The Breastfeeding Experts
In most cases, breastfeeding gets off to a very good start. After all, it’s natural! However, there are times when a breastfeeding mother needs a little help. Most problems are avoidable or manageable. Early intervention can make all the difference to breastfeeding success.
Who can a mother turn to for support and information?
In 1985, a new allied health team member was created when the very first lactation consultants were board certified. A few years earlier, a task force was organized to set criteria for attaining this new health certification. After extensive planning and work, an examination was written to thoroughly test candidates in many areas. Candidates were tested in anatomy, physiology, child development, nutrition, ethics and many other areas. The certification is called an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Since 1985, thousands of lactation consultants have been certified by the credentialing agency, the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners).
The IBCLC has the necessary technical skills and knowledge to provide quality breastfeeding assistance.
How does one become a lactation consultant?
There are many different pathways, but the most frequent path is to work with breastfeeding mothers, either as a breastfeeding counselor or through a hospital setting. Candidates must spend between 900 (MD) and 8,000 hours working with breastfeeding mothers in order to meet the criteria for sitting for the exam. The primary pathway requires 2,500 clinical hours plus a bachelor’s degree. Sometimes candidates get their experience through volunteering, or they may work in a hospital or under direct supervision of another IBCLC. Candidates must attend 30 hours of approved breastfeeding education courses. Then they are eligible to sit for a 200 question exam. The exam is given once yearly (the last Monday in July) in many locations all over the world. If they pass, they are entitled to use the credential, IBCLC. Every five years, IBCLCs must be recertified, either through educational hours or by retaking the examination. Every 10 years, they must retake the examination.
Why choose an IBCLC?
When you choose a lactation consultant who has earned the credential of IBCLC, you are choosing someone who has met the rigid guidelines of the IBLCE and has passed the extensive exam. Those healthcare providers are the only ones who are allowed to carry the initials IBCLC after their names. There are other types of lactation consultants, who may also be helpful, but until they have passed the “gold standard” set by the IBLCE, you cannot be assured of their knowledge base.
What will an IBCLC do?
The IBCLC has the necessary technical skills and knowledge to provide quality breastfeeding assistance. You may want to consult her prenatally with questions or attend a class taught by an IBCLC. IBCLCs focus on prevention. You may want to consult with her after your baby is born, in order to receive assistance with breastfeeding concerns. Many IBCLCs work in hospital or health department settings. Others work in private practice from an office or their homes. Some physicians hire IBCLCs to work in their offices with their own patients.
IBCLCs maintain a high level of knowledge. Typical IBCLCs are constantly reading and attending workshops and conferences in order to learn more. They seek other IBCLCs for networking very difficult situations. Besides being technically skilled, IBCLCs spend time listening to your concerns and discussing them with you. After all, you and your baby are unique.
You can find a lactation consultant by calling the hospital or birthing center where you will be giving birth to ask if they have an IBCLC on staff that will be available for you should you have concerns or problems.
There are thousands of IBCLCs available to help you. Look for the IBCLC initials after her name to know that she has specialized knowledge that has been earned through thousands of hours of hard work and study. She has met the gold standard.