When you have a baby, you take time to carefully choose your OB/GYN and your baby’s pediatrician. But it is equally important to make sure that you have a breastfeeding professional lined up to help you after your baby is born. Ideally, you want to find an IBCLC.
What Is an IBCLC?
That’s a great question! An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. In order to receive that designation, the candidate must pass a highly specialized board exam which is given once a year on the last Monday of July.
However, not just anybody can sit for the exam. First an applicant must have a university level educational background in the health sciences. Then she must complete at least 90 hours of education in breastfeeding and human lactation. Finally, she must obtain a specified number of clinical hours in breastfeeding depending upon the pathway to certification she chooses to follow. It is a challenging and rigorous preparation which insures that those who sit for the exam are well prepared.
Why Choose an IBCLC?
Many breastfeeding moms can offer great advice. That’s the reason that mother-to-mother support groups like Mommy Milk Meet-up and La Leche League are so helpful. La Leche League leaders receive training that enables them to help most nursing mothers very effectively, but they also know when to refer a mother to an IBCLC. In fact, many La Leche League leaders actually end up becoming IBCLC’s.
However, if you want to be certain that you’re getting the very best evidence-based information about your specific situation, then you need to see an IBCLC. She is the only health-care professional who has the advanced educational level specific to breastfeeding and human lactation that will enable her to provide the most effective intervention possible.
There are other types of breastfeeding professionals. The Healthy Children Project offers a Certified Lactation Counselor program which actually fulfills half of the required 90 hours in lactation education that is needed for IBCLC certification. This course offers excellent preparation with instructors who are personally committed to seeing students succeed in the field of human lactation. Breastfeeding Support Consultants offers a Breastfeeding Counselor course which provides the full 90+ hours needed to sit for the IBCLC exam.
Both of these breastfeeding professionals are very capable. However, they also realize that there are occasions when they may need to refer a mother to an IBCLC. A critical component of a truly professional practice is recognizing one’s limitations and knowing when to refer.
How Do I Know if Someone is an IBCLC?
There are a couple of ways to verify that you are working with an IBCLC. You can go to the IBCLC registry and look for her last name. Or you can ask to see her IBCLC card. All IBCLC’s have a laminated card that identifies them with their name, IBCLC number and certification expiration date. If someone claims to be a lactation counselor, ask her where she received her training – she should have a card or certificate verifying her claim.
Be very careful about accepting breastfeeding advice from someone who claims to be a lactation counselor but is unable to substantiate her claim in some way. We have seen cases where mothers were actually given very inaccurate information by someone claiming to be a lactation counselor. Recently we heard from a mother who actually quit breastfeeding because of the advice she had been given by one of these “pseudo-lactation counselors.” So if you are at all unsure about a person’s credentials, ask for proof! You deserve the very best!
Written by Glenni Lorick , Certified Lactation Consultant in Huntsville, Alabama
Glenni Lorick is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in Huntsville, AL. She owns A Nurturing Moment, a mommy-baby boutique dedicated to providing information, education, support and encouragement to hopeful, expectant and new parents. They offer breastfeeding support services via Skype for mothers who live in an area where there are no IBCLC’s. We invite you to join the ANM community on Facebook and check out our blog, Nurturing Moments.
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