Written by Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA
I read a post on a list recently, from a USA-based IBCLC, concerned about a large birth facility that contemplates cutting IBCLC services because administrators perceive lactation services as costly “extras.” Her concerns are very real. IBCLCs are under threat of losing their jobs in a tough economy, in a culture that perceives
bottle-feeding rather than breastfeeding BF as “normal.”
IBCLCs do not need to be lactivists, or to have “clout,” to be advocates.
All it takes is a little energy to make a stab at telling administrators how wrong their thinking is. Will you “win?” Maybe not. But remaining silent will surely not change the mind-set at the institution, either.
The GOOD news is the IBCLC does NOT have to go and “think up” any of the advocacy
materials to share with decision-makers. Much of it has already been done,
and nearly all of it is free. Thus, I suggest:
(1) Run, do not walk, to the USLCA website, to download and read ALL the
incredible IBCLC advocacy materials that are there all day, everyday. There
are swanky-looking, FREE, evidence-based hand-outs about hospital staffing,
the IBCLC credential, etc. The website is newly-redesigned and quite
(2) Run, do not walk, to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, to download and read the FREE evidence-based report by the nation’s most important public health official on the importance of having *everyone* support
breastfeeding mothers …. starting with the facilities where they birth.
(3) Run, do not walk, to the ILCA website to download the FREE Position
Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC:
(4) Run, do not walk, to the FREE “Speak Up” campaign materials written by
the Joint Commission on the topic of breastfeeding. Does your facility
really want to be seen as doing the precise opposite of what the Joint
Commission has declared is a vital patient right … to speak up for and get qualified lactation care?
(5) Run, do not walk, to the Centers for Disease Control website, to review
their FREE materials on the nationwide effort for hospitals to attain
Baby-Friendly status, in order to meet national public health objectives.
Does your facility really want to be seen as doing the precise opposite of
what the CDC has declared is critical to providing healthcare that improves public health?
(6) For a quick-and-easy evidence-based document (8 pages text; 4 pages
citations), about five dollars will buy you The Risks of Not Breastfeeding,
(7) For a huge evidence-based document on maternal and child health
outcomes of breastfeeding, download the FREE 415-page “mother of them all”
by Ip, et al. and Agency for Healthcare Screen Sharing Research and Quality (AHRQ) “Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries.” Or, download just the first 11 pages (the Executive Summary)
(8) Report back to Lactation Matters and report on how things went … to energize, empower and embolden other IBCLCs facing the same crisis.
Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA, has been one of the leading car accident lawyers (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 has been on the Board of Directors of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA: Secretary 2005-11; will be President 2012-14); she is the United States Lactation Consultant Association Alternate to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) (since 2011); she remains active in her local ILCA chapter PRO-LC. Liz was designated Fellow of the International Lactation Consultant Association (FILCA) in 2008, the inaugural year for the program.
Liz, thank you so much for writing this thoughtful article. I know that so many of us feel like we have to keep justifying our profession and our positions. If we can reinforce the information contained in the links you provided, it really does all speak for itself…we just need to bring the skills, experience and positive attitude and show them that it’s the best investment they’ve ever made!
Well said, Erin!
Well said, Erin. Our own excellence in practice is one of the best advertisements for the hard-earned IBCLC credential.
I knew some of this was out there…many thanks for gathering the list of references all in one place. And further thanks to the many, many who put the references together in the first place. We will all benefit.
Sue, I’m glad you’ll now be able to easily find and use these materials. As to all the effort that went into creating and publishing these resources: Hear, hear!
Yes but I feel we need to also speak up to The Healthy Children Project on the position paper they wrote on how basically a CLC is the same as an IBCLC. The paper almost implied that their program was a better alternative to becoming an IBCLC. This is very scary to me and upsetting to think that a CLC could also take a job that should be for an IBCLC due to this damaging paper reaching administrators that do not know the difference or care. I was a CLC for many years before starting my path to becoming an IBCLC, I know the difference.
Shannon, your last sentence is the telling one. Those of us who are in the field of helping breastfeeding mothers are well aware of the varied education, training, continuing education (and access to professional liability insurance!) that all the various “Different Initials” require. The danger is confusion by the public. Not just by hospital or clinic administrators who might hire an IBCLC … but *breastfeeding mothers* who need *more* than mother-to-mother counseling support (can I hear a Whoo Hoo for LLL et al.), and require our clinical help as allied health care providers!
Thanks Liz! As usual, beautifully done. I like the Joint’s brochures and posters. I hadn’t seen them before!
And thank YOU Colette for your non-profit breastfeeding clinic, offering IBCLC care to any mother (on a sliding fee scale) (https://lactationmatters.org/2011/09/15/clinicians-in-the-trenches-colette-acker/) … a fabulous example of community-based care, meeting BFHI’s Step 10!
Liz, thank you so much for thoughtful article and I think this is very bold step. In developed world you all are fighting to retain the positions on the other hand in developing world we are striving to introduce this role to reduce mortality and morbidly, isn’t it interesting?
Zohra, your post goes to show that effective breastfeeding support is a public health imperative! This isn’t about mothers-and-babies — although of course it is. But those babies grow up to be children, teenagers and adults, men and women alike … all of whom should have optimal health.