Erica Cantatore’s job title may be “lactation consultant” but at Pascack Valley Medical Center, no title could ever quite capture just how much of an impact she makes.
Erica was born at Pascack Valley Medical Center, remaining in the area nearby where she and her husband have raised their five children. “Weekly, I would drive past the hospital and think to myself how great it would be to work in the very place I was born,” she says. Two years ago, after Erica broke her toe and ended up in the Pascack Valley Medical Center Emergency Room, she decided to apply and “the rest is history!”
Oftentimes, patients already recognize Erica as a familiar face by the time they are ready to deliver their babies. Running the Mommy University program and giving the tours, most of Pascack’s patients will meet Erica on a tour. “We develop a relationship so they have someone to contact, then they take all of my classes, so by the time they get to the hospital and are having their baby, they’re already asking for me,” she shares. “I feel because I have five children, I think I’ve been able to be a good role model for a lot of these women because I remind them how strong they are and how capable they are of becoming moms and I think in our society, women often doubt themselves, so I try to spend as much time with them as I can and give them access of me. If it’s one o’clock in the morning and a mom thinks she’s going to give up, or there’s something happening – I want to be there for her,” Erica explains.
It’s Erica’s passion to help prepare parents by sharing evidence-based information coupled with real-life ways to adjust to motherhood/fatherhood. “Nothing makes me happier than sending a family home from the hospital and the mom is successfully breastfeeding. I often receive emails, letters, or visits from patients excited to share their breastfeeding success, and it’s a blessing to know that I was part of that journey” she shared. Erica had a nursing career prior to becoming a lactation consultant, focusing on maternal-child health, her specialty being patient education. She is both a lactation consultant and a Lamaze certified childbirth educator. In addition to being the full time lactation consultant at Pascack Valley Medical Center, she teaches the Mommy University prenatal classes, gives tours, and holds monthly support groups. The monthly support groups are open to the community, “it’s a wonderful community of women who have just given birth and are able to share in their joys and in their challenges,” Erica shares.
After starting her own family and breastfeeding her own children for many years, Erica knew she could make a difference helping parents navigate through the transition to parenthood. “I knew I could make a difference helping parents navigate through the transition to parenthood” she says. “Globally, breastfeeding is recognized as a way to keep children (and mothers) healthy, but the benefits of breast milk last a lifetime. In order to promote breastfeeding, it’s important to take the month to encourage moms and support them. While this is something that is globally recognized as a part of healthcare, it’s not easy. It doesn’t always come naturally. I share with parents that breastfeeding is a skill, it takes lots of practice and patience. I use tools such as images of the newborn stomach size to help ease concerns. Many families believe that newborns need a large amount of milk to be satisfied. I also teach all breastfeeding moms hand expression. This is a wonderful way for moms to offer their milk to their baby when he/she is having trouble latching or is too sleepy. It also provides breast stimulation in between feedings,” she says.
Erica also knows that in order to successfully help mothers breastfeed, she needs the support of the staff at Pascack Valley Medical Center. “Successful breastfeeding on our unit is a collaborative effort by all,” she notes, adding “at Pascack Valley Medical Center, we are a family, and we work together to give quality and compassionate care to families- I am so lucky to be a part of that.”
“It’s not a career for me, it’s my life. I really deeply care about women’s health, breastfeeding, and motherhood. It’s a great honor to even have this position and to be able to do this work. I work with wonderful staff who are all very passionate, and I am really lucky,” Erica concludes.