What is a Lactation Consultant?
A Lactation Consultant, also known as a ‘IBCLC’ (stands for ‘International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’) and is the highest accredited healthcare professional that specializes in Lactation and all things breast, chest or bottle feeding! An IBCLC is an internationally recognized qualification and the only qualification that exist that specializes in breastfeeding worldwide.
To be an IBCLC a person must have completed a specialized lactation training program, have hundreds of hours of clinical breastfeeding experience, studied university level health science subjects (or already be a healthcare professional such a nurse or midwife) and pass a very long and complex exam! To maintain this qualification, an IBCLC must re-apply every 5 years and have done many hours of additional training.
Long story short, an IBCLC is a highly trained breastfeeding specialist.
All the Lactation Consultants at MAMA hold the IBCLC qualification.
When should I see one?
Anytime before or after the birth of your baby!
But most importantly, if you’re having trouble with any aspect of breastfeeding or feeding your baby in general.
The most common breastfeeding issues the IBCLC’s at MAMA see is latching difficulties due to pain or their baby is unable to latch, breastmilk supply issues (either low supply or oversupply), breast or nipple pain/damage and babies not gaining enough weight, to name just a few.
Breastfeeding should not hurt! Some mild soreness in the first week can be normal, but you should not have any damage to your nipples such as blisters, grazes or bleeding – ouch!!!
Breastfeeding can be a beautiful, enjoyable experience, but is hard to enjoy when there is pain. Nipple damage means that something isn’t quite right. Getting help as soon as possible is important as nipple damage can lead to nipple and/or breast infections, low weight gains for babies and supply issues.
We also commonly see clients when they are pregnant for an Antenatal Consultation or our Breastfeeding Workshop. Like all things in life, but particularly when having a baby, being prepared is the key to achieving your breastfeeding goals! During pregnancy a lot of the focus is on the birth (understandably), however being prepared for breastfeeding is just as important – it is the best investment you can make! It’s especially important if you are already worried about breastfeeding or have specific concerns, such as breastfeeding after breast surgery or have health conditions you think might impact your success at breastfeeding.
An IBCLC can also help you prepare and get ready to return to work. Returning to work can be very daunting and understandingly cause lots of anxiety. Depending on your goals, an IBCLC can either help you work out a feeding/expressing plan while you are away from your baby that will protect your supply or of you would prefer to wean your baby from the breast, an IBCLC can help you do this safely.
So as you can see, there are many reasons to see a IBCLC, with the key message being – be prepared, get informed and get help sooner rather than later!
Good Breastfeeding Resources
Australian Breastfeeding Association (they have a 24/7 helpline!)
Kelly Mom – Breastfeeding and Parenting
Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ) – Find an IBCLC in your area
Midwives and Mothers Australia (MAMA) – IBCLC’s available for home or clinic visits