by Liz Brooks, JD IBCLC, FILCA, ILCA President 2012-14
Can you describe your work, to a total stranger, in the time it takes to ride an elevator?
“I’m an IBCLC. It’s the essential credential for lactation support.”
“IBCLCs empower women, and save babies’ lives.”*
Why, you wonder, would an IBCLC ever need something like that?
Because it means IBCLCs around the world can promote and advocate for our credential (and jobs!) …. starting right now, today. ILCA has nearly 6,000 members around the world; there are nearly 23,000 IBCLC certificants worldwide. That is a powerful grassroots force, promoting “what IBCLCs do,” in a marketplace that is very confused about who all the different breastfeeding helpers are.
ILCA announced its revised Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan at the Annual General Meeting held recently at its international conference in Orlando, Florida, USA. Think of the vision as “the perfect ending” at some point in the future … and the mission as the means to get there. The strategic plan then describes the specific tasks and projects that will accomplish the mission. For ILCA, they are:
Our vision is that the IBCLC is the globally recognized professional authority in lactation.
Our mission is to advance the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) profession worldwide through leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research.
You can click here to view ILCA’s new Strategic Plan, but the five main pillars, in a
Goal One: Promote the IBCLC credential and profession.
If not us, who? If not now, when? IBCLCs around the world worry about job security by the proliferation of government and administrative rulings carving out how lactation support is defined, and reimbursed. Our members want ILCA to provide them with advocacy materials for them to use on the job, to protect their jobs.
Goal Two: Promote professional development through member services.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA to give them education and professional development opportunities and tools: conferences, webinars, on-line learning, clinical protocols, position papers, and family-centered handouts so they can offer the latest in evidence-based practice … and opportunities to strengthen their resumes and expand their influence by meaningful leadership and writing opportunities within the member organization.
Goal Three: Collaborate with decision-makers to develop global, national and local policy.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Decisions are made by the people who show up. Our members want ILCA to be at the table — or to give them the materials they need at their local tables — when policy and practice decisions involving breastfeeding and public health are on the agenda.
Goal Four: Actively foster research that supports evidence-based IBCLC practice.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA and its stellar publication, The
Journal of Human Lactation, to give opportunities for doing, and publishing research: by IBCLCs, about our work, about issues affecting our work.
Goal Five: Promote organizational excellence and financial stability.
If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA to provide these services in a
manner that keeps our costs — their membership dues — carefully in check, while returning the maximum in member benefit. Their annual renewal fee is an investment in themselves… and they want their money’s worth!
Lactating women are everywhere, and almost all of them need support. Peer counselors, mother-to-mother groups, and healthcare providers who learned breastfeeding management from excellent educators (such as those approved by LEAARC, the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee) can serve most mothers’ needs. But the IBCLC is the essential credential for those families needing, instead, the specialized skill and expertise that IBCLC certification represents. (Read the ILCA Position Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC here.)
IBCLCs are passionate about their work, but often the job is difficult because we are
underpaid, misunderstood, and under-appreciated. And that’s evidence-based!** The time is now for this strong new Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan, to guide the International Lactation Consultant Association in advocating for IBCLCs. And it starts with you, the IBCLC, honing your elevator speech to advocate for your profession.
* Thank you, Ursuline Singleton, for sharing this perfect phrase! We were pleased to have you, as the Public Health Analyst at the Office of Women’s Health (U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services), share greetings in your plenary to the 2012 conference on behalf of U. S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. And we were all touched by the story of your early days as an IBCLC in a NICU, when you first described IBCLC work in this way.
** From Aimee Eden, MA, PhD(C), presenting “The challenges and benefits of practicing as an IBCLC: A qualitative study informing the [U. S. Surgeon General's] Call to Action” at the Plenary Spotlight on Research, ILCA Annual Conference, July 28, 2012.
Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA, is a lawyer (since 1983), private practice lactation consultant (since 1997), and leader in her professional association (since 2005.) As an IBCLC, Liz has worked in private practice (offering home visits); a hospital setting (offering prenatal education, “rounding” on breastfeeding mothers and babies in the full-term and Level III NICU nurseries, and providing in-service education to nurses, doctors and midwives); and a non-profit, community-based breastfeeding clinic (which provides IBCLC service to mothers on a sliding fee scale).
Liz is currently the president of the International Lactation Consultant Association; she is the United States Lactation Consultant Association Alternate to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) (since 2011); she remains active in her local USLCA chapter PRO-LC. Liz was designated Fellow of the International Lactation Consultant Association (FILCA) in 2008, the inaugural year for the program.