If you’re a breastfeeding parent, the chances are high that you’ve heard about, or even worked with an IBCLC, especially if you’ve experienced some breastfeeding difficulties. Some people may wonder what IBCLC’S are and what they do, what their education and training consist of, and most importantly of all, if they’re worth it.
What is an IBCLC?
IBCLC stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), lactation consultants who are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). IBCLC’S are allied healthcare professionals who specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They are responsible for duties such as advocating, educating, assessing and supporting. All while adhering to a strict code of ethics set out by the IBLCE IBCLC’S possess a comprehensive understanding of the anatomical, physiological and hormonal aspects of breastfeeding. All of which enables them to assess and support parents with a wide range of breastfeeding difficulties.
The education and training of an IBCLC
It’s not uncommon for people to underestimate the knowledge and training that an IBCLC had to go through in order for them to become certified and to keep an active certification. There are 3 different pathways to become a lactation consultant and all of them will require certain health science prerequisites, lactation and communication specific education and clinical training.
Candidates must either possess an approved medical degree, finish a lactation specific college/university program, or complete 14 health science courses.
The 14 health science courses include:
– Human Anatomy
– Human Physiology
– Infant Growth and Development
– Introduction to Clinical Research
– Psychology or Counselling Skills or Communication Skills
– Sociology or Cultural Sensitivity or Cultural Anthropology
– Basic Life Support
– Medical Documentation
– Medical Terminology
– Occupational Safety and Security for Health Professionals
– Professional Ethics for Health Professionals
– Universal Safety Precautions and Infection Control
Lactation specific education
Lactation consultants must also complete a 95-hour lactation specific certification program where at least 5 hours must be focused on communication.
What truly makes a lactation consultant is the physical hands on clinical training they complete to prepare them to work with breastfeeding dyads.
Clinic training for each pathway:
– Pathway 1
1000 practical hours directly supporting breastfeeding dyads as either a healthcare professional or a recognised and approved breastfeeding organization volunteer.
– Pathway 2
300 practical hours directly supporting breastfeeding dyads under the supervision of a certified IBCLC.
– Pathway 3
500 practical hours directly supporting breastfeeding dyads under the supervision of a certified IBCLC, shadowing the IBCLC first before starting the practical hours and also including extra activities and studies.
4-hour international examination
After completing all of the above educational and practical requirements, candidates are then required to sit a 4 hour international examination and pass at a specific pass rate before being certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Once certified, IBCLC’S must continue practicing and studying in order to recertify every few years. Failure to continue education will result in losing their certification. This is to ensure that IBCLC’S stay up to date with current research and continue to offer the very best evidence-based practice to their clients.
The role of IBCLC’S in lactation support
IBCLC’S are some of the best and most important breastfeeding advocates in the breastfeeding community. They will advocate for breastfeeding and breastfeeding related topics, they will advocate for parents to receive current evidence-based care for their healthcare providers. They will also advocate for mothers who are employed, and they will advocate for a mother and their child’s right to breastfeeding when, where and for however long is needed.
IBCLC’S are also responsible for educating parents about everything breastfeeding and child behavior related during both the pre and the postnatal period, up until the weaning age. They also provide education not only to parents, but also to others, such as family members, friends, daycare centers, hospitals, medical staff and even employers.
– Lactation support
IBCLC’S are trained in everything breastfeeding related, and a part of their responsibilities is advocating, educating and overall lactation support. Lactation support includes, but are not limited to, prenatal breastfeeding education, latch and positioning support, support with supply establishment and maintenance, support for optimal breastfeeding management, monitoring the baby and their milk intake, pumping support, and so much more.
– Complex lactation support
IBCLC’S are also clinically trained to assess and offer support for complex breastfeeding difficulties such as assessing for and/or supporting parents with medical complications such as reflux and other complications that could interfere with breastfeeding, blocked milk ducts, mastitis, oral ties, clefts, muscle tone issues, anatomical difficulties, low and oversupply and so much more.
– Emotional support and empowerment
One of the most important responsibilities of an IBCLC is counselling. It’s not just about educating and physically supporting parents with breastfeeding, but also about offering emotional support whenever a parent may need it and empowering parents as much as possible.
IBCLC’S and the work they do are not just an easy little profession, they go through extensive and ongoing education and training to educate and support breastfeeding parents. IBCLC’S are experts of the field of lactation. They often work in a multidisciplinary team with other medical professionals to ensure the best possible treatment for families. Research has found that the work that lactation consultants (IBCLC’S) do, plays a positive role in breastfeeding support and outcomes.
If you ever need a lactation consultant, do ensure you search for IBCLC’S in your area. Most countries will have 1 or more national directories where IBCLC’S may be listed. Many IBCLC’S also offer virtual consultations when possible.
If you want to ensure the lactation consultant you want to work with is indeed certified, you can check the IBLCE public registry by entering the IBCLC’S credential number or full name and surname. You are entitled to this information should you wish to know.