Breastfeeding isn’t always easy so if problems arise, who can you call? The first point of contact for breastfeeding help is often a midwife, health visitor, doctor or paediatrician. However, breastfeeding training and experience can vary widely among health professionals, for some it may have been as little as half a day. Other helpers specific to breastfeeding include peer supporters or breastfeeding buddies, breastfeeding counsellors and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), but who’s who?
Peer supporter or breastfeeding buddy
A peer supporter is usually a woman who has breastfed her own baby, she will have had 16-36 hours breastfeeding education and will encourage and support basic breastfeeding issues under supervision. She will usually be a volunteer but may be employed by the local NHS. Difficult problems will be referred to a specialist.
A breastfeeding counsellor will have been accredited by the breastfeeding charity she works for e.g. La Leche League, Breastfeeding Network, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers or The National Childbirth Trust. She will be an experienced breastfeeding mother who has breastfed her own baby for at least 6 to 12 months. On average she will have had 2 years part time training in breastfeeding education. Breastfeeding counsellors are usually unpaid volunteers and will support mothers with common breastfeeding problems with referral to further professional advice as needed.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
An IBCLC is the only internationally recognised professional breastfeeding qualification. It is awarded by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE); the examining body. Before sitting the IBCLC exam, candidates must demonstrate extensive clinical experience (1000 hours) and advanced lactation education (at least 90 hours). They must abide by Professional Standards 1 and recertify every 5 years to ensure they are up to date. They can help with any breastfeeding issues including complex situations, high-risk babies, oral assessment and more.An IBCLC is the only internationally recognised professional breastfeeding qualificationClick To Tweet
Why hire an IBCLC?
Amber McCann explains it well:
Why hire an IBCLC? Families who seek the help of an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) get the gurus of breastfeeding knowledge and support. If you had a toothache, you would seek the care and advice of someone who is an expert on teeth, your dentist; if you were concerned about your heart, you’d find the most qualified, expert cardiologist. An IBCLC is an expert on breastfeeding. By finding one as you begin breastfeeding, you equip yourself with the very best support available. A strong support system can significantly help you meet your breastfeeding goals. A good IBCLC can be the key player on your A-Team.
The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) is the international professional association for IBCLCs and has this to say:
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are:
- Recognized the world over as possessing the only standardized, board certified lactation credential available
- Knowledgeable about up-to-date evidence-based practices in lactation as demonstrated through a rigorous exam process
- Experienced in a wide variety of complex breastfeeding situations
- Competent to assist mothers with establishing and sustaining breastfeeding, even in the midst of difficulties and high-risk situations that can arise
- Sensitive to the needs of both mothers and children as they work to help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals
- Ethical in their practice, abiding by Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics and working within a defined Scope of Practice
Find an IBCLC Internationally
See our IBCLC directory to find your nearest breastfeeding expert or to add your own listing. The following two links are also IBCLC directories:
- Find a Local IBCLC Lactation Consultants of Great Britain
- Find a Lactation Consultant (Internationally) International Lactation Consultant Association