3MT® People's Choice Finalist Shares Groundbreaking Lactation Research
By Laurie White
Entering the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition was Fiona Jardine’s next step in bringing her ground-breaking Exclusive Pumping doctoral research to a wider audience.
“I’m in the last year of my PhD, so I'm trying to get my research out there,” she said. “To bring more awareness to this issue for one thing, but also to try to get my voice out there specifically.”
A doctoral student in the College of Information Studies and an advanced lactation consultant, Fiona is UMD’s finalist in the Universitas 21 3MT® 2019 Competition for her video: "Breastfeeding Without Nursing: The Lived Experiences of Exclusive Pumpers." 3MT® challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.
“Trying to condense your research down to three minutes for a lay audience is an absolutely essential skill to have as a PhD student,” Fiona said. “For any research, funding is increasingly difficult to get. I think it's really important that people are able to translate it into real speak, language that the general population can understand, and to also be challenged to justify the reason for doing it for the world at large.”
Fiona’s research grew out of her personal experience as a parent, information professional and scholar who encountered little existing information when she breastfed her daughter without nursing.
"I did reading before I had a baby, I took a breastfeeding class and had a doula who did some breastfeeding work with me,” she said. “I had never heard of the term ‘exclusive pumping’. I thought, ‘If feeding at the breast doesn't work it's fine; I've got a pump coming’, not realizing exactly what that entailed, and not knowing it was vastly different from part-time pumping if you're also nursing at home.”
At about three weeks post-partum, Fiona identified exclusive pumping as an option, and she could learn more.
“If you know the name for it, you know what to search for,” she said. “If you don't, you’re clutching at straws and you can’t find out the right information. I had frustration with established lactation care and lack thereof.”
This experience inspired her to share with others who frequently struggle with breastfeeding.
“Three million people initiate breastfeeding in the US alone every year, and many of those people are unsuccessful,” she said. “But a lot will try to pump because we now get a free breast pump with most insurance. Women think ‘I can't get my baby to latch, but let me pump.’ If they don't know the right information, they're not going to be successful.”
Fiona emphasizes the necessity of this research for potentially millions of breastfeeding parents who need the same information she found as a new parent. She notes that existing information on blogs and in the press before “wasn’t always right or evidence-based”, adding to stress for postpartum women who are often already dealing with significant challenges.
“This information is desperately needed out there,” she said. “This is pioneering research; no one has done this before. No one has asked exclusive pumpers what this is like, so no one knows what to do to help. This research has the potential to touch hundreds of thousands of lives every year.”
A Graduate School Writing Center writing fellow and iSchool Graduate Assistant for Faculty Writing for the iSchool’s Research Support team, Fiona also runs a Facebook group focused on Exclusive Pumping Research.
“This isn’t just some esoteric university research,” she said. “This is the real world for hundreds of thousands of people every year.”
Vote for Fiona in the 3MT® competition by October 7 at go.umd.edu/3MT.
Interested graduate students may register to compete in next year’s 3MT® competition by February 21, 2020. University of Maryland’s Dr. Samuel Ramsey, UMD Ph.D., Entomology, won both Judge's First Place and People's Choice Award in 2017. Dr. Carly Muletz Wolz, UMD Ph.D., Biological Sciences, won the People’s Choice Award in 2015 for her research on the presence of microbes in salamander populations.