MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Heather ONeal has a lot of titles to her name.
“An advanced practice registered nurse, certified nurse-midwife, internationally board-certified lactation consultant,” said ONeal, when asked what her titles were.
She’s also a mom, a podcaster, a clinical instructor for WVU School of Nursing and a beacon of hope to many new parents in north central West Virginia. The journey to get where she is today comes from an interest for herself after expecting a little one of her own.
“I was studying for my lactation board, and I still had problems. And I noticed that I didn’t know where to go. I was like ‘wait, there’s nowhere for me to get help’, and I should be the person that knows how to get it,” said ONeal.
After having her baby, ONeal started a support group on Facebook, racking up 16,000 followers from across the country. Then she realized she could be the help these parents needed.
“This place is meant to be an education and consult center for post-partum and breastfeeding parents,” said ONeal.
She meets with parents at Breastfeeding for Busy Moms, her brand-new office in Morgantown that opened in December.
She gets to see little ones like Spencer and her parents, who visited Breastfeeding for Busy Moms for the third time.
Spencer vomited twice on ONeal while she handled the little one, and ONeal didn’t even skip a beat while talking to Spencer’s mom.
ONeal also gets to help teach nursing students at WVU about lactation and new parents while working on the obstetrics floor, and then help them after.
“I am positioned to catch all the people in the community who need help after they’re discharged,” said ONeal.
She does help beyond the north central West Virginia community. She’s helping new parents not only on Facebook but also with a podcast.
“The Milk Minute podcast was created because one of the things I noticed people really needed was a free resource available to them at 2 o’clock in the morning while they were up breastfeeding, and the rest of the world was asleep,” said ONeal. “Something that they could pop in their ears, and they could actually have some self-care time, go for a walk, and actually learn about it while on the go.”
ONeal and her friend, who’s also a lactation professional, have created several episodes of the podcast and interviewed experts, hoping to help ease the fears of new parents.
“Google is terrifying at 2 o’clock in the morning when you have a question about your boobs,” said ONeal.
ONeal is hoping to change the world of breastfeeding and the stigmas attached—one family at a time.
“The reason you don’t see lactation clinics popping up all over the place is because our culture and our community doesn’t value it—yet.”