What is a Lactation Consultant, LC, IBCLC?
The term lactation consultant or LC has become the known, accepted title for a professionals with expert knowledge in breastfeeding. They may work with moms and babies to address breastfeeding issues and concerns. They may also teach classes, assist with establishing breastfeeding one on one, and promote and protect breastfeeding through policy, procedure within health care and government.
Origin of the term “Lactation Consultant
The accepted term for “IBCLC” or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in many geographical areas is "LC" or Lactation Consultant because, as you can see, that term is a mouthful.
“LC” is not trademarked and does not hold the professional standard like “IBCLC” does, so one will occasionally find a practicing LC who is not an IBCLC. Consumers (mothers and families) and other professionals (doulas and doctors) need to be aware of this.
As well, not all those who work as “lactation consultants” in health centres or breastfeeding support centres are IBCLCs. Some employers encourage employees to pursue the credential but don’t mandate it for employment. Many times, nurses with some basic breastfeeding education fill these jobs.
Why is this IBC part so important?
The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLE) awards the title of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to only the candidates who meet the comprehensive pathway requirements and pass an international exam. This allows IBLCE to establish the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and to certify only the individuals who meet these standards.
Breastfeeding alphabet soup
I’d like to explain some of the breastfeeding alphabet soup by using the birthing support alphabet soup, as people seem to relate to that.
All the roles are important, but they provide their own distinct scope, responsibilities, and abilities. They can all work together to provide comprehensive support.
Primary roles of the individual bodies
As you can see, I’ve broken this down into three primary roles.
3. Clinical management
Educators teach you about the normal and expected processes of childbirth and breastfeeding. They typically call themselves childbirth educators and lactation educators.
They teach the normal process of birth and what you can expect when having a baby, as well as encourage and promote breastfeeding.
This information helps you make decisions, helps you know if you are on track, gives you references for getting the birth and breastfeeding relationships you want, and helps answer your questions.
Educators typically teach community classes in group settings.
Support people are typically those who have additional training in supporting mother, baby, and family during crucial times: birth and breastfeeding.
They’re typically doulas and La Leche League (LLL) leaders. Doulas are usually paid professionals, and LLL is a mother-to-mother peer support group. These roles offer the encouragement and motivation you need to get through the processes of birth and breastfeeding.
They are well versed in normal and expected outcomes. They know to watch for red flags to ensure they can guide you further if you have come outside the normal, expected process. Their job is to provide physical and emotional support, encouraging you to ask questions of your caregivers to make sure you’re well informed about what occurs. They have resources and guidelines to reassure you that you’re indeed in the realm of normal, and if things deviate from normal, they can point you in the direction of more resources.
Lastly, we have the clinical management professionals.
These are the folks responsible for the clinical and medical bits of the scenario. They look at the facts and figures, big picture, and red flags to rule in or out the things that are not in the normal and expected category and then make management plans from there. They have the clinical experience of things that fall outside normal and how to manage them.
All of these people have a place in the realm of support and caregiving; what’s important is they know their role and responsibility and respect the others’. Where it becomes problematic is when the client receives something different from what she expected to receive. Sometimes, this occurs because the roles of each provider isn’t clear to her, and she might conclude that one person isn’t performing a role properly. Let’s look at how this might apply to IBCLCs specifically.
In our example, a mother assumes that a breastfeeding educator* is an IBCLC. She notices that despite consulting with the helper, her breastfeeding issue remains unresolved. She decides to seek more help through a La Leche League leader, who determines that the issue is outside her scope and recommends an IBCLC. The mother insists that she already saw an IBCLC, but received no help.
*this person could also be staff at a breastfeeding clinic or nurse who comes to her home
This example is typical, and it hurts all support people. The educator gets a bad rep because she didn’t help. The LLL leader is helpless because the needs were outside her scope. The IBCLC profession gets a bad rep because the client misunderstood the different roles and expectations.
Clients need to know clearly what their expectations are and who can best meet those expectations based on role, scope, and experience. I want to be asked and welcome being asked these questions! I want you to go and look at the IBLCE website to see what IBCLC's are all about and verify I am indeed and IBCLC and see what scope and standards are laid in place for my profession. I welcome the same questions about being a doula! I would love to see a blog about midwives and how they are different from doulas and childbirth educators (wink, wink, nudge, nudge midwives).
All breastfeeding and lactation professionals have a responsibility to work together to ensure mothers have accurate information, so they can receive the support and encouragement they need as efficiently and as quickly as possible.
Yes, I am a doula and many doulas offer placenta encapsulating as an additional service. I am not one of those doulas. I am a doula that is happy to refer that job out. Why? There are so many more evidence based things I can do to help new mothers that relate to most of the reasons why they are considering placenta encapsulating. There is simply not enough evidence for me to feel that this is how I would like to spend my time instead of doing the other things I can be doing for clients.
One of the primary reasons women consider encapsulating their placentas is anecdotal information that it can aid in appropriate milk supply. As an IBCLC, of course, I think milk supply is very significant. One of the driving factors of good production is good breastfeeding, early and often. This helps lay the foundation for the days and weeks to come. Breastfeeding, in fact, is one of the reasons I became a doula. We know that better birth experiences also aid in better breastfeeding. I wanted to support as many families as i could through the whole experience, rather than coming in after the birth and trying to catch up. Being there right away at birth and returning within 18-24 hours to see how things are progressing really helps get things off to a good start. Early identification of any potential roadblocks and removing them as soon as possible can make a big improvement to how breast-feeding starts off.
There are so many reasons for milk supply being low. If as an IBCLC, we identify a supply issue and a suspect cause, knowing the mechanisms of some of the remedies available helps us know what to recommend to help resolve the issue. Ee do not yet know the mechanism of how placentas work to assist in lactation, if they even do. If we identify a supply risk, there are many more evidence based recommendations that can be made that we know with much more certainty should help the situation.
I will also state that I and other IBCLC colleagues have witnessed mothers with supply issues that resolve after they stop taking placenta capsules. Again, this speaks to us not knowing the mechanisms behind how a placenta might aid or impact lactation.
In the end, my skill set as an IBCLC is of much more value than the time I would spend processing a placenta, in my opinion.
I do also have some personal hesitations that I wish for people to consider. I am not saying that they need to decide not to encapsulate after the considerations but just that they consider the points.
When we discuss postpartum mood imbalances & disorders we need to look at a larger picture than just a placenta. We see many mothers of multiples who state they did not consume their placenta after baby #1 but did after baby #2 and felt better emotionally than the first time. However, did they review the other differences? Baby #1 we often know little to nothing about what the experience of mothering will really be like, we go at it alone, we are not very confident in what we already know and we hesitate to seek out much information. Often baby #1 was a longer labour and longer pushing stage. Going from no baby to a baby, no sleep, constant physical and emotional demands from the infant, plus ones own recovery can be overwhelming. Baby #2, labour might be drastically different, maybe this time more supported, a shorter labour, easier pushing, the lack of sleep one gets with a newborn in the house is not as much as a surprise and there is much more understanding of normal newborn behaviours. Maybe the second time she had a doula, the same lady who encapsulated the placenta for her, and also provided postpartum supports, like helping with baby care so she could nap or helped with dishes and laundry so mom can rest, put up her feet and just focus on breastfeeding. Having some healthy meals with nutritional elements similar to a placenta might be a more regular occurrence the second time.
Speaking of nutrients; sometimes it is said that mammals consume their own placentas, so why wouldn’t humans? Some theories are that mammals do it for safety; that in the wild the smell of afterbirth would draw predators near and the mother & the newly born were vulnerable and at risk, so for safety, the mother would quickly consume the placenta. There are also some theories that a mother would be hungry and in the wild food is scarce. Their own placenta vs nothing was the best they could get so it could be considered a last resort for a nutritional deficient animal. We no longer live in the wild and food scarcity is not as prevalent. In this day and age, most humans don’t look at their placenta and see their next meal or have a desire to consume it. Even in the wild, they consume it mostly in one sitting and not small amounts over days and weeks like the placenta encapsulation community recommends now. Even with diminished nutrition in food sources, we can purchase vitamins and foods enhanced with vitamins, which could provide the same effects. There is a study I am aware of that is not yet completed and it does show that the mothers consuming their placentas do have higher hemoglobins at 6 weeks postpartum. However, it has also been commented that there is a chance that the families that have the available monetary funds to pay for placenta encapsulation services, also have the monetary resources to purchases better quality and quantity of foods. The cost of the placenta encapsulations has not been covered for the study. It is a control that needs to be considered.
As a former Medical Laboratory Technologist who worked in manufacturing of blood and blood products, I also worry about an appropriate environment to encapsulate and I do have concerns about infection control. I know that might be over-reactive but as someone who had to do quality control, sterility checks and saw the process of recalls, I think safety and specifications are important. I mean, after all, the placenta might be contaminated with poop. Even a small amount of bacteria can cause a big tummy ache. I say that more tongue in cheek than anything, but it is a thought. There is equipment needed to encapsulate and I am just not 100% that the risk of cross contamination is not there. Now, I am not an encapsulator and maybe there are steps in place to account for that risk. I am unsure about that. I am just saying, for me, it is something to think about. In the lab, in food processing, in other areas where contamination is a risk, sterility checks and quality control is what keeps stuff “clean and safe” and where recalls start, if they are needed. Just because you made the organ does not mean it cannot hurt you if bacteria is at play.
After all that, we do know that placebo effect can be strong and powerful. I am happy to accept placebo effect if you are and I am happy to refer you to a local placenta encapsulator if your desire is to encapsulate your placenta.
Why schedule a consult with a Private Private lactation consultant when I can see a lactation consultant for “free” in Regina?
This is a question the Pasqua South Medical Centre office staff often get asked when they make the recommendation to book an appointment with me. I am going to try and answer that question for you, and them. The centre staff may actually not know all the benefits of seeing me either. I am "new" to their space, they are getting used to me and gathering experience. They can see the improvements mom and babies are having, but they really do not know much about my services vs the free services. I bet it is safe to say that most people don't know the differences.
I am going to highlight a few. If you think of others that could be added, by all means leave a comment and I will add them in!
1) We, the client and myself, have a mutually agreed upon, prescheduled time. Free clinics often have you come in, take a number & sit and wait for your turn. They won’t likely know how many moms are going to show up, meaning mothers & babies (maybe fathers and other children,, too) could wait for quite some time and then be feeling rushed. They see all the other moms & babies waiting for their turns. At the centre we have a scheduled time, hopefully to your convenience and we allow enough time to avoid feeling rushed. Home visits provide a scheduled time AND the privacy and convenience of your own home.
2) I simply have more availability and flexibility. Not only is the timing better but you get more options as to when. Again, free clinics might only happen once a week. What happens if your struggles start on the evening the free clinic was being held and you missed it? Or sometimes you may benefit from two appointments only 2 or 3 days apart. A week can seem like an eternity when you are struggling.
3) I am an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Not all the staff at the free clinics may be an IBCLC. The free clinics are staffed by Public Health Nurses (PHN's). Some PHN’s are IBCLC’s but not all are. I am an IBCLC dedicated solely to breastfeeding, with 10 years of experience helping moms and babies, 5 years as an IBCLC. (By the way, if you use the free clinic, don't hesitate to ask if the person helping you is an IBCLC. If you really wanted to, you could consult the IBCLC directory.)
4) Education is a high priority to me. I mean MY education and I mean YOUR education. I have attended, and continue to attend, a wide variety of additional & extended trainings and conferences. I have a strong ethical background to practice evidence based lactation “science”. I also want to give you enough information about what is going on with you and will answer all the questions you have. We book enough time to be able to do this.
5) In all my years of experience I have had access to ranges of breastfeeding from normal to extreme difficulties. My initial exposure to breastfeeding help was a peer-to-peer support group where our scope of practice was to help mothers by providing emotional support & information within “normal” breastfeeding. I got to know normal really well and be introduced to some not so "normal". I was super curious about those not-so-normal cases and pursued my IBCLC. Now I have much more training with the outliers of normal. I am also able to follow my own client cases much more closely to monitor outcomes and refine the plans along the way. This gives me the advantage to know whether the information and care plans I am sharing with clients really work. Often in a free/public setting you will be exposed to different staff member every visit and they do not have that same luxury. They might tell all the moms to do the same “thing” thinking it is best practice and not realize that is not useful for moms to do and they are not getting the desired outcome.
6) I have direct access to centre physicians if something is outside my scope of practice or comfort zone and we want or need a physician involved on some level. This is especially useful for further diagnostic testing or prescriptions we might want to consider. We have developed some great protocols together and collaboration like this is unique, yet so beneficial and much more efficient for resolutions of concerns.
7) It is my standard practice to do a through history of mother and baby. We need to make sure that we have all aspects and contributing factors considered when we are determining why there might be struggles. There are more factors to lactation than most people are aware of. I go much further beyond getting a better latch and a better position. We make sure to look at the situation from a few lenses. We pull out the puzzle pieces that might be problematic and piece by piece get the whole puzzle fitting together into a nice picture.
You should hopefully be able to see what we are offering is completely different from what is being offered for free. You can count on focused, one-on-one care with a plan to approach the issues that brought you to me. You have the opportunity for follow up with the same person you saw originally and someone that can dialogue or report back to your physician and other care providers. I can help you address the specific concerns you have and reassure you what is the normal course of breastfeeding and give you my expertise with the more challenging aspects, with references and resources from the latest research. I can also make referrals and recommendations easily to a variety of other health care practitioners who may be of value to your specific concerns.
I look forward to seeing all of you and your darling little ones. Please feel free to book an appointment at your convenience.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health care professional or provider. If you think you are suffering from any sort of mental illness I recommend seeking medical attention as needed. I will also add in that I do take mental health concerns seriously and this blog post in not intended to down play medical concerns.
Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes. - William Gibson
When I first came across this quote, I immediately identified to it as an adult, as an individual and as I related to other adults. More and more I have been thinking about this in the context of my work, my work with new families, young babies and children & different relationships forming in homes.
The rate of postpartum mood disorders is on the rise. Baby blues, anxiety, depression and psychosis are a very real reality for many new mothers and fathers. We mostly see it in the context of mothers but more and more research shows our fathers are impacted by mood disorders as well.
Let’s, however, just step back for a minute and think about the above quote. “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” I don’t want to be rude but let’s face it, babies are assholes, toddlers are assholes and kids can remain like that as they grow up. They certainly don't mean to be but they are incompetent & demanding, they can be obnoxious and rude, they interrupt your every meal and all your sleep. You can’t even think about peeing without baby waking up and crying, let along move an inch to try to get up and pee. They need to be fed constantly, hanging off your breast, YOUR breast no longer belongs to you. When they are not feeding, they need you to hold them or they will turn the reddest of red and blow horrible smoke from their ears. They pee and poop ALL.THE.TIME. Rudely, they sometimes don't even wait for the new diaper to get on before they shit all over you or shower you in pee. You imagine stuffing that thing back inside you, because as awful as it was to have that watermelon come out the lemon, they are way easier to take care on the inside, right? Well, too bad, there is no turning back. There is only moving forward with this asshole in your life.
By now you know I am not serious in calling babies assholes, but you can see my point. Life is HARD with a new little person to care for. The real assholes of the world are hard enough to put up with, but now you have to put up with the smallest of them all, ALL the time, because YOU created it after all, YOU wanted this. Now you have to do it when you have zero sleep, zero nutrition and probably zero clue how to actually take care of this baby - I can guarantee you it did not come with a manual. Add in some hormones and everyone’s opinion of what you should be doing and it is easy to see why one would end up with signs and symptoms of a mood disorder or postpartum depression.
So, how about we get serious about what we can do about this baby and get through what will be one of the most challenging times of your life.
Self-care is big. You don't want to lose yourself in this. Having a baby WILL change you, but doesn’t need to consume you. What do YOU need? What does your partner need? Make a plan to have that happen. 15 minutes in the shower, making two sandwiches instead of one when your partner leaves for work, tea out with friends. Asking friends to bring you food when they come visit the baby. By the way, when they come visit, the asshole will switch personalities and put his nice guy face on. Have someone come help with light house work and laundry once a week. It’s the small things that make a massive impact.
Communication is huge. Tell each other how you are feeling about the changes in life and the new demands. If you are reading this before having your baby, start that conversation now. Brainstorm the different ways to achieve self-care that will work after baby. Be open and flexible in changing those plans, if needed. Just talk to each other and others about what is happening in your new world. Just keep the conversations going. And find others who will listen to you both. Just someone who will let you get it out. I promise, they won't mind.
Support. SUPPORT. SUPPORT. This is a must. You need to build a team of support people. Before baby is ideal but may not have happened and you may now just be building a support team. Who are we talking about? Family, friends, community resources - your health care providers, doula’s, peer support groups. Everyone’s team is going to look different depending on the needs they have. What is important to know is that support is going to make one of the largest impacts in how you feel about everything and how stable your mood will be, how you will interpret your experiences and what the outcome of the situation is. It is important to identify your needs and equip yourself with the tools to get there. It is vital to know what your support options are because without options you have no choices. So, start now by identifying your needs and making a list of supports. If you get lost and have a need but don't know how to get the support you need to have that need met, please ask! I am here to help in this time of transition in your life.