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What is a Breastfeeding Counselor?
Many women who have breastfed their own children have enjoyed it so much that they want to help other women have the same enjoyable experience. These women may attend training courses and learn about the experiences of many mothers, so they understand breastfeeding beyond their own personal experience. These women belong to breastfeeding support groups such as La Leche League, Nursing Mothers, Nursing Mothers’ Advisory Council, Nursing Mothers’ Network, etc.
Breastfeeding counselors are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and common problems that can arise during the course of breastfeeding. They are available by telephone and may participate in a local breastfeeding support group where mothers come together with their babies to discuss breastfeeding and parenting. When a breastfeeding counselor encounters a problem that is beyond her skills, she refers to someone in the heath care profession with more breastfeeding knowledge. Breastfeeding counselors may be volunteers or employees.
The Indiana WIC Program (Women, Infants, and Children’s Supplemental Nutrition Program) utilizes women who have breastfed their own children to promote breastfeeding antenatally and support post-partum breastfeeding. WIC provides ongoing training for these breastfeeding peer counselors.
What is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant is an allied health care professional who has extensive experience working with breastfeeding women and their babies in normal and unusual situations. Lactation consultants work in many settings—hospitals, private practice, physicians’ offices, home care services, health agencies, etc. They assess the mother and baby, take a history, observe the mother and baby while breastfeeding, write care plans, report to the mother’s and baby’s primary care providers, and arrange for follow-up. The lactation consultant field began in 1985 with a certifying examination. Prerequisite breastfeeding knowledge, experience, and skills are required to qualify to sit for the exam to become International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Professional lactation consultants receive payment for their services. Many lactation consultants also provide educational programs and updated resources for health care professionals.
Breastfeeding counselors and lactation consultants may work closely together when a mother is experiencing a breastfeeding problem. Once the problem resolves the lactation consultant may refer back to the breastfeeding counselor for continued support.