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 21st National—Regional Partner, Chinese Lactation Consultant Association (CLCA), who describe themselves as a professional organization that provides education and support, as well as continued certification, for lactation consultants in China.
We asked Dr. Shu-Fang Wang, PhD, RN, CNM, IBCLC, CBD, the president and founder of CLCA, 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. Dr. Wang shared her answers with us, as well as the Chinese-language translation of our interview.
Lactation Matters (LM): Tell us about why your organization is so important to human health in Taiwan and other Chinese speaking regions.
Dr. Shu-Fang Wang (SFW): Breastfeeding has been advocated in Taiwan for many years, but the breastfeeding rate has still not reached the World Health Organization (WHO) goal, despite our efforts. Part of reason is that International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) do not have full recognition by the medical professionals or the general public in Taiwan. Now, people do know the importance of breastfeeding and prefer breastfeeding over bottle-feeding for their babies. But without continuing professional support, the road to continued breastfeeding is full of obstacles. When they encounter problems, mothers today seek help through the Internet. The information about breastfeeding and lactation on the web is full of misconceptions. There are also so called “lactation dredgers 通乳師” who have no formal training nor basic knowledge of lactation, but claim to be able to help breastfeeding mothers by resolving blockages. Because of the great need for breastfeeding support, all kinds of unusual practices have started to appear in Taiwan. Similar phenomena can be seen in China and other Chinese-speaking regions. Some people simply do not know to seek IBCLCs for help, or, because the wait list is too long, they turn to non-professionals for assistance.
In view of the needs to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, in July of 2015, a group of lactation consults in Taiwan founded the Chinese Lactation Consultant Association (CLCA), which is based in Taiwan. CLCA strives to promote the recognition, professional development, and advancement of IBCLCs in Taiwan and in other Chinese-speaking countries. We hope that through this process, a breastfeeding-friendly environment or culture can be established, so that the breastfeeding families can better enjoy the breastfeeding experiences.
LM: What challenges do you face in your work?
(SFW): The healthcare system in Taiwan is mostly medically oriented. The lactation consultant is not recognized as a part of the healthcare team currently. This is part of CLCA’s mission, to broaden the acknowledgement and acceptance of IBCLCs as the experts on breastfeeding and lactation in public and private sectors.
Furthermore, there are many myths and misconceptions about lactation/breastfeeding in the Chinese-speaking cultures, and this creates confusion and problems for mothers who want to continue breastfeeding. Through various education and training programs, seminars, and meetings, CLCA supports not only IBCLCs, but other healthcare workers and people concerned with breastfeeding and human lactation, so that they have the “right” knowledge to help breastfeeding mothers. In the process, we hope to foster awareness of the important roles of IBCLCs in the society in general.
The population of ethnic Chinese people is near 14.3 billion. This includes the 1385 million people in mainland China and the 50 million ethnic Chinese people overseas. This comprises approximately 19.2 percent of the global population, which means one in every five people speaks Chinese. Among Chinese, there are also different dialogues and subcultures. CLCA is striving to bring professional breastfeeding knowledge to Chinese people in different regions, and in a way that fits their specific subcultures. It is a work with great challenges, but, at the same time, great rewards.
LM: Why did your organization decide to become an ILCA National—Regional Partner?
(SFW): ILCA is the international organization for IBCLCs.
The members of CLCA currently include people from many Chinese-speaking countries, such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, and Canada. CLCA serves to bridge the gap between Chinese-speaking countries and the rest of the world. Through translation, breastfeeding- and lactation-related knowledge and experiences can be exchanged via publication, media, conferences, and seminars. CLCA aims to impact Chinese globally. We wish to share with the world the breastfeeding experiences that are unique to the Chinese culture; for example, the postpartum “doing the month” practice. Through partnership with ILCA, we hope to share our experiences, and, in return, embrace the differences in breastfeeding from other cultures. Additionally, CLCA wishes to contribute to ILCA’s core value of diversity.
LM: What is your vision for breastfeeding support in Taiwan and ethnic Chinese regions?
(SFW): CLCA aims to impact the health of Chinese-speaking society through breastfeeding and skilled lactation care. CLCA supports breastfeeding and lactation by providing human resources, consultations, and exchanges of lactation care skills, which are specifically tailored to Chinese culture.
The goals of CLCA include:
- Practicing code and research: Developing research and evidence-based practices for lactation consultants.
- Promotion of IBCLCs and ethics regulations: Following the ethics regulations of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®), CLCA has established professional conduct codes for lactation consultants, such as the charging standards. We promote equality and develop monitoring strategies among lactation consultants.
- Creating classification and qualification systems: Holding regular training courses and offering continuing education opportunities for Chinese lactation consultants. We aim to provide research evidence and clinical experience to improve the knowledge and skills of Chinese lactation consultants. The qualification committee manages the certification and re-certification process, and updates the list of qualified Chinese lactation consultants regularly.
- Collaboration and building of networks and advocates: Establishing a platform for human resources, marketing the professionalism of IBCLCs, collaborating with related professions through advocacy and codes, working to maximize the influence of IBCLCs in society.
- Promoting education and community supports: Following the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions of the WHO to provide the public and medical professions the latest lactation evidence-based knowledge through establishment of support groups among breastfeeding mothers and parent–young child seminars for communities.
Dr. Shu-Fang Wang, PhD, RN, CNM, IBCLC, CBD is the president and a founder of the Chinese Lactation Consultant Association (CLCA), a mother of three children, and a breastfeeding mother of almost 60 months. She has a PhD in Nursing from Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan, and two Master degrees: one in Nursing from Liverpool University, Great Britain; and another in Midwifery from National Taipei University of Nursing and Health Sciences, Taiwan. She is currently a nurse midwife at Tzu Chi Hospital, and an associate professor at Tzu Chi University. She became an IBCLC in 2007 and is one of the first six IBCLCs in Taiwan. She is the first and only non-physician to open an independent clinic for lactation consultation in Taiwan, which is in still in operation now.