Written by Shakira Henderson MS, MPH, RNC-NIC, IBCLC
Prior to the 2011 release of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) Position Paper – The Role and Impact of the IBCLC – there was no single evidence-based advocacy document that defined the role and impact of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC): a cross-disciplinary role that straddles generalized support for breastfeeding, and allied healthcare. As the preeminent professional organization for IBCLCs worldwide, ILCA was charged with developing a paper that outlined the unique expertise and influence of the IBCLC on breastfeeding care for mothers, infants, children, families, and communities.
The profession had entered its 26th year of existence, and IBCLCs were still struggling to differentiate themselves from other breastfeeding care providers – peer counselors, breastfeeding counselors, registered nurses, physicians, etc. IBCLCs continued to battle the need for justification of their duties and/or outcomes. This is not surprising for a relatively new profession: many of the allied health care professions have a history of the struggle to be universally recognized, valued, and compensated. To add another layer of complexity, while the IBCLE certification is international, IBCLCs practice in work environments based on the legal and socio-cultural traditions of their countries. Consequently, there was confusion as to the common threads of the profession. IBCLCs needed a position paper.
With the explosion of research and public interest in human lactation over recent years, this position paper came at an opportune time. Breastfeeding was not just the optimal mode for infant feeding that had health benefits for mothers and infants but evidence associated breastfeeding with tangible economic benefits to families and communities. Immediately, breastfeeding topped the list as a preventative measure for cost savings in healthcare. When considering measures to improve breastfeeding care and outcomes at an institutional, local, regional, national, and global level, the IBCLC is central to that plan
as the only internationally certified healthcare professional in the clinical management of breastfeeding and human lactation. But how were IBCLCs communicating this to the world? The release of the position paper came in the summer of 2011.
The position paper on “The Role and Impact of the IBCLC” is intended for use by IBCLCs,
administrators, policy makers, and members of the public. The document describes the rigorous professional standards of the IBCLC, and the mandated demonstration of specialized knowledge and skill through international certification. The IBCLC is the gold standard for provision of breastfeeding care in any setting. Every IBCLC should be equipped with this paper. Administrators and policy makers who need evidence for justification of an IBCLC on staff to deliver breastfeeding care to mothers, infants,
children, families, and communities must first consult this position paper. The multi-role capacity of the IBCLC cannot be overlooked, nor can the economic and social impact of having an IBCLC on staff be ignored. Lastly, members of the public can use this paper as an educational piece to make decisions regarding whom and where to seek breastfeeding support and care. Mothers and families of the world have a right to know the role and impact of the only internationally certified healthcare professional in the clinical management of breastfeeding and human lactation.
The ILCA Position Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC is available in English, Spanish, Croation, and Japanese. Watch for the future translations into German, French, Russian and Arabic. on the ILCA website.
Shakira Henderson MS, MPH, RNC-NIC, IBCLC is a neonatal nurse by training but her passion is to improve breastfeeding outcomes for mothers and infants. Shakira is currently, the South Miami Hospital Research Specialist. She has previously served as a staff nurse, nurse specialist, and breastfeeding coordinator in the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at South Miami Hospital. She is a second career nurse, and holds other degrees such as a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Microbiology, Master of Science in Anatomy, and Master of Public Health. She is currently pursuing her PhD in nursing and her DNP in neonatal nursing. Her research focus is improving breastfeeding outcomes for women and infants.
Ms. Henderson’s nursing support model for breastfeeding in the NICU has won her many awards – National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) Leadership Award, South Miami Hospital Patient Educator of the Year Award, the Cherokee Comfort Inspired Award, the March of Dimes Nurse of the Year Award, and most recently Association of Women’s Health and Neonatal Nursing (AWHONN) Clinical Practice Excellence Award. She is a 2012 Sigma Theta Tau International Maternal-Child Health Leadership Fellow. Her project will focus on strategies to implement the ten steps to successful breastfeeding in the acute care setting.