by Sunny Layne
WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Doctors agree that breast milk is the best food for babies, but many mothers find nursing doesn't come as naturally as they thought.
That's where one lactation consultant comes into play, who is retiring after 37 years of helping women in Iowa. A woman who has helped thousands of mothers and babies.
It's not every retirement party where dozens of babies show up to greet the honoree.
"Susan is amazing."
But this is the only way self-described "outspoken advocate for babies and moms" Susan Wirtjes, would want to celebrate.
"My goal in life is to make life a little easier on babies and mothers if I can help," she said.
Wirtjes is retiring from Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo as a lactation consultant.
For nearly four decades, Susan Wirtjes has been helping mothers and babies make the transition from pregnancy to motherhood.
"She was a great support to me, learning to breastfeed, I don't know if we would've made it," mother Marcia Kreutner said.
"She immediately has an answer for you, puts you at ease, makes you feel like you can do it no matter what the obstacle is," Mother Melissa Clark said.
T-shirts like "Breastmilk made me beautiful," and "Got Breastmilk?" illustrate Wirtjes' beliefs that breast milk is the best food for babies. But her own story did not begin smoothly.
"My first experience with my oldest child who's 40-year-old was awful," Wirtjes said. "And only because I was stubborn and bound and determined I wasn't going to quit, did make it through with no support. I just decided it should never be that hard for anybody else if I can have anything to do with it."
Through study and experience, Wirtjes learned hot to help mothers and families.
"Because it's natural and free I assumed it would be easy, and it's not," she said.
"Breast feeding is a learned art," Kreutner said. "It's not something that comes easy - you must practice at it, get instruction at it, if you want to keep it going. It will work out in the end."
Because of Wirtjes's struggle and service, thousands of babies, moms and dads live happier, healthier lives.
Even though Susan Wirtjes is retiring from 15 years of official duty at Covenant Medical Center, she says she can't stay away from helping mothers and babies.
She will soon launch a new venture called "Nana's Love," which mixes breastfeeding support and care for mother and baby.
Online Anchor: Sunny Layne