Local Hero: Robin Berger has helped give a healthy start to thousands of babies in our community.
Robin Berger: One of our 2012 Local Heroes
Robin Berger has helped give a healthy start to literally thousands of babies in our community. And after 38 years, she’s come full circle. Some of those babies are now mothers themselves and coming back to her for support with their own babies. Robin became a certified lactation consultant – breastfeeding expert – in 1994, the first in the local public health unit. Not long before that, hospital stays for new mothers had been shortened from four or five days to one or two. To ensure new mothers continued to get assistance, public health nurses made home visits, and Robin’s particular expertise ensured more babies continued to breastfeed. Today, nearly all local public health nurses are also certified lactation consultants.
Not long after Robin was certified, home visits were suspended during a measles immunization campaign. In partnership with Headwaters Health Care Centre, Robin responded by co-founding the Community Breastfeeding Centre along with Paula Conning and Christine Adams. The drop-in centre offered mothers somewhere to turn for help and answers to pressing questions.
In the early 1990s, Robin and Nina Little, an infant and child development consultant with Dufferin Child and Family Services, developed and facilitated Orangeville’s first workshop for parents who were raising “spirited children.” At the time, information on the topic was difficult for parents to find. Some of those parents have told her the workshop was the first place they felt like someone understood what they were going through.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Robin says. “I’ve learned so much from the families I’ve worked with.”
She retired from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health two years ago to spend more time with her own family – she has three children and two grandchildren, with a third expected in December – but is still helping others. She continues to facilitate parenting workshops for DCAFS and has launched a private practice, providing in-home breastfeeding consultations and a Wednesday afternoon drop-in clinic where moms with breastfed babies of any age can discuss everything from baby-led weaning and nutrition to infant development. The mothers learn from her and from each other.
Robin says she learns too. “I never stop learning about mothering, parenting, breastfeeding and human nature.” It’s one of the reasons she finds her work deeply rewarding. “I feel privileged to share these special moments in people’s lives.”
She’s proud of the mothers she sees for working so hard to overcome the obstacles on their breastfeeding and parenting paths. “These mothers are the heroes,” she says. “They’re the ones who struggle, who don’t sleep – I just natter away at them.”
That “nattering” is sometimes the encouragement a disheartened mother needs to keep going, or information on how to increase low milk supply or resolve a poor latch that prevents the baby from getting enough milk. Years later, these mothers stop Robin in the street to show off their grown children and reminisce about the days when they carefully measured every drop their babies took in.
Robin sounds genuinely surprised they remember her as well as they do. “You don’t always know how you’ve touched someone’s life.”