For Amelia Henning, CNM, MSN, IBCLC, midwifery combines all the things she’s interested in: healthcare, women and supporting natural processes. She believes midwifery care matters and how we approach pregnancy and women’s health care makes a difference. In the following Q&A, Amelia shares what she loves most about her career, what motivates her and her love of problem-solving lactation challenges with new parents.

Q: What is your work as a midwife like?

I have been a staff midwife at Mass General for 18 years. Last year, I was appointed the Director of Lactation and assumed leadership of our lactation clinic. I’m also an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

One of the things I really enjoy about my job at Mass General is the variety in what I do. As a staff midwife, I see patients in the office for prenatal, postpartum and urgent visits; round on the postpartum unit; run triage on our in-patient unit; and of course, attend to labors and births.

In my lactation role, I get to indulge my love of breastfeeding and spend whole visits dedicated to planning and problem-solving lactation challenges. One of my other roles is leading our staff education on lactation and working to make our system a place where breastfeeding is supported. 

Q. Why did you choose to become a midwife?

I discovered that it brought together all the things I was most interested in: healthcare, women, and supporting natural processes.

Q. What was your training like?

I had finished a BA with an interdisciplinary major in literature, chemistry and “human needs & global development” when I figured out that I wanted to be a midwife. I took some extra classes in what we now call a gap year, and then completed a fast-track Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at the University of Pennsylvania.

While in that program, I took a fabulous breastfeeding course taught by Dianne Spatz, who has done a ton of work on breastfeeding in preterm babies and the NICU setting. This really sparked my interest in breastfeeding. I eventually got certified as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. Along the way, much of my training in breastfeeding medicine has been on-the-ground learning, collaborating with colleagues, attending conferences, and lots of reading.

All Mass General nurse-midwives are members of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and certified by the American Midwifery Certification Board and are educated in the disciplines of nursing and midwifery on a master's level.

Q: What motivates you to do what you do? 

Get me talking midwifery, and I won’t stop. Midwifery care matters. How we approach pregnancy and women’s health care makes a difference. We work hard to support the normal physiologic processes of pregnancy, labor, birth and lactation. But it’s not just that; those processes are not always normal. Midwives have always held “patient autonomy” and “shared decision-making” as core values in our approach to caring for and empowering our patients. We share knowledge and recommendations, and help you navigate making the decision that is best for you and your family.

I love getting to know my families over the course of a pregnancy, empowering them to have confidence in their bodies and knowledge to make decisions that are best for themselves and their babies.

Q. What do you wish people knew about midwifery?

That the midwifery model of care leads to better outcomes—more vaginal births, fewer interventions, with same or better maternal and infant outcomes. It’s not just about choosing a style of care. Newer research also shows that our rates of breastfeeding are higher—and breastfeeding makes a significant impact on maternal and infant health for years after breastfeeding has ceased.