Pediatric Associates News

When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Come Easily: What One of PANW’s Lactation Consultants, Ellen Portrait, Wants Parents to Know…

September 12, 2017

Ellen Portrait has been working with babies for more than thirty years -- twenty of those years as a lactation support nurse. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Ellen believes she has the best job in the world. “I get to witness the birth of a family! And then I get to help that family find their strengths,” says Ellen.

Families welcoming their first child are often recipients of lactation services at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest (PANW), but Ellen says she believes all moms, new or veteran, can use support. “Studies show that moms do better with breastfeeding support. They need to be nurtured through this. That’s what I love to do. I let them know that it’s not always easy, but together we can work through the issue. If there’s a way, we will find it.”

There are many common obstacles nursing moms may encounter:  pain during nursing, a tongue tied infant, reflux issues, low-supply concerns, or simply finding the best position for mother and baby. Whatever the problem, Ellen is there to help solve it.

One mom Ellen has helped overcome multiple obstacles to nursing is Nicole. Nicole’s baby was tongue-tied, had difficulty nursing, and Nicole endured mastitis, a serious breast infection, not once, but twice. In addition, when Nicole returned to work, she had trouble producing and pumping enough milk. And then, Nicole lost milk production in one breast. Ellen was there through it all. “I was in to see Ellen at least once a week for four months. It was a process. We’d address one issue and another one would come up. But Ellen was just amazing. She’s so compassionate, and such a wealth of knowledge. She would call me at home to check on me and see how we were doing. She was really like another mom. She was so comforting.”

Ellen says one of the most rewarding parts of her work is to watch a mother grow her confidence in nursing, and to recognize her own strengths.  Some moms manage to breastfeed without support, but they’re in the minority. Ellen wants all PANW parents to know that “if they hit a bump in the road, we’re just a phone call away.”

“I don’t think I could have successfully nursed without Ellen,” says Nicole. “Even though we had so many obstacles, I don’t regret sticking with it. It was so worth it – but so much easier to do with the wonderful support.”

For more information about breastfeeding support from PANW’s two certified lactation consultants, visit, or call our offices at 503-227-0671. Breastfeeding support is available in the office Monday through Friday. After hours, an on call provider is also available.