What is an IBCLC?

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

An IBCLC is a health care professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. IBCLCs are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners Inc. under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies. IBCLCs work in a variety of health care settings including hospitals, pediatric offices, public health clinics, and private practice.

For 25 years, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) have provided high quality lactation care and services to new mothers and infants. More than 22,000 IBCLCs practice worldwide as vital members of the health care team in hospitals, neonatal intensive care units, special nurseries, public health agencies, private clinics, government offices, and private practice. They work hand-in-hand with prenatal and postpartum providers to help new families meet their breastfeeding goals, and to help hospitals establish and support protocols for exclusive breastfeeding. 

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are:

Recognized the world over as possessing the only standardized, board certified lactation credential available 
Knowledgeable about up-to-date evidence-based practices in lactation as demonstrated through a rigorous exam process
Experienced in a wide variety of complex breastfeeding situations 
Competent to assist mothers with establishing and sustaining breastfeeding, even in the midst of difficulties and high-risk situations that can arise
Sensitive to the needs of both mothers and children as they work to help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals
Ethical in their practice, abiding by Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics and working within a defined Scope of Practice

Why a Mother Might Need an IBCLC
A Board Certified Lactation Consultant is an invaluable asset to breastfeeding mothers by reassuring them when breastfeeding is going well, and by providing information and support to help her prevent and manage common concerns. IBCLCs help with:

Prenatal counseling about risk factors that may affect breastfeeding
Basic position and latch of the infant
Information about practices that promote successful breastfeeding
Preventing and managing common concerns such as poor latch, inadequate milk transfer or supply, nipple or breast pain, and calming a fussy baby
Milk expression and storage for mothers who must be separated from their babies
Strategies for breastfeeding after returning to work
Breastfeeding in challenging situations, such as breastfeeding twins or triplets, a premature or sick infant, or infants in special medical situations 

How International Board Certified Lactation Consultants Make a Difference:

IBCLCs Help Improve 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.

IBCLCS Help Improve 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.

IBCLCs Contribute To Lower Costs

Increased access to lactation consultants resulted in greater continuation of breastfeeding and a $149-perdelivery 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. 102:1437-1444.

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.