A growing demand for lactation education has emerged this fall semester at CSUN, and thanks to Dr. Merav Efrat, these demands are being met through coursework, research, and curriculum development.
In 2010, Efrat began its first lactation education course at CSUN with the support of a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. She has 10 years of experience as a health educator, and more recently has years of experience as a lactation educator and consultant.
Prior to Efrat’s push for lactation education at CSUN, the closest training courses were offered at UC San Diego.
Efrat lists some of the barriers women face when trying to breastfeed, such as lack of support in the workplace, knowledgeable healthcare providers and accurate information on the subject.
“When I first breastfed my daughter, it was really difficult,” Efrat said. “I was really embarrassed to breastfeed in public – and after a few months it became easy and natural.”
She didn’t have much support outside of her colleagues, but that was one of her interests as a public health educator.
” I did not care. I knew it was something I wanted to do and it was good for my kids,” Efrat said.
According to womenshealth.gov, breastfeeding reduces the risk of asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and other problems health. Simultaneously, it also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer in the mother.
” We are talking about [breastfeeding] a lot in the courses,” said Ana Maria Anguiano, a public health student, “and if more students became aware of the health benefits, maybe the stigma would go away.
Efrat uses a infographics, created by the Women, Infants and Children program, to explain why caregiver indulgence in infant formula is not always the best complement. It displays a side-by-side comparison of all the nutrients found in breast milk versus formula. Of these nutrients, breast milk outperforms infant formula with nine additional nutrients.
“This course is my contribution to promoting breastfeeding in the community,” Efrat said, “because I am not only educating future healthcare professionals, but the students who take my course are future parents. “
Although she enjoyed her journey from health education to clinical consultations, she missed teaching. She went back to school and earned her doctorate at UCLA, and is now a professor at CSUN.
She remembers thinking, “I have to teach again because that’s what I love the most.
Efrat primarily teaches undergraduate and graduate students majoring in public health. Her favorite teaching moments are witnessing the students’ enthusiasm and commitment to the topic of breastfeeding and seeing how they apply it to everyday life.
“It helps bring more hands-on experience into the classroom,” Efrat said. “I think it makes a difference when you know what it really is. It’s more interesting for the students than when you only talk about the textbook.
This semester, Efrat’s lactation education class was quickly filled with enthusiastic students who recognized breastfeeding as an important public health topic, and the waiting list contains approximately 30 names.
Tiffany Huang, a public health student, tried to take the course this semester but did not reach capacity. However, she will try again next semester.
“I think it’s really cool that we have this class,” Huang said. “I would like to be certified one day. It’s nice to have an extra skill.