Nearly 36,000 International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) around the world practice as vital members of the health care team in hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, special nurseries, physician offices, human milk banks, public health agencies, private clinics, government offices, and private practice. They work collaboratively with prenatal and postpartum providers to help new families meet their breastfeeding goals, and to help hospitals establish and support evidence-based protocols for breastfeeding management.
What is an IBCLC?
The IBCLC is a member of the maternal-child health team with specialized skills in breastfeeding management and care. In fact, the IBCLC certification is the premier global credential in this important health care specialty. IBCLCs have passed a rigorous examination that demonstrates their ability to provide knowledgeable, comprehensive lactation and breastfeeding care. They are required to keep their skills current, and must recertify every five years through continuing education or re-examination.
- Recognized throughout the world as the premier global credential in the lactation care profession
- Knowledgeable about up-to-date evidence-based practices in lactation as demonstrated through a rigorous examination process and recertification in 5-year intervals
- Focused on preventative care
- Experienced in a wide variety of complex breastfeeding situations
- Competent to assist parents with establishing and sustaining breastfeeding, even in the midst of difficulties and high-risk situations that can arise
- Sensitive to the needs of both parentss and children as they work to help families 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
How IBCLCs Make a Difference
Research studies have shown that an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) makes a difference in breastfeeding outcomes for new families.
A baby is 2.8 times more likely to be breastfeeding upon hospital discharge if the facility employs an IBCLC. Among women receiving Medicaid, delivering at a hospital that employed IBCLCs was associated with a 4.13 times increase in the odds of breastfeeding at hospital discharge.
Castrucci, B., et al. 2006. A comparison of breastfeeding rates in an urban birth cohort among women delivering infants at hospitals that employ and do not employ lactation consultants. Journal of Public Health Management Practice. 12(6), 578–585.
Women who receive prenatal education, postpartum hospital and home visits, and telephone calls from a lactation consultant, are more likely to breastfeed through week 20 and at a higher breastfeeding intensity than women who do not receive assistance from a lactation consultant.
Bonuck, K., et al. 2005. Randomized controlled trial of a prenatal and postnatal lactation consultant intervention on duration and intensity of breastfeeding up to 12 months. Pediatrics. 116:6, 1413-26.
Guise, JM, et al. 2003. The effectiveness of primary care-based interventions to promote breastfeeding: systematic evidence review and meta-analysis for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Family Medicine. 1:2, 70-8.
Health Outcomes for Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies
Women are more likely to stop breastfeeding in the first month when they experience such problems as sore nipples, inadequate milk production, and infant difficulties with breastfeeding. A lactation consultant can help women overcome these difficulties and thereby increase duration of breastfeeding.
Ahluwalia, IB, et al. 2005. Why do women stop breastfeeding? Findings from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System. Pediatrics. 116:6, 1408-1412.
Increased access to lactation consultants resulted in greater continuation of breastfeeding and a $149-per-delivery reduction in cost for planned hospital care, planned follow-up visits, and unplanned care costs.
Lieu TA, et al. 1998. Clinical outcomes and maternal perceptions of an updated model of perinatal care. Pediatrics. 102:1437-1444.
Corporate Worksite Support
IBCLCs are an integral part of many corporate lactation programs. Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, and CIGNA Corporation are among the many companies that now include consultations with lactation consultants as an integral part of their employee benefits program for breastfeeding employees. These lactation programs have been shown to dramatically increase breastfeeding duration rates, with resulting savings in health care costs, fewer prescriptions, and reduced absenteeism and turnover rates for employees.
Dickson V., Hawkes C., Slusser W., Lange L. & Cohen R. 2000. The positive impact of a corporate lactation program on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates: help for the working mother. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at the Annual Seminar for Physicians, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and La Leche League International, on July 21, 2000.
Mutual of Omaha. 2001. Prenatal and lactation education reduces newborn health care costs. Omaha, NE: Mutual of Omaha.
Why Hire an IBCLC?
Customer satisfaction and safety depend upon recruiting and retaining qualified, skilled health care practitioners. The IBCLC certification is your assurance that lactation professionals on your team have the specialized knowledge and skills required to provide excellence in lactation care for new families. Certification as an IBCLC protects the public by helping consumers identify qualified lactation consultants, increases customer confidence, and helps you sustain a maternal-child health team that delivers evidence-based care for new families. When making employment decisions, health care systems can feel confident in using IBCLC certification as a measure of excellence.