An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. IBCLCs are certified by passing a rigorous examination after completing clinical internship hours and a minimum of 90 hours of lactation specific education. They also must have college-level background in health sciences.
An IBCLC serves nine roles: advocate, clinical expert, collaborator, educator, facilitator, investigator, policy consultant, professional, and promoter. You can read more about the roles here.
As an IBCLC, I serve in these roles with each patient that I counsel everyday, but that description doesn’t really touch on what I feel is the richness of the work that I do.
Becoming an IBCLC was the culmination of a lot of hard work, study and time away from my own baby while I worked as an intern to complete my clinical hours. I look back on those years with fondness, studying with my lab partner in a coffee shop near my house, waking up at 5am to be in Greeley to round in the hospital, and discussing for many hours complex cases with my mentor. I remember clearly the moment when I sat down to take the culminating exam, taking that deep breath and trusting that I was prepared, and certainly the moment when I learned I had passed.
My love for my chosen profession never wanes, being a lactation consultant was, and continues to be my dream job. Sitting with families in my office each day is an honor and the space we keep together is sacred. Becoming a parent is one of the hardest tasks that we undertake and it often happens far from family and support. I acknowledge that breastfeeding can feel isolating, sometimes painful, and be fraught with worry. When we go around the room in breastfeeding class and talk about why we want to breastfeed, mothers most frequently state that “bonding” is the reason that most compels them. But worry, overwhelm, confusion, pain and unmet expectation are often the experiences that land a mother in my office.
The heart of my work is to bring the parents back in alignment with that original goal, to bond with, and enjoy their new baby. This means helping them to understand what their baby’s behavior means, how to soothe, how to breastfeed without pain, and how to work through or define new goals when breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned. My work is to facilitate the parents in problem solving and help them develop their own sense of efficacy, and from that, confidence.
I work in the realm of weights and measures, clinical evidence and best practices, but I also work in the realm of feelings. Breastfeeding is both physical and emotional labor for the mother. In any given day, my office contains the joy, the hope, disappointment, the successes and set-backs, the continuation, and yes, sometimes the ending of breastfeeding. Despite the diversity of problems or concerns that I see, each patient shares something in common. Every one of them is doing their best in each moment to care for their babies, and each one deserves to be supported in their individual journey. And this is my commitment to my patients as an IBCLC, a lactation consultant.
To read more about IBCLC’s or the Lactation Consultant credential please visit ILCA or USCLA. You can request a lactation appointment here, or call the clinic at 970.493.7442. You can speak to a lactation consultant directly at extension 3951. To sign up for a breastfeeding class visit here.
About the Author:
Jennifer Hoover is a maternal-child health specialist, board certified lactation consultant, childbirth educator and writer for The Women’s Clinic of Northern Colorado.