To IBCLC or to not IBCLC? That is the question

Posted on Posted in IBCLC

I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming a Certified Lactation Consultant through the International Board of Certified Lactation Examiners versus working towards the goal of Certified Lactation Counselor. I got into a conversation with a friend of mine who is the one who really started me thinking about it. Actually, we talked plenty about the IBCLC program, school and a few other things on the topic, and when I talked to her about the reasons behind why I’m here interested in human lactation, and what my plans are she started talking to me about other avenues, saying IBCLC may not be necessary. This conversation really left me thinking. So much so that I’ve been going over this in my head, and really started to do a comparison of the two.

Becoming an IBCLC, means one has an extensive understanding of human lactation. It is the highest credential available for health care professionals who specialize in the area, and is seen as having the most thorough knowledge — an expert. It’s like having a PhD in the lactation world. Sort of. There are many requirements on the path to becoming certified, including general education courses from an accredited institution, accumulating clinical hours (working or volunteering specifically towards lactation in a supervised environment), and taking other lactation-specific education classes. Once completed, and after passing an exam that is administered worldwide only one day per year by the IBCLE, a Lactation Consultant can work in various settings, including Dr.s offices and hospitals, and earn quite competitive salaries. It even allows consultants to have their own practice and bill insurance companies for services. Some of the benefits of a Lactation Consultant are below, but a much more comprehensive list can be viewed from the Norma Ritter, IBCLC website:

  • Adjusting to life with a newborn
  • Adoptive nursing
  • Anesthesia
  • Baby wearing
  • Biting
  • Bottles
  • Breast refusal
  • Choosing a pump
  • Cleft lip/cleft palate
  • Colic
  • Cultural issues
  • Dealing with criticism
  • Dental and oral health
  • Disabled or handicapped mothers or babies

There is no denying the role of IBCLCs; that they have made a tremendous impact on mother and baby, and can be thanked for countless successful breastfeeding outcomes and other areas where they have served, and I definitely admire their work! However, when I visited a site dedicated to those pursuing a Certified Lactation Counselor program, here are some of the things I read:

Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) are individuals who have successfully completed the Healthy Children Project’s Certified Lactation Counselor Training Program, [or another program through a different organization] an Accredited ANCC Nursing Skills Competency Program™∗ and are also certified by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP).

Here are a few key points that stood out. CLCs:

  • Construct and maintain conditions that predispose mothers and babies to an uncomplicated breastfeeding experience through counseling, education and support.
  • Develop a care plan specific to the needs identified through assessment
    and counseling
  • Ability to use appropriate, effective and sensitive communication skills.
  • Ability to apply the concept of an individualized approach to counseling and management of breastfeeding. There is more information on CLCs here.

When I read about and thought on this, becoming a Certified Lactation Counselor appears it would provide more of a qualitative approach to breastfeeding, and seems to touch the areas that resonate with what I want to do. I like looking at those things at the center of lower breastfeeding rates and presenting information to people, and hope to continue to do this with individuals and in large and small groups, through awareness and advocacy. I have no desire to work in a hospital or any other type of clinical setting. And as I’ve given more and more thought on Public Health and Anthropology, this is something that just may work out even better for my overall endeavor; and I especially like the one-size does not fit all approach.

The coursework and hours completed for a Certified Lactation Counselor are requirements for IBCLC, so if I happen to change my mind down the road and if it’s within the five year time frame required by the Board, I can just continue towards that ‘Lactation PhD’. So not only is this a great start, it will allow me to nicely gauge my path.

In my breastfeeding advocacy, I hope to continue looking at more than just the clinical or mechanical aspects of breastfeeding — attaching an infant to it’s mother’s breast; there’s just so much more to the story. And it takes so much more to combat disparities. I want to explore the theoretical — the cultural, social, political, historical, interpersonal and many other areas that are always at the forefront, that hinders greater success and continue challenging these. But I certainly don’t need those credentials behind my name in order to promote the ritual and make a difference, or to help out with matters in those other categories — cultural criticism, adjusting to life with a newborn, colic, babywearing and several others. And even though receiving certification through the International Board of Certified Lactation Examiners would give me ‘status’ and most likely provide a salary I definitely could never expect as a professor of anthropology, I can gain invaluable information outside of this mainstream trajectory, and increase my knowledge and understanding of the area through the actual lived experiences of people around me. I just may like what CLC has to offer instead — actually talking to someone about breastfeeding — learning their ways and thoughts; You know, getting to know somebody, and encouraging them along the way.

Update: I talked to someone about the programs for CLC, and was told that instead of Lactation Counselor, CLE (Certified Lactation Educator) is a very viable option for many in the area, and “qualifies persons to teach, support, and educate the public on breastfeeding and related issues.” I’ll do my research on this one as well, and will absolutely keep you posted!

22 thoughts on “To IBCLC or to not IBCLC? That is the question

  1. I can’t help but comment – I am sorry to say that your idea of income potential for an IBCLC is a bit off. I could comment further on other aspects of the post but as an IBCLC who is in the midst of doing taxes I thought I’d take a minute and straighten out one of your misconceptions. Sorry.

  2. An IBCLC who is also a licensed professional such as an RN usually has earning power about equal to that credential. Salaries vary greatly by location. Many hospitals only hire IBCLCs part time so average yearly salaries may not apply. IBCLCs working in WIC clinics and physicians offices usually earn considerably less than those working in hospitals. No matter where they work, IBCLCs without a license in another profession (such as RN or RD) usually have less earning power than those who do. IBCLCs in private practice have income than can be limited by their client load and how much they can feasibly charge for consults in their area. Most PP IBCLCs will tell you that they earn enough to stay in business and maintain certification, not much more. Even IBCLCs who have best seller books and regular speaking engagements aren’t getting rich. In my experience, the average IBCLC does not earn more than a professor of anthropology. I did a comparison on simplyhired.com/a/salary/home and a professor of anthropology earns about what an IBCLC does ($48,000). I think that number sounds like a plausible average if you’re talking about a full-time hospital position and an RN license, though many IBCLCs earn substantially less.

  3. IBClCs do have an extensive understanding of human lactation. They also have an extensive understanding of breastfeeding relationships, counseling mothers and families, as well as clinical breastfeeding issues. I wouldn’t say that lactation consultants are the PhDs of the lactation world, at least not at the entry level. I think a better comparison would be that IBCLCs are the RNs of the lactation world, while CLCs and WIC Peer Counselors might be likened to Certified Nurses Assistants and volunteer breastfeeding counselors might be likened to Patient Care Assistants who have comparable education and scope of practice as CNAs, minus the certification. RNs, CNAs, and PCAs are all valuable members of the healthcare team, each filling a need just as IBCLCs, CLCs, WIC PCs, and volunteer breastfeeding counselors are all valuable members of the lactation support team, each filling a need. That was a loose analogy but I hope it helps make the differences in education and training a bit more clear. I’m not sure what information available from the website you linked made you feel that becoming a CLC would provide “more of a qualitative approach to breastfeeding” as opposed to IBCLC. IBCLCs are trained to look at the whole picture for each individual mother/baby pair, not events that occur at just one moment in time. Certainly IBCLCs are involved with much more than just the clinical or “mechanical” side of breastfeeding! After all, breastfeeding isn’t a science, it’s an art. Even more, it’s a relationship between (at least) two unique individuals. It takes a lot more than a rudimentary understanding of the mechanics of breastfeeding to be able to assist mothers, be that with the normal course of breastfeeding or acute breastfeeding issues.

  4. From your post, it sounds like you’re most interested in breastfeeding advocacy. You don’t need any certification to be an advocate, but I agree the training for becoming a CLC would help you to have a better understanding of both breastfeeding and human lactation that it sounds like you’re looking for. You said: “I just may like what CLC has to offer instead — actually talking to someone about breastfeeding — learning their ways and thoughts; You know, getting to know somebody, and encouraging them along the way.” It is not clear why you think that a CLC would be able to offer more counseling and one-to-one time with a mother than an IBCLC would. I assure you that is usually not the case! If you want to gain a better understanding of what IBCLCs do and where IBCLCs came to be, I encourage you to read ILCA’s position paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC and do a google search for the history of IBLCE and ILCA. You may be surprised. Best of luck to you in your continuing journey! I’m certain you’ll find that right path for you, whatever that may be. May you find right resources (people and information) to guide you on your way.

  5. Beth, when you say “your idea of income potential for an IBCLC is a bit off,” guess I think it’d be nice to hear how this is, since you’re implying IBCLCs don’t make the competitive salary I am suggesting. But everything I’ve come across from sites and in some cases even talking to people who specialize in this area, seems to indicate that is the case. Either way, at this point I’m almost positive I won’t be continuing that route, but having the accurate knowledge about that aspect is necessary, of course. I appreciate your feedback!

  6. Yes, I am interested in advocacy, AND I want to show someone how to breastfeed as well as teach in large and small groups about it, and encourage people, which is why I initially figured becoming an IBCLC would be the route I wanted to take. I understand what you are saying about the role of IBCLCs, but the way I see (and I could be wrong), it leads me to believe that we simply want to increase the numbers of breastfeeders (which is of course I do, but I’m thinking about transcending generations as well as having a thorough understanding of the breastfeeding culture). To me, continuing on that road would probably not lead me to exactly what I’m hoping and looking for. To me it does not encompass a holistic perspective, which is something I believe is very necessary. And when I say holistic, I mean HOLISTIC — not just dealing with baby/mama. I understand I could become certified and incorporate this into my work, but for now I think gaining the insight and level of understanding CLE or CLC has to offer, and veering into a different direction other than IBCLC is what I think will work best for me. I am very interested in theory, and ALL of those other things at the foundation of breastfeeding — that hinder success, and encompass more than a surface look at the role we play in increasing numbers. I know IBCLCs work hard and do a LOT, but to me, it’s more than just attaching an infant to a breast. Or dealing with bottles, or biting, baby wearing, weaning, as I’m sure you know. If you have read any of my other blog posts, then it is very apparent my thoughts on this.

    I understand IBCLCs make various salaries, and I’m glad I have been able to hear some information from others (you and the first comment), that offered your insight and experience, and pay is the last thing on my mind when I think of a career and/or representation (hence, anthropology (believe me))! I also thought the “PhD of the lactation world” was a fair comparison to IBCLC, since it IS the highest credential in the field just like degrees from formal institutions, — and is supposed to render one an expert. But I also think “RN” works, too. Thanks you so much for your comment, Barker!

  7. Wow, I’m surprised to hear that you don’t think an IBCLC would be part of a holistic approach. It’s true that hospital based IBCLCs usually are working in a medical context, but that’s because it’s a hospital. For most independent IBCLCs, it’s about long term health and mothering. And often also about public health, public policy, and the role of women in society. If you mostly want to offer proactive/routine BF support in the context of other work, then yes, CLC or CLE might be a good choice. But be aware that for many of us IBCLCs- probably most who are practicing independently – it’s not just about getting milk into the baby. Good IBCLCs can build a mother’s confidence in her parenting, help her think about nutrition and health in a new way, offer ways of negotiating her work/family balance, support her relationship with her partner, and impact so many areas of her life as a woman and mother.

  8. Indicentally, as someone who has both a PhD and an IBCLC, there’s no comparison. A PhD is an academic degree – it’s all about knowledge. Certifying as IBCLC requires years of mentored practical experience. The book learning was the least of it. IBCLC is the credential that requires both knowing and doing.

  9. As a Full Time Private Practice IBCLC I’d love to make a lot of money – but I don’t. My average income is between $1200 – $1500 a month. How is that a lot of money??

    The simple fact is that those who have an RN and are working for a hospital can make good money – but they also are not usually doing full-time LC work. Those who work at WIC are definitely not making good money – they are not paid what they are worth by any means.

    It is best to really do some research into these things before making claims like that. Because really, your suggestion that IBCLC’s make a competitive salary is really off base. You have to look at where they work, how much they work and what can their area afford. I charge a measly $120 for a consult (flat fee) because in may area no one can really afford more. However, others in sya, Beverly Hills or other more wealthy parts of the country, can charge twice that and not blink and eye.

    The fact of the matter is: Salaries and incomes for IBCLC’s vary WIDELY across the country and vary WIDELY depending on what venue they work.

  10. Mamamilk, how is saying “a Lactation Consultant can work in various settings, including Dr.s offices and hospitals, and earn quite competitive salaries” or saying “receiving certification through the International Board of Certified Lactation Examiners would give me ‘status’ and most likely provide a salary I definitely could never expect as a professor of anthropology” making a “claim like that”

    It is possible folks really believe anthropology professors are raking in the bucks.

    so would it be better if I said, “Depending on their background, additional credentials such as RN, location, etc., an IBCLCs salary can be very competitive, and in some cases can make more than I would ever hope to expect as a professor of anthropology”? How does that work?

  11. NO ONE is saying one can become a clinical practitioner in a week-long course. Or claim to have all of your 26 years worth of knowledge in such a short time. I wouldn’t even begin to think that is possible! Though you don’t need any kind of credential AT ALL to be successful at breastfeeding, breastfeeding advocacy, making an impact and helping others to learn!

    And if you noted in the post where I said I have no desire to work in a hospital setting, and am interested in advocacy and theory that should be very big indicator of what my goal is — whereas before I believed becoming certified would lead to those things — but to me it does not.

    And I don’t understand how I’m minimizing what IBCLCs do! So maybe I’m lost on that accusation.

    What I’m saying is this: For the past while I have wanted to become an IBCLC, and have worked towards that goal because I thought that would be what I needed to do in order to try and reach Black and women Of Color to get them to breastfeed and end disparities. I have talked to quite a number of IBCLCs, and even on the IBCLE website (http://americas.iblce.org/what-is-an-ibclc)– the institution that administered your exam, states those things I recognized — those I don’t believe are necessary in order for me to be successful at what I want to do.

    IBCLC is not for everyone. Some folks can be OK with that week-long course, using their background in anything or, let’s say in cultural anthropology, and progressing from there, integrating those skills into the advocacy and be completely successful in getting more infants to nurse!

    And maybe you are one of those who DO offer the holistic approach that I just don’t see and what made me re-think continuing on, but I don’t ever really notice anyone addressing the concerns the way I WANT to address them, and recognizing the way EVERYTHING is intertwined with successful or non-successful breastfeeding outcomes — language, culture, cross-cultural relations, past culture, history, biology, geography, racism, insularity, patriarchy, class elitism, etc!! I don’t see it! OR recognizing the need to promote the ritual among EVERYONE, understanding everyone is involved in one way or another.

    I apologize if I offended anyone if it seemed like I was “minimizing the importance” and work of an IBCLC”! That was not my intention in this post at all. It was simply a way to show my readers that from where I stand, the credential does not encompass the theoretical and holistice aspect that *I* — a cultural anthropologist — a Black Feminist Anthropologist, am interested in, and because of that I am going to go for the CLE and integrate my own methods in a different direction!

  12. Thanks for your response, Aquanda. As I said previously, you don’t have to be certified to be an effective advocate. Kimberly Seals Allers is a good example of that! You can volunteer your time with breastfeeding organizations and events or just do outreach in your own community. If you want to do more with the breastfeeding side of things, such as teach a breastfeeding class in your community, then the CLC or CLE training might be a good fit for you. Once certified you may find that is as far as you want to go. Or, you may find that you want to be able to offer more to individual women you’re teaching. In that case I would encourage you to continue your education and work towards IBLCE certification. As you know, there is a great need for more IBCLCs, especially more IBCLCs that are women of color. As an IBCLC, you could train peer counselors to work in your community, start a BabyCafe’, or any number of outreach activities that could support women in under served communities. The possibilities are truly endless.

  13. I am responding because you mentioned that some of your initial ideas of what an IBCLC does came from looking at my website, http://www.NormaRitter.com

    I must admit to being somewhat confused.

    In your article, you shared a few of the conditions which I list on my website as the reasons some mothers might need the assistance of an IBCLC. Even the concerns you mentioned went far beyond “just the clinical or mechanical aspects of breastfeeding — attaching an infant to it’s mother’s breast,” that you describe as the typical work of an IBCLC.

    If you took the trouble to read more on my website, you would have seen a video called “Who we are and what we do.” You would also have seen a description of a typical first visit, so that mothers know what to expect.

    Let me share with you some of the topics that often arise during a consultation in my private practice: safe sleep, dental hygiene, pacifier use, easing a baby into a day-care situation, copying with crying, dealing with unsupportive family and friends, and finding other local breastfeeding mothers.

    A good friend recently described the differences between IBCLCs and CLCs as being similar to those between midwives and doulas. Each are valuable in their own way, but a doula would never presume to do the work of a midwife. There are places for many different kinds of breastfeeding helpers, both lay and professional, and each one performs a valuable service. Together, we can help mothers and babies do what nature intended, breastfeed.

  14. In your response to me you said: “I understand what you are saying about the role of IBCLCs, but the way I see (and I could be wrong), it leads me to believe that we simply want to increase the numbers of breastfeeders (which is of course I do, but I’m thinking about transcending generations as well as having a thorough understanding of the breastfeeding culture).” I think you may have a mistaken idea about what an IBCLC is/does and what education is required to become an IBCLC. You are probably correct that most IBCLCs who work on the hospital floor are not very interested in the aspects of breastfeeding beyond get the baby to the breast. The work of a hospital-based IBCLC can be fairly limited by the bureaucracy of that environment. That doesn’t mean that is how all IBCLCs operate, or where the work of the IBCLC begins and ends. As I said before, if you look at the roots of IBLCE and ILCA you might be surprised! Additionally, if you google the titles and look at the table of contents of the two main text books that IBCLC candidates study from (Counseling the Nursing Mother by Lauwers and Swisher/Breastfeeding and Human Lactation by Riordan), you will see the diverse education that is required and the inclusion of the very topics you’ve mentioned. To be honest, the very topics you mentioned are on the exam! IBCLCs are *required* to demonstrate an understanding of how culture affects breastfeeding. Regarding IBCLC/PhD–you are right that IBCLC is currently the highest certification one can earn in the field of lactation. However, you should be aware that the IBLCE exam is considered an entry level exam. That means that it covers the *minimum* one should be able to demonstrate an understanding of in order to practice lactation consulting. The education of an IBCLC doesn’t end with certification, either. One must prove they are continuing their education in order to maintain certification AND they must take the entry-level test again every 10 years to prove that they are maintaining their education and staying up-to-date. The exam is revised every year, and is based on the most current evidence available. So, an IBCLC must continually prove that she is staying up-to-date.

  15. Acquanda, I think you are finding some commenters coming off as defensive because lately there has been an onslaught of communications from various locations purporting that CLCs are on equal footing as IBCLCs (or worse, are better than IBCLCs!). You personally weren’t saying that CLCs have comparable training and experience to IBCLCs but others have. Even the certifying body for CLCs has recently published a white paper comparing the two, which didn’t put IBCLCs in the best light nor was it a completely accurate comparison of the two roles. I hope that gives you a better understanding of how your readers may be feeling. From what you did say, I think it’s possible for a reader to conclude that you were intending to say that CLCs have more to offer and can do more, which is inaccurate. I jumped into this conversation because I felt that you did not have accurate information about what IBCLCs are. I now understand that your examples of IBCLCs have lead you to feel that it is all about breastfeeding and not much else. I hear you saying that you want to become a CLC or CLE in order to be able to teach classes and do related activities at that level, while also working as an advocate and studying the cultural and anthropological side of breastfeeding. I think that would be wonderful. If you want to do more at a later time, you can always work towards the IBCLC credential. Perhaps you could even find someone like-minded to mentor you and shorten the length of time it would take you to complete your “journey”. I do want to clarify again that while the IBCLCs you have come to know may not be advocates, or not involved in the “holistic” view of breastfeeding, there are many, many IBCLCs that are. Myself included. I personally would be very interested in hearing your ideas for addressing concerns about how breastfeeding is promoted (including recognition of how culture as a whole impacts breastfeeding), and how you would promote breastfeeding to “everyone”. I don’t know how or why you came to the conclusion that IBCLCs are not involved in the study and advocacy of cultural, feminist, racial, class, historical, biological, etc sides of breastfeeding, but I just want to assure that many of us have these issues on our minds and are actively working towards solutions.

  16. Jessica, a holistic approach is addressing those other issues OUTSIDE (I’m not yelling, just emphasizing, btw) of mother and baby, AND dealing with other areas that need concern — since everyone and everything is responsible for the successful outcomes of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a practice that affects EVERYONE, so it is a ritual and cultural phenomenon that should entail a critical examination of all — and it goes far beyond a public health concern (though that is a huge one, of course).

    When a woman breastfeeds, it is not simply that she has made a decision to do so, but there are social, cultural, racial and many other factors that are in place that determine this. And IBCLC, TO ME, does not offer a thorough examination of the areas I believe need addressing — and is not necessary for me in order to advocate mother’s milk, and examine the ritual through a truly all-encompassing lens.

    I appreciate the work IBCLCs do, there is no denying that, but what I said earlier about gaining the knowledge that CLE offers and then veering off in a different direction in order to continue on a path I believe would be sufficient is the way I want to advocate.

    And as someone who is aiming for a PhD in cultural anthropology, there IS a comparison, since it IS necessary to go beyond the textbook knowledge and information and WORK in the field before receiving that academic degree — it’s not simply reading from a book. At least not in this discipline.

  17. Thank you, Norma, for visiting my site and for responding!

    But I have to say I’m not sure where the confusion comes in. As I see it (and what I have said previously), breastfeeding is something that affects EVERYONE on the entire planet! Even me — a woman with no kids, who recognizes this. And because I do, have placed myself in this realm in order to help end disparities among my community members. Some of the ways I am doing this is to try and get some other “non-traditional folks,” as some would call us, involved because we are often overlooked. I see it as more than just the mother and baby, more than the immediate family, but a wider scope visualizes EVERYONE and it encompasses ALL, from racial issues to language to history and a very wide range of things that are highly interconnected.

    Just from what you said in your comment fortifies my ideas on why I believe IBCLC may not be for me — “Let me share with you some of the topics that often arise during a consultation in my private practice: safe sleep, dental hygiene, pacifier use, easing a baby into a day-care situation, copying with crying, dealing with unsupportive family and friends, and finding other local breastfeeding mothers.” — which is my point, and perhaps I am not conveying correctly, though I have tried several times. We ALL need to pitch in!! I want to direct my attention to not only mothers and pacifiers and day care and crying, and diapering, but want to explore AND CHALLENGE those things that hinder success even before a woman even gets pregnant! And challenge them outside of the breastfeeding realm so they will flow into it and make the field more leveled, so more women have access. And in the social structure that I see dealing with breastfeeding, there are many things that hinder. I also want to encourage her and even show her how to breastfeed, if necessary, which is why I may just stop at CLE. Getting a credential of IBCLC is not required for this — people and community members have been doing it for centuries. Nor do I think I am doing the work of someone else — but I have to say that comparison is like saying someone who teaches in a formal institution is more effective and qualified than someone who home schools, which though they are divided by that formal education, is not the case, and is only so because society has deemed it so.

    And I did take the trouble examine your website, and I also watched the video you talked about in your comment, and from that do believe IBCLC may not be for me. I’m not trying to do the work of someone else. I’m just headed in a different direction.

  18. You wrote:
    >Part of why I talk about why breastfeeding should focus on everyone — and here is just one example: I tried to become a breastfeeding counselor through Breastfeeding USA at one point, and was told I could not! WHY? Simply because I do not have any children and I have never breastfed. I also am not able to volunteer for La Leche League. WHY? Simply because I do not have any children and have never breastfed.< You have a passion for promoting and advocating breastfeeding, and do not understand why you were not accepted for training as either a Breastfeeding USA Counselor or as a La Leche League Leader. However, both Breastfeeding USA and La Leche League are specifically mother-to-mother organizations, and clearly state this prerequisite on their websites. Mother-to-mother is just ONE of the ways to promote breastfeeding. As you say yourself,there are MANY ways of doing this, and I am sure it is only a matter of time before you find one that will work for you. Don’t give up!
    We need all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds to get our message across. We each have unique talents, and they can all be used.

  19. Your comment makes much more sense, now that I know the angle the posters are coming from, and I’d definitely be interested to knowing where this article was posted that led so many IBCLCs to my blog.

    I don’t see where I came off as saying CLCs have comparable training, but I will accept what you say — but that would not make sense, as it is not possible (if we only look at this from the standpoint of being educated inside of a formal institution)!

    Part of why I talk about why breastfeeding should focus on everyone — and here is just one example: I tried to become a breastfeeding counselor through Breastfeeding USA at one point, and was told I could not! WHY? Simply because I do not have any children and I have never breastfed. I also am not able to volunteer for La Leche League. WHY? Simply because I do not have any children and have never breastfed. If you ask me what’s wrong with this picture, then I think it’s blatantly obvious, even though some can argue that peer aspect of it is necessary, but given the circumstances and especially how breastfeeding is not only stigmatized but is also a matter of life and death for some, these places — as an IBCLC I recently spoke to, helped me articulate, are “shooting themselves in the foot!” Why would someone be turned down for wanting to advocate a practice that saves lives, thwarts diseases, is supposed to increase IQs and countless other benefits???? Makes no sense to me. They are contributing to the problem, and that’s just one of my starting points!!

    I’m interested in breastfeeding because I recognize a special power it has, and yes, I understand that’s IBCLCs focus on new motherhood, bottles, etc.,and I’ve seen and heard some IBCLCs touch on the things above that I believe are intertwined (the list I posted on mamasmilk’s comment) but No, I have NOT seen IBCLCs work and theorize the way *I* am interested in working and theorizing, and have not seen this promoted from any website I have visited, person I have talked to (except for 1 person who is not IBCLC), or even the IBCLE site itself, so it has not given me a sense that that is the direction I want to go. And yes I want to help women successfully breastfeed, but I want to venture in different directions. And to be even more honest with you, I’m not even all that interested in the whole birthing process — so that should tell you something.

    I have many thoughts and different angles I want to focus on in my advocacy and like I’ve just said, cannot find what I’m looking for at this point. But I hope I am able to find someone who is on a similar path and I can maybe learn from them and find more of what I’m looking for. If not, I’ll continue creating my own space.

  20. I agree with the response from Barker: …. I think a better comparison would be that IBCLCs are the RNs of the lactation world, while CLCs and WIC Peer Counselors might be likened to Certified Nurses Assistants and volunteer breastfeeding counselors might be likened to Patient Care Assistants who have comparable education and scope of practice as CNAs, minus the certification…

    As an RN, I could not do an adequate job of caring for my patients without the assistance of a skilled CNA. I believe that support is key for all breastfeeding mothers whether they are having difficulty or not. However, identification of barriers to SUCCESSFUL breastfeeding takes skill and more than that. It takes education and training. I am sorry for CLCs who are put in the position of trying to know what they don’t know. I am more sorry for the mothers who believe that the person they trusted to help them in their most vulnerable time does not have the capability to that. I ask you, in choosing to become a lesser trained CLC vs a more trained IBCLC, are you cheating yourself out of being the most qualified professional in the field that you love AND are you cheating these parents in allowing them to think they are the same?

  21. Cradlehold, thank you for your comment, and sorry for the delay. I waited a couple of days to respond to you because I really wanted to give some thought to what you said — specifically, your last sentence “are you cheating yourself out of being the most qualified professional in the field that you love AND are you cheating these parents in allowing them to think they are the same?” I think this is a fair question, since as we all know in order to become IBCLC requires obtaining a level of information through formal education that is not required by other “lesser” advocates and supporters — clocked hours, continuing education, etc.

    The way I see it is we have been breastfeeding for thousands+ years, and it is only in recent times that breastfeeding has been an issue and has become almost stigmatized. IBCLCs are a very recent phenomenon, and while very helpful, in my opinion it is not necessary to follow along a mainstream trajectory in order to be successful. We only live in a society that tells us status equals success, which in some instances is good, OBVIOUSLY (dr., brain surgeon are just a couple for examples, of course). But when it comes to breastfeeding, throughout history may women relied on their elders and community members, other mothers and such to initiate breastfeeding and they breastfed!!

    These days there are so many interventions and hinderances more than anything else that I believe are what truly stand in the way. Having a degree or a credential only qualifies you to apply those learned skills to that situation — or, as I said before “the mechanics” or, from one comment above, to a mother’s role, etc. There’s WAY too much to breastfeeding than that, and in order to increase the numbers of successful breastfeeding women it requires us to look at those many other things that stand in the way and challenge them ON ALL FRONTS! The only way I would cheat myself out of being the most qualified professional in the field I love, OR would be cheating these parents is if I did not decide to venture on the path I believe is for me.

    And I absolutely understand what you mean when you say as an RN you could not do an adequate job, since I have heard those same stories from my sister, who is also a registered nurse. We are all needed to get breastfeeding back to what it should be — something that every woman does for the health of our community — that’s why I’m here! And no one is trying to get a “lesser” certificate and trying do the work of an IBCLC. Some people just look through a completely different lens and follow along a different path to arrive at their outcome!

  22. In my hospital there are three CLC’s and one IBCLC all are equal as far as patient care. The paper you are referring to compares IBCLC’s clinical hours to CLC’s competency tests. Also an ALC or an ANLC is a higher cet than either IBCLC or CLC. There are good and bad CLC’s just like there are good and bad IBCLC’s. I have more general education than is required for IBCLC, does that make any better than any other IBCLC?

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