Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural way to nourish your baby, but it can also come with its fair share of challenges. That’s where International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) come in. These knowledgeable and compassionate professionals are dedicated to providing expert guidance and support to new mothers on their breastfeeding journey. Whether you’re a first-time mom or a seasoned pro, having an IBCLC by your side can make all the difference in ensuring a successful and fulfilling breastfeeding experience for both you and your little one. Find out more about the invaluable role of IBCLCs in this article.

Table of Contents

Breastfeeding Basics

What is breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is the act of feeding an infant with breast milk directly from the mother’s breasts. It is a natural and convenient way to nourish a baby, providing them with essential nutrients and antibodies that help boost their immune system and protect against various illnesses. Breast milk is perfectly designed to meet the nutritional needs of a baby, as it contains all the necessary proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals in just the right proportions.

Benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits for both the mother and the baby. For infants, breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for healthy growth and development. It contains antibodies that help protect against infections, allergies, and chronic diseases. Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It also helps establish a strong emotional bond between the mother and the baby.

For mothers, breastfeeding has several advantages as well. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps the uterus contract and return to its pre-pregnancy size. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of postpartum hemorrhage and contributes to a faster postpartum recovery. It can also help with weight loss as it burns extra calories. Furthermore, breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as osteoporosis.

Challenges of breastfeeding

While breastfeeding is a natural process, it can sometimes present challenges for both mothers and babies. Some common breastfeeding challenges include difficulties with latching, low milk supply, nipple pain or soreness, engorgement, and mastitis. Babies may experience issues such as ineffective suckling, jaundice, or difficulty gaining weight. Additionally, working mothers face the challenge of balancing breastfeeding with their job responsibilities.

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International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

What is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant?

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. IBCLCs possess in-depth knowledge and skills related to breastfeeding and lactation and are recognized globally as experts in this field. They work closely with mothers and infants to provide evidence-based support and guidance to ensure successful breastfeeding outcomes.

Role of an IBCLC

IBCLCs play a crucial role in breastfeeding support by providing comprehensive care to mothers and infants. They assess and address breastfeeding challenges, offer education on proper latch and positioning techniques, and provide counseling on breastfeeding techniques. IBCLCs are trained to identify and manage common breastfeeding difficulties, such as infant weight gain issues, sore nipples, and engorgement. They also provide emotional support and encouragement for mothers, helping them overcome any obstacles they may face during their breastfeeding journey.

How to become an IBCLC

To become an IBCLC, individuals must meet specific educational and clinical practice requirements. They must complete a minimum of 90 hours of lactation-specific education, accumulate a specific number of clinical hours assisting breastfeeding families, and pass the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) exam. This rigorous certification process ensures that IBCLCs have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide expert breastfeeding support.

Importance of IBCLCs in breastfeeding support

IBCLCs play a crucial role in promoting and supporting breastfeeding within communities. Their expertise and guidance can help mothers overcome challenges and achieve their breastfeeding goals. By providing evidence-based information and support, IBCLCs empower mothers to make informed decisions about breastfeeding and ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to breastfeed successfully. IBCLCs also contribute to the overall health of communities by promoting breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for infants.

Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Choosing an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Qualifications and certifications

When choosing an IBCLC, it is essential to consider their qualifications and certifications. Ensure that the consultant is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). This certification ensures that they have met the international standards of knowledge and experience required to provide expert breastfeeding support.

Experience and expertise

Experience plays a significant role in the effectiveness of an IBCLC. Look for consultants who have a wealth of experience working with a diverse range of breastfeeding challenges. Experienced IBCLCs are more likely to have encountered various situations and developed strategies to address them effectively. Additionally, consider their areas of expertise, such as working with premature infants, multiples, or mothers with specific medical conditions.

Credentials and affiliations

Check the credentials and affiliations of an IBCLC to ensure they are actively engaged in professional development and staying up-to-date with the latest research and best practices. Look for affiliations with breastfeeding organizations and associations, as this demonstrates their commitment to the field.

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Availability and accessibility

Consider the availability and accessibility of an IBCLC, especially during the critical early postpartum period. Ensure that the consultant you choose has flexible hours and is easily reachable for support and guidance. Having access to timely and responsive breastfeeding assistance can greatly enhance the overall breastfeeding experience.

Services Provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Breastfeeding education and counseling

IBCLCs provide comprehensive breastfeeding education and counseling to expectant and new mothers. They offer information on the benefits of breastfeeding, proper latch and positioning techniques, and strategies to establish and maintain a sufficient milk supply. They also address common concerns and questions related to breastfeeding.

Assessment and assistance with latch and positioning

IBCLCs assess the latch and positioning of the baby during breastfeeding to ensure optimal milk transfer and prevent nipple pain or damage. They provide guidance on adjusting the baby’s positioning and suggest techniques to improve the latch, promoting comfortable and effective breastfeeding.

Management of breastfeeding challenges and complications

IBCLCs are equipped to identify and manage various breastfeeding challenges and complications. They can provide guidance on resolving issues such as low milk supply, engorgement, nipple soreness, and blocked milk ducts. IBCLCs can also assist with infants experiencing difficulties in breastfeeding, such as poor weight gain or tongue tie.

Prenatal breastfeeding preparation

IBCLCs offer prenatal breastfeeding preparation to expectant mothers, helping them understand the basics of breastfeeding and preparing them for the breastfeeding journey. This includes information on proper latch and positioning, establishing a good milk supply, and managing common breastfeeding challenges.

Postpartum breastfeeding support

After the birth of the baby, IBCLCs provide essential postpartum breastfeeding support. They offer guidance on establishing breastfeeding routines, managing engorgement, understanding infant hunger cues, and addressing any concerns or difficulties that may arise. Postpartum support from an IBCLC can significantly contribute to a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience.

Working mothers and breastfeeding

IBCLCs play a vital role in supporting working mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding while returning to work. They provide guidance on pumping and storing breast milk, maintaining milk supply, and navigating workplace accommodations for breastfeeding mothers. IBCLCs collaborate with employers and human resource departments to create supportive environments for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace.

Breastfeeding Basics: Breastfeeding And International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Breastfeeding and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants Worldwide

IBCLCs in developed countries

In developed countries, IBCLCs are widely recognized and valued as integral members of the healthcare team. They work in hospitals, healthcare centers, private practices, and community settings, providing breastfeeding support to women and their families. Their expertise is often sought during prenatal and postpartum periods, contributing to higher breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates.

IBCLCs in developing countries

While the availability of IBCLCs in developing countries may be limited, their impact is significant. In these settings, IBCLCs often work alongside healthcare providers to advocate for breastfeeding and provide essential support and education to mothers. They play a critical role in raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and addressing cultural and societal barriers to breastfeeding.

Challenges faced by IBCLCs globally

IBCLCs face various challenges in their practice worldwide. Limited resources, inadequate funding, and lack of recognition can hinder their ability to provide optimal breastfeeding support. Additionally, societal and cultural norms that undervalue breastfeeding can create barriers to their work. Collaborative efforts are needed to overcome these challenges and ensure that all mothers have access to qualified lactation support.

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Importance of global recognition and support for IBCLCs

Global recognition and support for IBCLCs are crucial for the promotion of breastfeeding worldwide. Increased investment in lactation education and training, as well as policy changes that prioritize breastfeeding support, can help expand the presence of IBCLCs and improve breastfeeding rates globally. Recognizing the expertise of IBCLCs and integrating their services into healthcare systems can lead to better breastfeeding outcomes and healthier communities.

Collaboration between International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Medical Professionals

Working together for optimal breastfeeding outcomes

Collaboration between IBCLCs and medical professionals is essential for ensuring optimal breastfeeding outcomes. IBCLCs work closely with physicians, nurses, midwives, and other healthcare professionals to provide holistic care to breastfeeding mothers and infants. By combining medical expertise with lactation knowledge, professionals can address both the medical and emotional aspects of breastfeeding support.

Shared care and coordination

Shared care and coordination between IBCLCs and medical professionals are crucial for providing comprehensive and seamless breastfeeding care. Regular communication and collaboration allow for timely interventions and the sharing of information, ensuring that mothers receive consistent and evidence-based support throughout their breastfeeding journey.

Referrals and team approach

Medical professionals often refer breastfeeding mothers to IBCLCs for specialized support and guidance. Referrals ensure that mothers have access to comprehensive breastfeeding care and allow medical professionals to focus on the medical aspects of care while IBCLCs address specific breastfeeding concerns. This team approach strengthens the overall care provided to breastfeeding mothers and infants.

Integration into the healthcare system

To improve breastfeeding outcomes, it is essential to integrate IBCLCs into the healthcare system. This integration involves ensuring that IBCLCs are recognized as essential members of the healthcare team and that their services are reimbursed by insurance providers. By integrating IBCLCs into the healthcare system, breastfeeding support can become more accessible and comprehensive for all mothers.

The Future of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Increasing demand for breastfeeding support

As awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding continues to grow, the demand for breastfeeding support from IBCLCs is expected to increase. Mothers are seeking evidence-based information and guidance from experts to help them navigate the challenges of breastfeeding and ensure a successful breastfeeding experience. IBCLCs will play a vital role in meeting this demand and providing the necessary support to mothers and infants.

Advancements in lactation science and research

Advancements in lactation science and research will further enhance the expertise and knowledge of IBCLCs. Ongoing research contributes to a better understanding of breastfeeding physiology, infant development, and lactation management. IBCLCs will continue to stay updated with the latest research findings and incorporate evidence-based practices into their support and care.

Continued professional development and education

IBCLCs are committed to ongoing professional development and education. Continuous learning allows them to stay abreast of new developments in lactation science, refine their skills, and enhance their ability to support breastfeeding mothers effectively. Continued professional development ensures that IBCLCs maintain a high standard of practice and provide the best possible care to mothers and infants.

Recognition and support from policymakers

Recognition and support from policymakers are crucial for the advancement of the IBCLC profession. Policymakers can play a pivotal role in improving access to breastfeeding support by advocating for policies that prioritize breastfeeding and lactation support services. By recognizing the value of IBCLCs and investing in their profession, policymakers can contribute to healthier communities and generations.


International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are invaluable resources for mothers and infants, providing expert breastfeeding support and guidance. Their knowledge, skills, and dedication help mothers overcome challenges and achieve their breastfeeding goals. IBCLCs play a vital role in promoting and supporting breastfeeding globally, ensuring healthier communities and generations. With continued recognition, support, and collaboration, IBCLCs will continue to empower mothers through their breastfeeding journey and contribute to the overall well-being of society.