What is an IBCLC?
The title International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) identifies a specialist in lactation management. IBCLCs are allied health professionals who have met eligibility requirements and have passed an independent, international examination. They are required to keep their knowledge and skills current, and must recertify every five years through continuing education or re-examination. Lactation consultants with the IBCLC designation have the one credential that is recognized by all national and international lactation consultant professional associations. Among those who become IBCLCs are midwives, hospital and public health nurses, physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians, educators, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and experienced peer support counselors. Generally, they have spent several years and hundreds of hours of study acquiring the education and clinical experience which are the necessary prerequisites for certification. IBCLCs possess the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes to provide quality breastfeeding support and management to mothers and babies with lactation-related problems. IBCLCs focus on preventive health care, and therefore support and encourage parents to be actively involved in decisions about their breastfeeding experience. They work collaboratively with other health professionals in determining the best approach to a lactation-related problem. IBCLCs protect and promote breastfeeding by advocating for a community culture that supports breastfeeding families. They are required to practice within a Code of Ethics. For more information you can go to http://www.ilca.org/main/why-ibclc/ibclc or http://iblce.org/about-iblce/.
The ROLE of the IBCLC
Breastfeeding is a unique journey for each mom/baby dyad. It's quite common for there to be questions along the way and quite often there are tips and tools you can use to make the journey smoother and more enjoyable. Face to face support and hands on demonstration/support can go a long way in empowering parents during these times. Many times these issues, if dealt with early, could be resolved quickly and allow the dyad to subsequently reach their breastfeeding and/or lactation goals. Some of the most common statements struggling parents will hear (both from professionals as well as family/friends & even the general public) are:
"Just give the baby a top up"
"Breastfeeding is easy"
"It's supposed to hurt at first"
"Your milk isn't good enough for your baby"
"You don't have enough milk so you might as well just bottle feed"
Common issues the IBCLC can help with:
Painful, cracked, damaged nipples
Engorgement, low supply or over supply of breast milk
Breast refusal, nipple preference
Thrush, masitis, plugged ducts & other infections
Latch & positioning
Slow/poor weight gain
Baby who takes a long time to feed
Baby who is gassy, has green poops, spitting up, etc.
Additional situations in which an IBCLC may be helpful:
- Babies who are suspected to have an allergy or sensitivity of some sort and helping mom with an elimination diet, ruling out other possible causes of symptoms, etc.
- Mothers who have infants in the NICU and need support with supply during the baby's stay in the NICU.
- NICU graduates: transitioning from tube feeding to oral feeding (breast and/or bottle)
- Mothers who have used a surrogate and are inducing lactation in hopes of breastfeeding
- Mothers of babies with physical anomalies (such as low muscle tone, cleft palate, enlarged tongue, recessed chin, asymmetric jaw, etc)
- Mothers with multiples: tandem feeding, supply issues, pumping, etc.