Meet Winn Holly- PANW's Newest Lactation Consultant
New parents receive no shortage of advice, but few subjects are as emotionally charged as that of feeding. From parenting experts to playground chats, everyone has an opinion on what’s best for everyone else.
Winn Holly (she/her), RN, IBCLC, however, views things differently. “There’s no feeding journey that is the same,” Winn observes. “People love to talk about the happy-rainbow-unicorn experience of lactation where you get to snuggle with babies all day. But people are layered, and there’s so much more to it.”
This insight is a big part of what makes Winn’s approach to lactation consultation at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest (PANW) so impactful. She brings her experiences as a mother, as a member of the LGBTQ community, and as a registered nurse and board-certified lactation consultant to every session and class. And with that comes her steadfast support of each patient’s individual journey toward feeding success, whatever success may look like for them and no matter what challenges arise along the way.
Meeting Parents Where They Are
“Winn is passionate about helping families meet their feeding goals,” observes Winn’s fellow lactation consultant at PANW, Katie Kennedy, RN, IBCLC. “Her informative, encouraging, and supportive style helps patients feel at ease. She has a calm presence combined with strong advocacy for heath equity of parents and babies.”
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the experience that set Winn on the path from nursing to lactation consultation. Long interested in birthing and midwifery, Winn took a class in lactation thinking she might pursue a career as a midwife. But during a lactation session with a teenage mom, something clicked.
“When I actually got to help people, it was like, ‘Yes. This is it,’” Winn recalls. She helped her patient find a successful latch, but even more importantly, she connected with her. Having once been a teenage mom herself, Winn was able to both understand and advocate for her patient. “She went on to nurse her baby for almost two years,” Winn marvels. “It was just a very human connection.”
In Winn We Trust
Winn earned her certification with the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners in 2013, a process that required 1,000 hours of clinical practice. Later, in September 2020, she joined the team at PANW.
“One of the things I love about this practice is how pediatricians and lactation consultants work together,” Winn says. So often new parents have a team of medical providers available to assist them, she notes, but that team is much more effective when they trust and communicate with each other. “It becomes collaborative care, rather than a battle between providers,” she explains. “It works really well here, because we all trust each other and are working toward the same goals.”
Trust is central to everything Winn does as a lactation consultant. In addition to teaching a prenatal lactation class at PANW that is free and open to the community (and sometimes stepping in to substitute- or co-lead PANW’s Baby Hour Parent Group), Winn works directly with patients to assist them with nursing, bottle feeding, weaning, and even solid-food feeding.
She is also a strong advocate for and within and the LGBTQ community. “It’s a community that I love and adore,” she says, “but it also happens to be one of those communities where they have higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation.” When it comes to lactation, the language alone can be intimidating. Words like “breastfeeding,” Winn points out, can feel painful to a transgender parent, so she intentionally incorporates non-gendered language including terms like “body-feeding” or “chest-feeding” along with “breastfeeding”.
Working to understand her patients’ individual needs is one quality that distinguishes Winn’s approach to lactation. Body-feeding, for instance, can pose insurmountable challenges for some parents. And while some consultants might pressure parents to keep trying at all costs, Winn holds space for them to mourn the loss of their original feeding goals. (She also recommends the book Finding Insufficiency in those situations.) “There’s a lot of grief that fits into not being able to body-feed,” she explains. “Sometimes just telling people this allows them to heal and move past it.”
Seeds of Support
While setbacks can happen, much of Winn’s work is positive. “Winn has been a great support,” one patient recently enthused. “With just one appointment, we have been able to turn around our feedings and get on a quality trajectory.”
Winn laughingly describes her approach as “hands-off,” but a more accurate description might be “empowering”. Winn works diligently with patients to impart both the skills and the confidence they need to body-feed their children independently and successfully. “If you can’t replicate it or do it on your own, it’s no good,” she explains.
Her clinical practice isn’t the only place where Winn cultivates growth. Her other passions include her three children, all of whom identify within the LGBTQ community; her partner, with whom she lives in northeast Portland; her four cats; and her garden. The last of these demands, perhaps, is the lion’s share of Winn’s time. She hand-waters everything and sometimes neglects to prune what she should. (She hates to cut anything back.)
While Winn has had both successes and losses in the horticultural world—she inadvertently washed out a bed of strawberries at one point—her capacity to offer insight and empathy seems to apply to everything she does.
Nowhere is this truer than in her parting advice for new parents. “I want everybody to know that everything you do with your baby is going to be absolutely the best thing you could do for them,” she says. “You might hear others tell you it’s the ‘wrong’ thing or that it’s not good enough. But the journey is very personal to each person, and I just hope they honor their own journey.”