240273 Lactation consulting: The expanding role of IBCLCs in breastfeeding support

Monday, October 31, 2011: 5:42 PM

Aimee Eden, MA , Dept. of Anthropology/College of Public Health-Community & Family Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
The CDC recognizes professional support as one of six primary evidence-based interventions to meet Healthy People breastfeeding goals, and tracks the number of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) per 1,000 live births on their Breastfeeding Report Card. The Surgeon General's 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding assigns IBCLCs a prominent role: one of the 20 actions is to “ensure access to services provided by” IBCLCs. The profession of lactation consulting is only 26 years old, however, and only a handful of studies focus on the IBCLC. This study examines the challenges and benefits of working in this relatively new role in the health care team from the perspective of practicing IBCLCs. Methods: Qualitative, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 25 IBCLCs about their practice and their perspectives on the profession. Interviewees were recruited to reflect the diversity of the profession—they worked in hospitals, public health clinics/WIC offices, pediatric practices, and private practice. While many came from a medical background (including 12 nurses and 5 MDs), 8 came from non-medical backgrounds. Results: IBCLCs face numerous challenges in the workplace. IBCLCs note that the credential is not recognized by patients, is not always respected by other health professionals working with mothers and babies, and is often not valued by institutions such as hospitals and public health agencies. On the other hand, IBCLCs find the work they do to be highly rewarding and necessary, given the lack of breastfeeding knowledge and expertise among other health professionals. Conclusions: Understanding the role of IBCLCs in breastfeeding support, as well as the difficulties they face in practice, is important in meeting public health breastfeeding goals. The findings from this research can inform initiatives to increase the number of IBCLCs to the recommended levels, ensuring that parents have access to services provided by IBCLCs.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the professional qualifications of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. 2. Compare the role of the IBCLC to that of other health professionals working with mothers and babies. 3. Name some of the challenges IBCLCs face as an emerging health profession.

Keywords: Breastfeeding, Associated Health Professionals

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: The content presented is based on my dissertation research on the professionalization of lactation consulting. I am a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida, Dept. of Anthropology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.