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ILCA’s NEW Strategic Plan Begins With Your Elevator Speech About IBCLCs

by Liz Brooks, JD IBCLC, FILCA, ILCA President 2012-14

Can you describe your work, to a total stranger, in the time it takes to ride an elevator?

Try these:

“I’m an IBCLC. It’s the essential credential for lactation support.”

“IBCLCs empower women, and save babies’ lives.”*

Why, you wonder, would an IBCLC ever need something like that?

Because it means IBCLCs around the world can promote and advocate for our credential (and jobs!) …. starting right now, today. ILCA has nearly 6,000 members around the world; there are nearly 23,000 IBCLC certificants worldwide. That is a powerful grassroots force, promoting “what IBCLCs do,” in a marketplace that is very confused about who all the different breastfeeding helpers are.

ILCA announced its revised Vision, Mission, and Strategic Plan at the Annual General Meeting held recently at its international conference in Orlando, Florida, USA. Think of the vision as “the perfect ending” at some point in the future … and the mission as the means to get there. The strategic plan then describes the specific tasks and projects that will accomplish the mission. For ILCA, they are:

Our vision is that the IBCLC is the globally recognized professional authority in lactation.

Our mission is to advance the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) profession worldwide through leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research.

You can click here to view ILCA’s new Strategic Plan, but the five main pillars, in a
nutshell, are:

Goal One: Promote the IBCLC credential and profession.

If not us, who? If not now, when? IBCLCs around the world worry about job security by the proliferation of government and administrative rulings carving out how lactation support is defined, and reimbursed. Our members want ILCA to provide them with advocacy materials for them to use on the job, to protect their jobs.

Goal Two: Promote professional development through member services.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA to give them education and professional development opportunities and tools: conferences, webinars, on-line learning, clinical protocols, position papers, and family-centered handouts so they can offer the latest in evidence-based practice … and opportunities to strengthen their resumes and expand their influence by meaningful leadership and writing opportunities within the member organization.

Goal Three: Collaborate with decision-makers to develop global, national and local policy.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Decisions are made by the people who show up. Our members want ILCA to be at the table — or to give them the materials they need at their local tables — when policy and practice decisions involving breastfeeding and public health are on the agenda.

Goal Four: Actively foster research that supports evidence-based IBCLC practice.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA and its stellar publication, The
Journal of Human Lactation, to give opportunities for doing, and publishing research: by IBCLCs, about our work, about issues affecting our work.

Goal Five: Promote organizational excellence and financial stability.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Our members want ILCA to provide these services in a
manner that keeps our costs — their membership dues — carefully in check, while returning the maximum in member benefit. Their annual renewal fee is an investment in themselves… and they want their money’s worth!

Lactating women are everywhere, and almost all of them need support. Peer counselors, mother-to-mother groups, and healthcare providers who learned breastfeeding management from excellent educators (such as those approved by LEAARC, the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee) can serve most mothers’ needs. But the IBCLC is the essential credential for those families needing, instead, the specialized skill and expertise that IBCLC certification represents. (Read the ILCA Position Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC here.)

IBCLCs are passionate about their work, but often the job is difficult because we are
underpaid, misunderstood, and under-appreciated. And that’s evidence-based!** The time is now for this strong new Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan, to guide the International Lactation Consultant Association in advocating for IBCLCs. And it starts with you, the IBCLC, honing your elevator speech to advocate for your profession.

* Thank you, Ursuline Singleton, for sharing this perfect phrase! We were pleased to have you, as the Public Health Analyst at the Office of Women’s Health (U. S. Dept. of Health and Human Services), share greetings in your plenary to the 2012 conference on behalf of U. S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. And we were all touched by the story of your early days as an IBCLC in a NICU, when you first described IBCLC work in this way.

** From Aimee Eden, MA, PhD(C), presenting “The challenges and benefits of practicing as an IBCLC: A qualitative study informing the [U. S. Surgeon General’s] Call to Action” at the Plenary Spotlight on Research, ILCA Annual Conference, July 28, 2012.

Please take a moment to check out the new ILCA Vision, Mission and Strategic Plan by clicking here.

Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA, is a lawyer (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 is currently the president of the International Lactation Consultant Association; she is the United States Lactation Consultant Association Alternate to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) (since 2011); she remains active in her local USLCA chapter PRO-LC. Liz was designated Fellow of the International Lactation Consultant Association (FILCA) in 2008, the inaugural year for the program.

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Thank You, Cathy Carothers!

As the 2012 ILCA Conference has come to a close, one of the things that was expressed time and time again was the gratitude towards our leadership for bringing the advocacy fo breastfeeding and especially the IBCLC profession into this exciting era of breastfeeding promotion. Cathy Carothers has served as our president during this time and, as she passes the gavel to Liz Brooks, we want to take a moment to express our thanks to Cathy for her term as President of ILCA.

We caught up with Cathy during the conference and here’s what she had to say about her service:

1. How did you first get involved with ILCA in a volunteer capacity? What jobs have you held before becoming president?

That’s an interesting story!  My professional background is in the field of marketing/public relations, and I got excited about the lactation “profession” when a WIC nutritionist asked me to consider becoming a peer counselor when I was pregnant with my 5th child.  I had loved breastfeeding and believed in it passionately, and once I became a peer counselor helping mothers and babies, I was convinced, in my naiveté, that I wanted to someday save the world for breastfeeding families.  I set my sights on becoming an IBCLC and immediately joined ILCA back in the early 1990’s.  But it wasn’t until someone on the ILCA Board asked me to consider running for a board position (the new position of Director of Marketing in 2003) that I realized I had gifts that could contribute to my professional association, as well.  And what an incredible ride it has been!  If only I had known how rewarding service to ILCA could be, I would have gotten involved much sooner!

2. What has been your most fulfilling accomplishment as president? Your most challenging?

Without question, my most fulfilling accomplishment as President of ILCA was watching ILCA’s  most comprehensive and bold strategic plan ever unfold (Editor’s Note: Look for an upcoming blog post about this exciting plan!).  But it wasn’t MY accomplishment at all…it was based on the constructive suggestions of over a thousand ILCA members and global stakeholders who took the time to tell us what matters most to them, and a group of smart, passionate board members who weren’t afraid to say YES to our most important calling: to promote the IBCLC credential.  The challenges over the years have been so minimal they’re hardly worth mentioning…keeping monthly calls to an hour when everyone is so excited about the incredible momentum building, keeping time zones straight when working with an international board, and remembering to bring chocolate for meetings.

Cathy and her husband, Davis.

When I look into my ILCA crystal ball, I see an incredible vision of IBCLCs in every hospital and birthing facility, valued and respected for the expertise they provide.  I see universities with quality lactation programs integrated into their curricula, and global policy makers relying on IBCLCs in  international forums.  I see IBCLCs who are connected and confident as skilled professionals, and mentoring the next generation of IBCLCs.  I see an explosion of lactation research that not only forms our foundation of evidence-based practice, but is accessible and USED by all health professionals and policy makers.  I see professional education available in languages that people speak and accessible to the far corners of the world.  And I see that EVERY ILCA member is a part of that vision.  Can I just say it?  ILCA truly IS YOU!

Cathy, we thank you and appreciate the leadership you have provided!

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Get to Know Liz Brooks, Incoming ILCA President

Saturday’s ILCA General Meeting at the 2012 Conference welcomed Liz Brooks to her term as the ILCA President.  We caught up with Liz to get a glimpse into her history with ILCA and what motivates her to serve in this capacity.

How did you first get involved with ILCA in a volunteer capacity?  What jobs have you held before becoming president? 

I was asked.  As simple as that.

I was studying to sit the IBLCE exam in 1997 after many years as a mother-to-mother counselor with Nursing Mothers Advisory Council (NMAC). At Kay Hoover’s suggestion, I joined both ILCA, and my local affiliate Pennsylvania Resource Organization for Lactation Consultants (PRO-LC), to start networking and to acquire some of the needed hours of pre-test education.

In my early years as an IBCLC, I devoted volunteer time in leadership positions to PRO-LC (I was the newsletter editor for years, and later the board secretary).  It was a wonderful way to get to know my colleagues, get up to speed on lactation issues, and to mix-and-mingle with the greats (Kay Hoover!  Chris Mulford!  Debi Page Ferrarello!).

I presented/taught on breastfeeding, legal and ethical matters starting in 1998 … but I knew I had “hit the bigs” when my proposal to present at ILCA  2002 in Boca Raton, Florida (on conflict of interest) was accepted.  I used an overhead projector to show my “slides,” and I still have folks tell me they remember how I piled a bunch of hats on my head to open the session.

When the ILCA Board was searching for qualified candidates for the position of Secretary, I was called by the Nominations Committee Chair/Past President Maureen Fjeld to ask if I was interested in running.  Heck yeah! Secretary?  Taking minutes and tending the policy manual?  For a governance wonk like me?  I’m in!  The rest, as they say, is history.  I ran unopposed for the post, was elected in 2005, and concluded my second term (and sixth year on the ILCA Board) in July 2011.

2.  What is your highest priority for your term as president?

Marketing the credential of IBCLC.  Get to the point where any mother or healthcare institution or government official knows what that credential means, and understands it’s worth.  Individual IBCLCs, their professional association (ILCA), and the certifying organization (IBLCE), *all* have separate and distinct — but highly compatible — motives for assuring that the public knows what those five special letters “I-B-C-L-C” entail.

There is a part for everyone to play in educating mothers, healthcare professionals, public health/education officials, employers, community organizations, and policy makers about the role and impact of the IBCLC.

ILCA certainly must be a leader in the effort at the macro level: we are an international, member-based organization with 6000+ members in 85 countries around the world! ILCA can also help by developing educational and professional development tools that our individual members can use in their own work settings — at the micro level.  The truth of the matter is that there are more IBCLCs than there are ILCA members.  While ILCA exists to serve its members’ needs, an enhanced appreciation for the IBCLC profession, as a whole, is the next critical phase in its development.

3.  Why should IBCLCs get involved in ILCA?

It is the fast track for individual professional growth and development!  ILCA depends on volunteers to run *all* of the policy-related aspects of our organization, from the Board through to the Committee and Task Force structure.  Our staff  and contracted positions are paid, of course.   But members who “pull an oar” for ILCA reap personal professional development, “in the loop” access to the newest policies and research, and the satisfaction of helping shape the future of their chosen profession. Sounds like a win-win to me!

And, for just a wee bit of fun…

Liz, we look forward to your time of service to ILCA!

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