Sandra Busutil, 52, is the nutritionist, certified lactation counselor and breastfeeding coordinator of the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gouverneur. As a nutritionist at Gouverneur for 19 years, she has provided health food plans for mothers and their children. She became a breastfeeding coordinator six years ago. Her main job is to offer guidance to mothers on nutrition and breastfeeding and to help them find medical resources.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A BREASTFEEDING COUNSELOR?
I love babies. I’ve spent all my life with so many of them between my godsons, my nieces, my nephews. I’m always surrounded by children.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT THIS JOB?
My favorite thing to tell most parents [is], “This is the time to teach them to eat healthy.” They’ll screw up their diet when they become teenagers. But for now, it will work on them, and we will teach them better.
DO YOU INCLUDE THE FATHER?
They’re always welcomed. It takes support to breastfeed. If you don’t have that support at home, no matter what I say to you, it’s not going to help you. Because once these moms give birth, they’re tired, they don’t sleep, they are constantly feeding baby, whether it’s formula or just breastfeeding. These moms are really sleep deprived. And if the people around them are not giving them support, it’s hard. It’s very hard, you know. And you need a dad who is there with you, to support you.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MOTHERS?
I don’t really make friends out of work. But if I do see them on the street I always talk to them … I went to the Museum of Natural History and I had a mom, her kids are now in high school. And she remembered me. And I wasn’t paying attention. I’m just standing there waiting for my girlfriend to come, so we could go to the museum. And she’s like “Hey, Sandra,” and I was like “Hi.” … And she’s like, “Don’t you remember, look at my kids.” And they’re like teenagers. And she’s like “Remember, you encouraged me to breastfeed.” … You see these kids are growing up, and that makes me feel good.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THIS JOB?
It’s always changing. You always go with the flow. You always have to look for the new, and the most important, the most updated, because that’s what people want. … You need to be open, because things change.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THIS JOB?
You want people to understand we’re here to help you. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but we’re here to help and to look at us as somebody trying to help you. And if you need the help, we’re here for you. That’s what I want people to know. They can come to us for help. We’ll be here to help you, even if it has nothing to do with nutrition.
HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO BREASTFEED?
The bottom line – it’s not all about me. It’s all about mommy and baby. And if I can help them achieve the best, I’m ecstatic. Even if I had a mom who comes back to me, and says I tried but I can’t. … You never ever make a person feel bad for what they couldn’t do or even if they didn’t want to do it. You just be happy for them. And you encourage them to do other things that are good for the baby. And that’s all you can do.
BASED ON YOUR WORKING EXPERIENCE, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO TELL YOUNG GIRLS?
Enjoy your life. Travel the world. Enjoy. So when you’re ready to settle down, you’re ready. You’ve experienced everything. You’re ready to work and do everything. But as a young woman, make sure you have everything in place for yourself when you marry or not marry. If you want children, make sure you can take care of yourself and your child. And you don’t depend on anybody else.