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How To Find a Quality Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

Ideally, you should find an IBCLC you love before your baby is born.  But, if you are unable to do this, searching for a consultant after is certainly an option. Even if you are having a lot of breastfeeding difficulty and you feel desperate, don’t settle for the first breastfeeding support person you can find. Make sure you know who you are interviewing and what questions to ask them.  Meeting with the wrong person can make breastfeeding worse rather than better!

What is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?

International Board Certification is the gold standard of breastfeeding care.

They are considered the breastfeeding experts.

There are a lot of people out there who help women breastfeed.  There are La Leche Leaders, Peer Counselors, and Lactation Counselors.  Each has an important role in helping women breastfeed, but none of these is as qualified and specialized as an IBCLC.

An IBCLC has hundreds of hours of hands-on breastfeeding assistance and has sat for a rigorous certification exam that is only offered once a year.  This is what really sets IBCLCs apart.  The most specialized breastfeeding experts have worked with hundreds and hundreds of breastfeeding mothers and babies. That don’t just know the clinical information because they have read it in the book, they have seen it in real life many, many times.

An IBCLC must re-certify by sitting for the same licensing exam every five years.  This guarantees that the LC is actively practicing, current on evidence-based best practice, and engaging in continuing education.

IBCLCs are the only non-medical breastfeeding specialists that are legally allowed to provide hands-on breastfeeding assistance.  Note that unless your IBCLC specifically notes it, she is not necessarily a medical professional.  It is not a requirement for an IBCLC to be a Registered Nurse, Physician, or Nurse Practitioner, though many are.

Now, with all of that said, IBCLCs each have their own style, philosophies, and practice settings.  It is critical that you interview your IBCLC so that you can decide if the two of you “fit.”

Where to find an IBCLC:

Start by searching the IBCLC registry at ILCA.org. These are IBCLCs that have maintained their board certification and membership in the International Lactation Consultant Association.  An IBCLC isn’t required to be a member of ILCA, but her membership shows you that she is invested in her profession, keeps up to date on research, and values having her name in the registry.

Interview each IBCLC:

Once you compile a list, contact each IBCLC via phone and/or e-mail.  They should respond to you within 48 hours.  Since breastfeeding is an extremely time sensitive matter, the speed at which the lactation consultant returns your call is critical.  When the lactation consultant calls you back, be prepared to interview her with the following questions. Remember, this is an interview to decide if you are going to hire her just like when you interviewed your obstetrician or midwife.

  1. How many years have you been practicing as an IBCLC?
  2. What did you do before you were a lactation consultant?
  3. Are you a registered nurse?
    • If yes, how do you think that contributes to your skill as an IBCLC?
    • If no, how do you think that affects your ability to practice as an IBCLC?
  4. What is your philosophy of care?
  5. What are your thoughts on the use of formula?
  6. What are your thoughts on the use of pacifiers?
  7. Have you breastfed?
  8. How long is a consultation with you?  A follow-up visit?
  9. Where will you see me? In my home? At your office?
  10. What does each visit include?
  11. How much is an initial visit with you?  Is any of this covered by insurance?
  12. What resources or teaching materials will you provide me at our visit?
  13. Do you offer support groups or follow-up support?
  14. Do you offer any classes or support groups to help me navigate different breastfeeding milestones such as returning to work, offering solids, or biting?
  15. Do you have any testimonials or references you are willing to share with me?

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