The Three Pillars Supporting Our Profession

We here at ILCA® regularly answer questions about whose role it is to provide support for our profession of lactation consulting, for our credential known as the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®, and for the education that gives us what we need to provide evidence-based care.

Like many professions, lactation consultants are supported by three “pillars,” each with its own dedicated organization providing services and benefits to practitioners.

Generally speaking, the three pillars are support for the profession, development of the certification examination and oversight of the certification program , and standards for education. We hope this post clarifies the three pillars and the three independent organizations that support each pillar.


Pillar of support for the IBCLC credential: International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)

Answers questions like “How do I become an IBCLC?” and “How do I maintain my certification?”

Established in 1985, IBLCE “establishes the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and certifies individuals who meet these standards.” The organization is responsible for developing, administering, and maintaining the IBCLC certification program. This means that IBLCE defines eligibility and recertification requirements develops  a psychometrically sound professional examination, and maintains an ethics & disciplinary process for stakeholders, including the public. As the certification board, IBLCE confers the IBCLC credential.

Practically speaking, IBLCE is the standards keeper for the IBCLC. It determines what makes someone an IBCLC. IBCLE decides what is essential knowledge and then they test candidates to see if they know it.

Learn more about IBLCE’s work here.


Pillar of support for standards in education: Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC):

Answers questions like “Is this coursework for becoming an IBCLC meeting my needs?”

LEAARC “establishes standards and recognizes quality in lactation education worldwide.” The organization is responsible for reviewing and recognizing didactic (instructional) and clinical courses as well as recommending to the Commission on Accreditation of
Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) the accreditation of lactation programs in postsecondary institutions.
This means that they make sure the programs and courses to guide candidates into the profession meet LEAARC and CAAHEP standards and that graduates are able to provide a similar level of care to families.

Practically speaking, LEAARC makes sure you are getting what you need from lactation courses and programs. When someone decides to pursue becoming an IBCLC and enrolls in course work, if the course they have chosen is recognized by LEAARC, they can be assured that they will receive an education designed to comprehensively meet their educational needs.

Learn more about LEAARC’s work here.


Pillar of support for the profession: International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA):

Answers questions like: “How can I get the knowledge and tools I need to do my job better?” and “How can I increase my involvement in supporting breastfeeding families around the world?”

ILCA seeks “to advance the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant profession worldwide through leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research.” The organization is responsible for making sure that, when breastfeeding is being discussed around the world, IBCLCs are at the table. This means that we are working hard to make sure IBCLCs have the tools and community they need to support families.

Practically speaking, ILCA is a member organization that provides education, tools, and a premier lactation journal to its members, helping them to keep up-to-date with the latest information they need. ILCA also champions the IBCLC and lactation professionals at important conversations around the world, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), UNICEF, World Health Organization, and the Global Breastfeeding Collective, a partnership of more than 20 prominent international agencies calling on donors, policy makers, and civil society to increase investment in breastfeeding worldwide.

Learn more about our work at ILCA here.


Courageous Conversations Together at #ILCA18

The ILCA Equity Committee, launched two years ago, played an important role in the 2018 conference in supporting conversations around equity, diversity, and inclusion. The Equity Committee provided Lactation Matters with this update on the committee’s recent efforts.

Gathering together annually for a time of learning, networking and much more has been a core focus of ILCA. This year, at ILCA’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon, United States, the Equity Committee put in place a number of strategies to help ILCA leaders, staff and members to continue their process of increasing equity on many levels.

Before the conference, the Equity Committee deepened their own skills by participating in an equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training by Dr. Adrienne Coleman, a recognized leader in the EDI field.

All ILCA conference attendees had the opportunity to participate in an onsite session designed to support “Courageous Conversations,” an interactive session helping conference-goers focus on ILCA’s role in inequities in the lactation field. The session, led by Coleman and Traci D. Ellis, J.D., provided both practical tools for engaging in courageous conversations as well as the opportunity for focused discussion around key areas, including reducing US-centrism in the field and increasing access to the profession for those with different abilities and LGBTQIA+ people.

To ensure long-term impact from the session, Dr. Coleman and Ms. Ellis gathered data from each of the discussions with the goal of gathering data to develop a report for the ILCA board. Ultimately, these inputs will be considered as a part of an equity action plan, designed to focus on ways that ILCA can impact both access to the profession as well as increasing families’ access to skilled lactation care around the globe.

The Equity Committee also worked to engage conference attendees throughout the conference by sparking conversations around equity issues. For example, the Equity Committee’s conference booth focused on, “Stories from the Heart.” Throughout the conference, members wrote their stories and shared their experiences at the booth.  We received: 17 selfie cards, 5 interview responses and 5 comment cards. These activities served as important beginnings for engaging ILCA members in conversations on their perspectives of equity issues.

These efforts were a reflection of the recent work of the Equity Committee. Launched just two years ago in 2016, the committee’s goal is to engage the board, members, and staff in increasing equity in the lactation field globally.

Although the Equity Committee feels as though we have just begun, the progress has laid a solid foundation for greater work moving forward.  Srikanthi Bodapati, member of the Equity Committee and first time attendee shared, “The conference helped me understand the broader perspectives of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion across the globe with specific reference to the lactation field. I will be able to advocate with policy makers for equity in healthcare for the marginalized communities, especially from countries with poor health indicators. I have gained insights into the language (both verbal and non-verbal) to be used while working with diverse populations. I am also in a position to develop and customize culturally appropriate equity centered frameworks for implementation in low resource countries to promote increased access to skilled lactation care. In the future, I am aspiring to see representation of participants from all the regions of the world at the ILCA Conference.”

The ILCA Equity Committee looks forward to our continued work with the ILCA community.  Please follow our updates for continued work in equity, diversity and inclusion.


Understanding International Policy on HIV and Breastfeeding: A Comprehensive Resource

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has recently released the second edition of the HIV kit Understanding International Policy on HIV and Breastfeeding: A Comprehensive Resource.

According to WABA, this kit is important for those working on breastfeeding and those working on HIV issues alike. It does not replace the detailed guidance from WHO/UNICEF nor does it serve as medical advice for those affected by HIV/AIDS. It seeks to inform about the concepts and recommendations for dealing with infant feeding and HIV and enhance the understanding of the importance of HIV-free survival.

The kit provides an overview of infant feeding in the context of HIV, based on current evidence (2018). It contains information, issues to think about and discuss, actions to take, and references. The kit may serve as a useful tool for anyone who works with breastfeeding families in areas where HIV is endemic. WABA hopes the kit will be distributed widely to help families in reaching their breastfeeding goals, which could lead to a reduction in morbidity and mortality related to HIV.

Access Understanding International Policy on HIV and Breastfeeding: A Comprehensive Resource HERE.


Help Us Build a Diverse Slate of Presenters for #ILCA19! – CLINICAL SKILLS DEADLINE EXTENDED

To transform world health, we need everybody. We are #bettertogether.

At ILCA, we believe that, if we are to truly ENGAGE, we must hear from, and listen to, people with a variety of perspectives. We want our conferences, and the lactation professionals and supports who attend them, to include, encourage, and recognize people of all races, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, religions, and sexual orientations. We are not there yet.

We have recently opened up the presenter submission site for
our 2019 Annual Conference. For more information, see our Call for Abstracts. The abstract submission deadline is 31 October 2018.


We are working to increase opportunities for people from underrepresented groups by actively recruiting diverse speakers for our onsite and virtual conferences, offering scholarships, and taking part in ongoing conversations about the value of diversity in the communities we serve. We feel like this is one place where we have the power to make real, measurable change.

As we prepare for #ILCA19, here are some ways you can help us build a more diverse slate of plenary, concurrent, and workshop presenters:

  • Contribute to our ILCA Scholarship Fund through our Benefactors Program.
  • Recommend presenters to the ILCA Conference Programming Task Force by emailing us at
  • Forward our Call For Abstracts to relevant affinity groups with the message that we are looking for a diverse roster of presenters.
  • During the Call For Abstracts phase of the conference, suggest to potential speakers that they submit proposals.
  • Encourage potential authors, reviewers, and other content creators to work with us, or recommend them to us directly by emailing
  • Organize community-­based public speaking trainings and practice events.
  • Suggest ways that the onsite conference experience can be more welcoming and supportive. Send an email to

We value diversity in the communities we bring together, and we welcome your contributions to creating balanced representation of the richness of our collective human experience. Please share your ideas and best practices for how we can realize our vision by sending an email to


Win a FREE ILCA Membership! How has ILCA Membership Impacted Your Practice?


THANK YOU for your response to our recent ILCA membership survey. We learned new things and confirmed what you have shared with us before – like just how much you value the Journal of Human Lactation and your free continuing education. (A lot! Nearly 97% of you rate JHL or free continuing education as the MOST important ILCA benefit.) Your answers are helping us shape your member benefits package.

We want to hear more! Share with us how ILCA membership impacts you, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to win an ILCA membership.

Here are  some questions we’d love to hear more about. Pick one to answer and leave your response in the comments. You’ll receive a second entry if you also paste your answer into the comments on THIS THREAD on Facebook. Watch here for the winner: we will select a winner by random draw on 1 October 2018. DEADLINE EXTENDED! We’ll be gathering your responses until Friday, October 5.

  • How has ILCA membership impacted your practice?
  • What would you tell a colleague about the value of ILCA membership?
  • What ILCA benefit is most important to you? Why?
  • Or anything else you’d like us to know about why ILCA is important to you.

Your comments will certainly help guide our thinking about ILCA membership, and may be used as a part of the materials we use to help others learn about ILCA.

Thank you for helping us learn more about what matters most to you about ILCA.


ILCA’s International Advocacy: Understanding NetCode

As a part of our ongoing commitment to supporting the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (commonly known as the International Code), ILCA has signed on as a NetCode partner. The news was shared with members at the recent ILCA conference by immediate past president Michele Griswold.

While the International Code outlines critical protections against predatory marketing of breast-milk substitutes, regional and national laws and regulations in line with the International Code provide the on-the-ground provisions that support families. Those regional and national laws and regulations must exist and be enforced to ensure families have a level playing field to make feeding decisions.

NetCode is a coalition of organizations working to expand and strengthen the capacity of Member States and civil society to develop, monitor, and enforce national Code legislation. Formed in 2015, NetCode members include the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), select Member State representatives, and collaborating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including ILCA.

ILCA board member Sabeen Adil recently attended the third meeting of NetCode to lend ILCA’s support to the efforts. She will be serving on the Advocacy Task Force, which will be focusing on efforts to advocate about code monitoring with health care professionals.

NetCode has developed a number of tools that you can use in your local community, including:

  • NetCode toolkit. To better enable governments to monitor adherence to the International Code, NetCode developed a toolkit, consisting of an ongoing monitoring protocol and a periodic assessment protocol. The toolkit is being piloted in countries including Mexico, Cambodia, and Ghana.
  • Introductory course on the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. This e-learning course on the International Code is available for free at It is intended to provide a comprehensive introduction to the International Code, its contents, and ways in which it can be implemented and monitored. This resource is intended for policy makers, legislators, health practitioners, relevant UN agency staff and civil society partners staff.

ILCA looks forward to its ongoing involvement in NetCode’s efforts. To learn more, watch for updates here and in the ILCAlert.


Celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week: Guest Post by Stacy Davis, Executive Director of the National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color

The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is proud to celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week (25 August – 31 August). We asked Stacy Davis, BA, IBCLC, and executive director of U.S.-based National Association of Professional and Peer Lactation Supporters of Color (NAPPLSC), one of ILCA’s Global Partners, to share with us the importance of this week and how professional lactation supporters can support Black families.


Why is Black Breastfeeding Week important for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLC®), around the globe, to celebrate?

Black Breastfeeding Week is incredibly important and necessary for professional lactation supporters to celebrate for many reasons. Black Breastfeeding Week is not simply about celebrating that Black women are breastfeeding, but rather about affirming the experiences of a Black woman, acknowledging the disparities for Black women and their children, and addressing the lack of support and resources in Black communities.

In the United States (and in many other places in the world), Black women are often not understood by women of other races and ethnicities. Black women often suffer from “strong woman syndrome” – the need to be strong and resilient in all situations and circumstances. This is often perceived as aggressive and militant, even in instances where we feel feeble. We grapple with the need to be the best and look our best AT ALL TIMES. We have to give even when nothing has been deposited.

Black women are charged with so much in our daily lives – we are breadwinners, caretakers, nurturers, educators, social workers, therapists, and so much more. We bear the burden of our families and our communities, while paying little to no attention to ourselves . . . and most of us struggle with self-care. When we fail (or feel as though we are failing), we internalize that and it tends to impact other areas of our lives.

So, when a Black woman decides to make breastfeeding a priority for herself, her child(ren), her family and her community, we need to celebrate that! We should not question why Black Breastfeeding Week exists. It is imperative that we, as professionals, providers, supporters, advocates, leaders, from around the globe celebrate all the Black women who sacrifice to chestfeed/breastfeed, as well as those who make sacrifices to support another Black woman. Black lactation professionals make DAILY sacrifices to support other women in, and out, of their community. Overall, Black Breastfeeding Week is about celebrating disadvantaged Black women and children and the boots on the ground doing the work with little to no recognition or pay.


How can IBCLCs support families of color in their communities?

IBCLCs can support Black families and other families of color by seeking training in equity, cultural sensitivity, cultural responsiveness, and cultural humility. It is essential that we incorporate these lessons into our lactation care and practice. Moreover, IBCLCs can embrace the LOVE model of care:

L – (actively) LISTENING with a open heart and open mind

O – (asking) OPEN-ENDED questions for better understanding

VVALIDATE and affirm feeling

EEDUCATE with focused, individualized messages (not blanket, textbook information)


What can national and international organizations do to increase the number of skilled lactation providers of color?

There is much that national and international organizations can do to support aspiring IBCLCs and increase diversity in the IBCLC profession, such as:

  • Create affordable mentorship programs in communities including opportunities for free and reduced-cost mentorships
  • Offer financial assistance through personal or organizational donations
  • Support the work and efforts of organizations such as NAPPLSC and the Reclaiming, Improving and Sustaining Equity (RISE) Lactation Training Model, and others
  • Help to create adequate job opportunities for current and aspiring non-medical IBCLCs
  • Be an advocate or an ally for diversifying the field
  • Ask an IBCLC of color what she/he believes is lacking and needs addressing

There is so much to be done, now and for years to come.

Want to learn more?

We encourage you to register for NAPPLSC’s 2nd Annual Black Breastfeeding Webinar. As an added bonus, NAPPLSC will be doing raffles and giveaways for FREE trainings and memberships. Click below for more information and to register.



Breaking the Cycle of Poverty #WBW2018

International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is excited to join World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and other organizations and individuals the world over in celebrating #WBW2018 1-7 August. The theme of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2018 is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life. Lactation Matters will feature blog posts and resources throughout the week to help you make the most of this important week.

A sustainable world begins with ending poverty in all its forms everywhere. According to Pinstrup-Andersen, “not every poor person is hungry, but almost all hungry people are poor. Millions live with hunger and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford to buy enough food, cannot afford nutritious foods, or cannot afford the farming supplies they need to grow enough good food of their own.” Hunger and poverty work together in a vicious circle that keeps people from achieving their full potential.

Breastfeeding is the great equalizer that can help break the cycle of poverty.

Breastfeeding is a universal solution that levels the playing field to give every child a fair start in life. It enables millions of young children to survive and thrive, setting them on a path towards better health and a more prosperous future. Breastmilk is the most nutritionally and immunologically potent food for infants and toddlers, a food that can fuel brain development like nothing else. Breastfeeding powers cognitive development and IQ of children, thus greatly improving educational attainment, participation in the workforce and lifetime earnings. Missing this critical stage of brain development during childhood can result in significant cognitive and economic losses. Breastfeeding improves the health and well-being of women and children and is the foundation of a country’s development and future.

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For the most up-to-date information about WBW 2018 and to download promotional materials, please visit the World Breastfeeding Week website by clicking here.


9. Poverty – United Nations Sustainable Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from
10. Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding.

Ensuring Food Security, Even in Times of Crisis #WBW2018

International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is excited to join World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and other organizations and individuals the world over in celebrating #WBW2018 1-7 August . The theme of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2018 is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life. Lactation Matters will feature blog posts and resources throughout the week to help you make the most of this important week.

The United Nations defines food security as “existing when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.” The first 1000 days are critical as this is when the foundation of human development is being built. Breastfeeding provides food security to infants from the very beginning of life and contributes to food security for the whole family. Policies that protect, promote, and support optimal infant and young child feeding should include food security for all pregnant and lactating women.

Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is crucial for the health of our planet and its people.

Breastfeeding is a prime example of the deep connections between human health and nature’s ecosystems. Breastmilk is a natural, renewable food that is environmentally safe and green because it is produced and delivered to the consumer without pollution, packaging, or waste. By contrast, artificial feeding leaves a major environmental footprint that contributes to a depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation and climate change in a
number of ways. Dairy farming causes the production of greenhouse gases. Additionally, the production, packaging, storing, distribution and preparation of infant formula includes the considerable use of fossil fuels and large amounts of water. Therefore, artificial feeding contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases and water scarcity that further aggravate climate change.

Climate change leads to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Unreliable supply chains of milk powder and the unhygienic conditions that commonly prevail in emergency situations make breastfeeding the safest option. Breastfeeding is a climate-smart decision that helps ensure food security even in times of crisis.

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For the most up-to-date information about WBW 2018 and to download promotional materials, please visit the World Breastfeeding Week website by clicking here.


4. Food and Agricuture Organization of the United Nations. (n.d.). How close are we to #ZeroHunger? Retrieved from
5. Save the Children. (2018). Don’t push it. Why the formula milk industry must clean up its act. Retrieved from
6. Linnecar, A. et al. (2014). Formula for disaster. Weighing the Impact of Formula Feeding vs. Breastfeeding on Environment. Retrieved from
7. During disasters, breastfeeding’s advantages shine. (n.d.). Retrieved from
8. Nutrition in emergencies. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Preventing Malnutrition in All its Forms #WBW2018

International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is excited to join World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and other organizations and individuals the world over in celebrating #WBW2018 1-7 August . The theme of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2018 is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life. Lactation Matters will feature blog posts and resources throughout the week to help you make the most of this important week.

It has long been recognized that malnutrition with underweight and stunting is common in low-income countries. In addition to this problem, overweight and associated non-communicable diseases are actually a larger contributor to the burden of disease in low-income compared to high-income countries. Lack of breastfeeding can be linked to both underweight and overweight in children. This double burden of malnutrition has major consequences on short- and long-term health.

Optimal breastfeeding helps prevent malnutrition in all its forms with positive lifelong effects on both children and mothers.

Child malnutrition, especially wasting, often results from artificial feeding in low-income settings. Wasting may be prevented indirectly, for example by preventing severe diarrhea. In addition to breastfeeding, many factors affect the optimal growth and development of children, including the introduction, amount, and frequency of complementary feeding. The risk of the other form of malnutrition, overweight and obesity, increases the more a child is artificially fed, and this is becoming more common in all settings.

Breastfeeding also has implications for maternal nutrition. The assumption that mothers will become malnourished and lose weight due to breastfeeding does not appear to be valid. Good maternal nutrition together with optimal birth spacing and access to contraceptives are the main factors for preventing malnutrition. Exclusive breastfeeding also helps mothers return to a healthy pre-pregnancy weight and possibly lowers the risk of her developing diabetes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For the most up-to-date information about WBW 2018 and to download promotional materials, please visit the World Breastfeeding Week website by clicking here.


1. Child malnutrition. (n.d.). Retrieved from
2. Akst, J. (2015). Breast Milk and Obesity: A study links components of a mother’s milk to her infant’s growth. Retrieved from
3. Sankar, M. J. et al. (2015). Optimal breastfeeding practices and infant and child mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatrica, 104, 3-13

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