By: Heather Pladna
When it comes to lactation services, the gold standard is the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). It’s likely this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. The question is, why is this the gold standard? Furthermore, is it worth the extra money to hire one when you’re aware that others, who also call themselves lactation consultants/counselors, may be available at a lesser rate? Some may even assume that baby’s pediatrician is a good resource for lactation advice.
The first thing to consider is that anyone can use the title lactation consultant and represent oneself as such to sell lactation services. There is no regulation around the use of that title. This is the number one reason why looking for a lactation consultant with this specific board-certification and those 5 letters after her name, is so important. This isn’t to say that there aren’t quality lactation consultants with different training or with other certifications. However, the IBCLC certification does promise that the consultant you’re seeing has undergone rigorous academic-training, hundreds of hours of supervised experiential learning, a cumulative exam, continuing education, and periodic re-testing.
What about my baby’s doctor? While pediatricians are well-versed in childhood illnesses, diagnoses, treatment, and medication, lactation is not an area that is generally in their wheelhouse. Pediatricians receive little to no training in human lactation during medical school. To rely on a pediatrician’s advice regarding breastfeeding would be naive at best and potentially dangerous at worst. And without training in lactation, a good pediatrician’s best response to breastfeeding-specific inquiries, would be to refer to the internationally-recognized expert in human lactation, an IBCLC.
For such a time-sensitive issue as baby’s feeding, it is most prudent to go straight to the top-shelf when seeking help. The wide breadth of knowledge that an IBCLC possesses is of great advantage to a nursing pair. Many parents may mistakenly believe that an IBCLC merely watches baby nurse, offers suggestions to alter baby’s latch, then departs. However, while of course, an IBCLC is able to help in those ways, they are only a sliver of what her training has prepared her to handle. IBCLCs can provide feedback on basic positioning and latching but the scope of practice also allows an IBCLC to identify and refer to appropriate healthcare providers for issues including but not limited to: pre-baby breastfeeding preparedness, thrush, mastitis, tethered-oral-tissue (“tongue-tie”), torticollis, breast hypoplasia, low milk supply, and poor weight-gain in baby. An IBCLC is the ideal resource for connecting mothers with the necessary, evidence-based information, techniques, and, if needed, proper medical help for issues far broader than baby’s latch. An IBCLC often plays a key role in a woman’s ability to meet her breastfeeding goals.
Please follow this link to schedule a consultation with Baltimore’s favorite International Board Certified Lactation consultant.