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Call to all IBCLCs: Equip yourselves with your Advocacy Piece

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.


Time Magazine Cover – ILCA’s Response

Written by Lisa Mandell, IBCLC, Secretary ILCA Board of Directors

via Time Magazine

By now, many of you have heard about, seen, and talked about Time Magazine’s recent cover featuring a mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son. The cover photo accompanied a story about Attachment Parenting and Dr. Bill Sears.  There have been numerous blog posts written on the topic already from major media outlets such as USA Today and the Huffington Post, from breastfeeding mothers and from several of our colleagues serving breastfeeding mothers, including the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and Best for Babes.

ILCA would like to remind all of us that breastfeeding beyond infancy is normal, and in many parts of the world, children wean typically between 2 and 5 years of age. As members of ILCA, we do not want to be any part of pitting one mother or her choices in parenting against another mother, as the Time cover encourages. We endeavor to provide and disseminate evidence-based information on breastfeeding, including breastfeeding beyond infancy. We encourage greater support for all mothers and families, from governments, employers, and society. And we welcome the discussion this opportunistic cover has started. Let’s continue that discussion with mothers, clients, friends, acquaintances, employers, health care professionals, even the stranger in front of us in the checkout line. We will help all mothers by continuing to explain the normalcy of breastfeeding, the continued benefits of breastfeeding until the child weans, and the need to support all mothers.

Lisa Mandell, MBA, IBCLC has been working with breastfeeding mothers and babies for over twelve years, first as a volunteer breastfeeding counselor through La Leche League, and then as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Lisa has a private practice seeing mothers and babies in their homes, and has also worked as a lactation consultant in hospitals and a pediatrician’s office, and teaching breastfeeding classes for a birth center. She has been involved in her USLCA chapter as President, CERP Coordinator, and is currently coordinating work on a mentoring consortium to provide a variety of clinical experiences for aspiring lactation consultants. She is pleased to serve as Secretary on the ILCA Board of Directors.

IBCLC Care Award

In 2010, International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE) and International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) developed this IBCLC Care Award to recognize and promote facilities that hire/employ International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) as part of their commitment to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

The number of applications received for their first year far exceeded everyone’s expectations and it matched with an amazing caliber of professionalism and innovative breastfeeding & lactation projects being conducted in facilities globally.  These 192 successful facilities are now displayed on the IBCLC Care Award website and they have all received a recognition certificate which they can display proudly for 2 years within their facility.

We are about to embark on our second year of applications for the ‘IBCLC Care Award’. This exciting new IBCLC Care Award was celebrated in 192 facilities in Hospitals, Birthing Facilities, and Birthing Services in its inaugural year 2010.
The application process for this year is NOW OPEN and will be closing in just over 6 weeks, on the 30th of November at 5pm.

Don’t delay, have the IBCLCs and your facility globally recognized with receiving this award.

This prestigious IBCLC Care Award is at the moment FREE to enter and the applications forms are online.

The application process is as Easy as 1. 2. 3…
1. Check out the IBCLC Care Award on the website and FAQ’s.
2. To get started… It’s recommended to download and print off the IBCLC Care Award Checklist, and the ‘Sample Application’ and complete.
This checklist is so helpful to keep you on track and gives you exactly what to include in your application. When you’re ready to go …work through the ‘sample application’, navigate through each field making sure you have all the important information included. Remembering you must include (upload) all the ‘evidence /documentation’ at the same time  your final IBCLC Care Award application is submitted.
3. You’re set to go…Complete your ONLINE application, uploading all your documentation/evidence as instructed. Please note that you will not be able to save the application as you go.

For more information on the criteria, documentation and how to apply, visit the IBCLC Care Award website.

Closing date is coming fast………close of business November 30, 2011

Notification of successful applicants – January 2012

Now available FREE….  “Role and Impact of the IBCLC” supports the employment of IBCLCs to administrators and policy makers throughout the world. The document is available as a free download from the ILCA website. Printed copies are available for purchase from the ILCA Store.

For more information, please contact the ILCA Office at or +1-919-861-5577.

The evidence shows ‘How IBCLCs Make a Difference’
Research studies have shown that an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) makes a difference in breastfeeding outcomes for new families.

Why Hire an IBCLC?
Customer satisfaction and safety depend upon recruiting and retaining qualified, skilled health care practitioners. The IBCLC certification is your assurance that lactation professionals on your team have the specialized knowledge and skills required to provide excellence in lactation care for new families. Certification as an IBCLC protects the public by helping consumers identify qualified lactation consultants, increases customer confidence, and helps you sustain a maternal-child health team that delivers evidence-based care for new families. When making employment decisions, health care systems can feel confident in using IBCLC certification as a measure of excellence.

Breastfeeding Rates
A baby is 2.8 times more likely to be breastfeeding upon hospital discharge if the facility employs an IBCLC. Among women receiving Medicaid, delivering at a hospital that employed IBCLCs was associated with a 4.13 times increase in the odds of breastfeeding at hospital discharge.
Castrucci, B., et al. 2006. A comparison of breastfeeding rates in an urban birth cohort among women delivering infants at hospitals that employ and do not employ lactation consultants. Journal of Public Health Management Practice. 12(6), 578–585.
Women who receive prenatal education, postpartum hospital and home visits, and telephone calls from a lactation consultant, are more likely to breastfeed through week 20 and at a higher breastfeeding intensity than women who do not receive assistance from a lactation consultant.
Bonuck, K., et al. 2005. Randomized controlled trial of a prenatal and postnatal lactation consultant intervention on duration and intensity of breastfeeding up to 12 months. Pediatrics. 116:6, 1413-26.
Guise, JM, et al. 2003. The effectiveness of primary care-based interventions to promote breastfeeding: systematic evidence review and meta-analysis for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Family Medicine. 1:2, 70-8.

Health Outcomes for Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies
Women are more likely to stop breastfeeding in the first month when they experience such problems as sore nipples, inadequate milk production, and infant difficulties with breastfeeding. A lactation consultant can help women overcome these difficulties and thereby increase duration of breastfeeding.
Ahluwalia, IB, et al. 2005. Why do women stop breastfeeding? Findings from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System. Pediatrics. 116:6, 1408-1412.

Healthcare Costs
Increased access to lactation consultants resulted in greater continuation of breastfeeding and a $149-per-delivery reduction in cost for planned hospital care, planned follow-up visits, and unplanned care costs.
Lieu TA, et al. 1998. Clinical outcomes and maternal perceptions of an updated model of perinatal care. Pediatrics.

Corporate Worksite Support
IBCLCs are an integral part of many corporate lactation programs. Mutual of Omaha, Aetna, and CIGNA Corporation are among the many companies that now include consultations with lactation consultants as an integral part of their employee benefits program for breastfeeding employees. These lactation programs have been shown to dramatically increase breastfeeding duration rates, with resulting savings in health care costs, fewer prescriptions, and reduced absenteeism and turnover rates for employees.
Dickson V., Hawkes C., Slusser W., Lange L. & Cohen R. 2000. The positive impact of a corporate lactation program on breastfeeding initiation and duration rates: help for the working mother. Unpublished manuscript. Presented at the Annual Seminar for Physicians, co-sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and La Leche League International, on July 21, 2000.
Mutual of Omaha. 2001. Prenatal and lactation education reduces newborn health care costs. Omaha, NE: Mutual of Omaha.

What is IBLCE®?
IBLCE®, or the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners®, is the independent international certification body conferring the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) credential.

What is ILCA?
ILCA, or the International Lactation Consultant Association, is the independent professional association for health care professionals who care for breastfeeding families.


Paula Oliveira RN, IBCLC, IBLCE Board Member
Decalie Brown RN, RM, CFHN, IBCLC, ILCA Director Marketing.


Patient Access

A great deal has changed in patient care over the last decade or so.  The number of patients coming in with articles from various websites and claiming uncommon diseases discovered through symptom checker on WebMD has increased.  As we all know information and knowledge are power and that is something that many patients hunger for when feeling so helpless in regard to their own care.  However, greater access to information does not mean an increase in quality, and thus many of us are faced with combating an inevitable cycle of misinformation passed from social media, Wikipedia, and “medical” websites lacking references.  Many of the mothers we meet with are well-informed patients, and want to have access to credible information to help guide them through the adventures of breastfeeding.  With that very notion at mind ILCA and SAGE Publications are pleased to announce the roll-out of our Patient Access offering for the Journal of Human Lactation. This feature allows individuals the availability to request free access to research for personal use via an article’s login/challenge page. SAGE will monitor and track all requests and supply individuals with PDFs of their chosen articles.

The Patient Access feature allows patients, their family members and anyone interested in learning more about a specific disease or its treatment to access your journal’s most important new research articles. Although research articles should never replace a patient’s consultation with a primary or specialist physician, SAGE and ILCA believe that access to this information can educate and empower our readers to learn more about diseases and conditions.

We hope that this new feature will give lactation consultants another tool in their kit when working with families.

You can view our request interface and learn more at


Happy Birthday!

When I meet someone for the first time and they ask what my profession is, I usually receive a raised eyebrow when I tell him/her that I am a lactation consultant.  This raised eyebrow is typically followed by either, “What type of consultant?” or “Wow, I could have used you when I had my kids (followed by a 5 minute soliloquy of her breastfeeding challenges),” or “Well, why would someone need a lactation consultant?  Isn’t breastfeeding easy?”  As lactation consultants, we are often working on our own or with other health professionals who don’t truly appreciate all we do for mothers and their families.  We don’t just help mothers breastfeed….we nurture a mother’s self-confidence as she enters the full-time profession of motherhood.

To be a successful lactation consultant does not mean that we make a ton of money (wouldn’t that be nice???)  Instead it means that we provide gentle, emotional (and breastfeeding!) support  to those families who need it the most.  But where do we receive our support?  Sure, we attend professional development seminars and workshops.  We might network with colleagues.  We might volunteer at our local county breastfeeding coalition.  All in all, we could use more support, just like our moms.

In answer to our need for support, we would like to introduce ILCA’s newest support system: Lactation Matters, the official blog of the International Lactation Consultant Association.  In this blog, you will hear from authors about their latest research, in 600 words or less!  You will learn tips from colleagues who are setting up outpatient clinics, non-profit organizations, and private practices.  You will be exposed to international news about breastfeeding from around the world.  All of our articles will be focused on supporting lactation consultants and breastfeeding professionals with pertinent research, tools and tricks of the trade, and global movements in breastfeeding promotion.  It serves as the perfect complement to ILCA’s monthly member newsletter, e-Globe.  Lactation Matters will help us take one more step to meeting ILCA’s vision and mission: Our vision is a worldwide network of lactation professionals. Our mission is to advance the profession of lactation consulting worldwide through leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research.

We look forward to sharing our knowledge and experiences with you.  We hope that it will nurture your education and self-confidence as a health-care professional and lactation consultant.  We also hope it will inspire you to share your knowledge and experiences with us as well!   If you find an article that you feel your colleagues would benefit from, please link to it from your Facebook page or Twitter account and add comments to the bottom of the blog to keep the conversation going.  If you are interested in submitting an article to Lactation Matters, please contact us at

Robin Kaplan, M.Ed., IBCLC, Lactation Matters Editor, Owner San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Decalie Brown, RN, CM, CFHN, IBCLC, ILCA Director of Marketing


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