energy, breastmilk, and balance to the postpartum woman’s hormones. Although the studies are just now being conducted, if a woman feels this may help her postpartum, then I will offer it to provide comprehensive postpartum care.