National—Regional Partner Update: International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)

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The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) Global Partners Initiative was designed to improve breastfeeding worldwide by creating linkages between organizations around the globe. ILCA would like to welcome its 2oth National—Regional Partner, International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA), a professional organization that supports educators and healthcare professionals who believe in freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care. ICEA provides training and continuing education programs, quality educational resources, and professional certification programs.

We asked Connie Livingston BS, RN, FACCE, LCCE, ICCE, the president of ICEA, and Debra Tolson BSN, RN, ICCE, IBCLC, CPST, the president-elect of ICEA, to share with us more about the role of the organization in breastfeeding support and why they decided to sign on to the Partners Initiative.

Lactatation Matters (LM): Tell us about why your organization is so important to human health in the United States and internationally.

Connie Livingston and Debra Tolson (CL, DT): ICEA has played an integral role in evidence-based consumer education for over 55 years. World Health Organization (WHO) research indicates that information about pregnancy and childbirth can lead to a reduction in maternal/infant morbidity and mortality, regardless of country. Information about pregnancy and childbirth also has been demonstrated to increase satisfaction with the birth experience, which impacts postpartum health. We have ICEA Approved Trainers in the United States and many [other] countries. ICEA has as a motto: freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care. Our role has been to be an advocate for all expectant parents and maternal/child health professionals, providing unbiased, evidence-based information.

LM: What challenges do you face in your work?

(CL, DT): ICEA supports the educator or doula in their role as an independent professional in private practice, an independent contractor, or a professional employed by a healthcare facility. Each venue that our members practice within brings its own special set of challenges. From marketing the independent educator, to the ability of a facility-based educator to teach evidence-based options, to the refusal of hospital staff to allow doulas to practice, our members face a myriad of challenges. Our Board of Directors, supported by the Advisory Board and the Professional Board, provide counsel to members in the face of these challenges.

LM: Why did your organization decide to become an ILCA National—Regional Partner?

(CL, DT): Because everything that happens during labor and birth strategically impacts the breastfeeding experience, it is only logical that this partnership [between those supporting birth and birth education and those supporting lactation] exist.

LM: What is your vision for breastfeeding support in the United States and internationally?

(CL, DT): ICEA has, as an organization, fully adopted the WHO Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and believes that breastmilk is the optimum food source for infants. To this end, we have already created a board position (Director of Lactation), a free set of breastfeeding slides (available to members; includes updated evidence-based information that they can share with clients), and an Early Lactation Care Workshop (to assist those who care for new mothers in the first days of breastfeeding and to increase professional knowledge of best breastfeeding research). Our commitment is clear – increase the rate of breastfeeding across the board through education and advocacy.

ICEA photo ConnieConnie Livingston BS, RN, FACCE, LCCE, ICCE has been a nurse and certified childbirth educator for 35 years. She has worked with expectant families in a variety of settings in many parts of the United States. Having served on the boards of numerous childbirth organizations and creating one of the first 10 hospital-based doula programs in the United States, Connie has received awards from the March of Dimes, the Ohio House of Representatives, and was selected as Purdue University’s first outstanding nursing alumna. She is also the author of four books and numerous articles focusing on childbirth and maternity care. Currently, in addition to serving as the President of ICEA, Connie is president and owner of Perinatal Education Associates, Inc.

Debra Tolson, RN, BSN, ICCE, IBCLC, CPST has been an OB nurse and Childbirth Educator for 32 years, and a Lactation Consultant for 6 years. Her work has primarily been in the hospital setting that includes Houston, Texas, Decatur, Alabama and Fort Morgan, Colorado. She has served on various boards in the past 32 years and currently holds certifications as a NRP and AWHONN Fetal Monitoring Instructor. In 2011, Debra had the unique privilege of being a recipient of the Colorado Nightingale Award in the area of Advocacy. She is currently serving as president-elect on the ICEA board. 

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