Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy IBCLC Day!

Have you thanked your IBCLC today?




What is an IBCLC?

IBCLC stands for an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. This is the gold standard in lactation consultants. IBCLC's go through extensive training, hours, and examination to receive this certification.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (or IBLCE) says,

Attainment of the IBCLC credential signifies that the practitioner has demonstrated knowledge to:

- work together with mothers to prevent and solve breastfeeding problems
- collaborate with other members of the health care team to provide comprehensive care that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding
- encourage a social environment that supports breastfeeding families
- educate families, health professionals and policy makers about the far-reaching and long-lasting value of breastfeeding as a global public health imperative.

Among those who become IBCLCs are nurses, midwives, dietitians, physicians and experienced breastfeeding support counselors. IBCLCs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, neonatal intensive care units, human milk banks and private practice.

I encourage all my doula clients to contact an IBCLC if they are having any breastfeeding issues or have any concerns. Honestly, these (generally) women work miracles! They know every trick in the book, and can even help women breastfeed their infant even after they've stopped.

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of IBCLC's around, and definitely not enough from minority populations. And just because you saw a person in the hospital postpartum who called themselves a lactation consultant does not mean you saw an IBCLC - very few hospitals employ them. But some do, so be sure you demand one!

Having an IBCLC is a great way to overcome those breastfeeding Booby Traps!

Further reading:
What to look for in a lactation consultant
Why hire a lactation consultant?




Interested in becoming an IBCLC? 
This is a very long road. It can take years to obtain the education, training, and thousands of required clinical contact hours. Its also a lot of money. Then, you have to take a rigorous examination, and pass it again every 5 years.
Anyone who wants to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) must meet all of the following requirements:
  • Prerequisite higher education in the health sciences
  • Clinical practice in providing care to breastfeeding families
  • Education specifically about human lactation and breastfeeding
Different pathways have different requirements. Pathway 1 is done via clinical experience (either professional, like a nurse, or volunteer), Pathway 2 is done through an educational program (for instance, the Carolina Breastfeeding Institute, or pathway 3, which is an apprenticeship (read more here). 

Public Health Doula, also an IBCLC who works in a hospital, explains it this way:

1) Becoming an IBCLC already having some kind of medical/nursing/clinical degree. To qualify to sit the exam, these people have to have some lactation-specific education (although it is not standardized - hours from a vast array of providers and topics can count), and they also have to meet a minimum number of hours spent working with breastfeeding dyads. Importantly, these hours do not need to be under the direct supervision of an experienced IBCLC and can happen as part of the professional's regular work. So a nurse on a postpartum floor, a pediatrician, a dietitian at a WIC office - all of these people may be able to get their minimum hours through their work. (Pathway 1 in the current system.)

2) Becoming an IBCLC without having any kind of clinical degree. To qualify to sit the exam, these people have to also have lactation-specific education, and they need to meet a minimum hours requirement. However, their minimum hours need to be completed under the mentorship of one or more IBCLCs who have recertified at least once. (Pathway 3 in the current system.) These people can also do an educational program approved by IBLCE (Pathway 2), which provides the mentoring, hours, etc. all in one package, and requires somewhat fewer minimum hours, but those programs are few and far between.

(If you're interested in becoming an IBCLC, I encourage you check out more of her posts on her journey to certification, and even shoot her an email)

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