How This Lactation Consultant is Making Her Field More Accessible

In our latest series of blog posts on Spruce customers, we highlight healthcare professionals who are doing their part to make healthcare more accessible and equitable for all patients. Here we focus on Robin Kaplan, founder and lactation consultant.

Founder and Lactation Consultant Robin Kaplan
Founder Robin Kaplan

The San Diego Breastfeeding Center helps families overcome breast/chestfeeding and parenting challenges through classes, consultations, and support groups. The organization’s president, Robin Kaplan, has also opened a nonprofit clinic, The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Foundation, which aims to provide accessible breast/chestfeeding support to families of color and of lower socioeconomic status. Additionally, the foundation seeks to increase representation of women of color within the lactation consulting field by subsidizing the fees for becoming a lactation consultant. The San Diego Breastfeeding Center uses Spruce to develop meaningful relationships with and stay connected to their patients.

We interviewed Robin Kaplan, to learn more about her two clinics, their goals, and how they use Spruce.

Tell us about your two clinics.

Our for-profit clinic has helped breastfeeding and chestfeeding families feed their babies and overcome any challenges they’re having for 11 years. In 2016 we decided to also start a nonprofit organization because we noticed that a lot of families were having trouble trying to find support.

Insurance doesn’t cover many of these visits, which puts an economic barrier on accessing care, and there’s also a severe lack of representation of lactation consultants within communities of color. As a result, many people were not able to access us due to financial and racial barriers. A lot of families don’t even know that we, or services like us, exist.

“As a result, many people were not able to access us due to financial and racial barriers. A lot of families don’t even know that we, or services like us, exist.”

So I started a nonprofit, the San Diego Breastfeeding Center Foundation, to help subsidize breastfeeding consultations for families of color, low-income families, and families that aren’t traditionally low-income but are having a hard time due to maternity leave and the pandemic.

The other arm of our nonprofit helps subsidize the fees for becoming a lactation consultant for people of color. I’ve noticed that lactation consulting, as a profession, is a very white profession, which is a disservice to many of our diverse communities. 

What got you into this type of work?

I used to be a teacher and worked in museum education for about six years. I had two kids while I was working and both were terrible breast feeders, so I met with a lactation consultant who helped me overcome my challenges. Working a full-time job with two kids under two was proving to be difficult, so I took some time off. My stepmom, who is a doula, suggested I become a breastfeeding teacher. So I started the program and I loved it. I decided to open up my own business.

What does your scholarship fund cover and what is the journey for becoming a lactation consultant?

There are a couple of different ways someone can get their certification. If someone is already a nurse, they can take online classes and get their clinical hours while they’re working. 

People who don’t have a nursing background have to attend a program. However, the programs require 300 to 500 clinical hours and finding those clinical hours can be hard. You also need several prerequisites, which can be $500 to $700 per class. Scholarships can go toward funding that. Programs like UCSD are willing to offer scholarships or partial payment for women of color, so a lot of times the barrier is the entry point. For example, they might need help completing all of the prerequisites or paying for childcare while getting their clinical hours. Our scholarship fund is intended to be fluid to allow recipients to cover more than just the cost of the program. 

Do you have clients that prefer virtual care, and are you finding that this is helping you reach more people? 

Absolutely. I’m shocked at how many people are still asking for virtual visits even though we’ve started to reopen in person. Some don’t feel comfortable coming in, and some have found us and use us but don’t live in San Diego. I thought the minute we opened the clinic that virtual care would be gone, but that’s not happening. A lot of families prefer to stay in their home, especially if they live in places where there aren’t lactation consultants. I think that virtual care is going to stay a part of our offerings. 

What would you want potential patients and those who are trying to become lactation consultants to know about you and your team? 

For potential patients, the values that we hold most strongly in our practice are being judgement-free, being open-minded, and being supportive of parents where they’re at. Equity is huge for us. We want to make sure, when we work with patients, that we’re trauma-informed and that our patients are seen for the individuals they are.

We’re never going to create an individualized plan without a patient’s input and without understanding their desires. Every consultation starts with “what would you like to work on today?” We’re here to provide evidence-based support, but also a lot of emotional support so that families can feel as confident as possible after they meet with us.

“The values that we hold most strongly in our practice are being judgement-free, being open-minded, and being supportive of parents where they’re at.”

For those who want to become a lactation consultant, I would say that lactation consulting is probably 75% counseling and connecting with the person who’s with you and 25% science and breastfeeding. I’d also say that becoming a lactation consultant is about finding a program that speaks to them and finding someone in their community they can shadow. They should utilize resources online and get as many clinical hours as they can because there’s only so much one can learn in the books. 

How has Spruce played a role within your clinic?

Spruce has been great because it’s so easy to use. My assistant and I love that we can text from it and that it can be used in a HIPAA-compliant way. A lot of new parents don’t answer phone calls, but they’ll answer a text. It’s so helpful for coordinating and scheduling. It’s a very easy system for us to collaborate with, and we have been very happy with it. Before Spruce, we were using Google Voice and it did not have nearly as many bells and whistles as Spruce. We referred other people to Spruce as well because we’ve been so pleased with the service we’ve received. 

What made you choose Spruce?

“Spruce is affordable, reliable, easy to use, and there’s great customer service, too.”

When looking at all of the other options, Spruce came up multiple times, especially from people in our field who were using it. It’s affordable, it’s reliable, it’s easy to use, and there’s great customer service, too. Any time we are confused, your team gets in contact with us immediately and is very helpful. 

What are your top two favorite Spruce features?

Texting: The messaging aspect has been really helpful because clients who text my admin do not need to repeat themselves to me. I can see all of the details and catch up on context before meeting with them.

Voicemail Transcription: Because we’re so busy, we can’t always get to our voicemails. It’s been so helpful to scan the transcription first to see if it’s urgent or if we can address it later in the afternoon. 

What is the best way for someone to reach you for more information?

The best way for someone to reach us is through our website, which is sandiegobreastfeedingcenter.com or sdbfc.com. If they’re interested in our foundation rates, then they can get to our foundation website (sdbfc.com/our-foundation) from our main site. Both sites have all of our information and are the best way to get in touch with our office. They can also call our Spruce phone number, which is (619) 724-4117. 


San Diego Breastfeeding Center’s Spruce Recipe: 

It’s easy to get the same Spruce features that make the San Diego Breastfeeding Center successful on Spruce. Just use the link below to schedule a call with us and request this setup:

  • Spruce Number: A Spruce number is a second business phone line on your personal cell phone. If you have an existing business line, you can transfer that into Spruce, or you can get a new number. 
  • The Spruce App: Once patients are invited to download the free Spruce app, you’ll have the ability to video call them, send secure messages, and send them payment requests. On the patient’s end, they have one, secure home for all of their medical communication.
  • Texting/SMS: If your patient does not want to download the app, you’ll still have the ability to text them from your Spruce number. They’ll receive these text messages directly on their personal device. On your team’s end, patient messages are available in one shared inbox to easily triage and coordinate care among your team.

Set me up! Use this link to set up a call with us.

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