Can you explain a little about what being a Lactation Consultant involves?
The work of an International Board of Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can be very varied with colleagues working within an NHS , voluntary or private setting.
Each of my working days are different depending on the number of calls I have had from parents about their infant feeding challenges.
In my private practice and voluntary roles I spend time on:
Wow you're really busy! What motivated you to become a Lactation Consultant in the first place?
My motivation to become an IBCLC stems from a long term interest in infant feeding. My interest in breastfeeding challenges and importance of breastfeeding, early support and safe bottle feeding was initiated during my NHS background in midwifery and health visiting and supported by my own experience. Studying for the IBCLC exam clearly demonstrated to me that I wanted to work intensively with mother and baby dyads and to be directed by their needs. Thus I set up Breastfeeding Matters to enable me to offer the help needed, in the comfort of the family home without time restraints of additional pressures. Having worked in several NHS roles concurrently with my private practice, in April 2017 I finally left the NHS, taking (early!) retirement to focus on my passion .
What are the main benefits of having the support of a lactation consultant for pregnant and new mums?
The benefits are multiple but succinctly, women who receive information antenatally about realistic expectations of breastfeeding plus early postnatal support are much more likely to have a satisfying and successful breastfeeding experience .
As an IBCLC I have the time to dedicate to a home visit allowing women to tell me their story
total focus on the mother baby dyad. As an IBCLC the knowledge and skills required to pass and maintain the certification are extensive thus I have a range of experiences and suggestions to share with women. This does not mean, in anyway, that I always have the answer or solution but
I have a range of colleagues to ask, books to assist and time to search for information
with mothers and their families. We can look at options and support through the challenges
Continuity of care.
I can offer as many home visits as required. Women can access ongoing free support at my breastfeeding drop in group and email contact for some discussions . I can complete documentation in the baby’s Personal Child Health Record Book. I can liaise with health visiting and general practitioner colleagues.
Resources to support.
I will provide families with an electronic copy of my records and with links to supportive and relevant websites and leaflets.
What are the benefits for babies?
If new parents can be provided with the appropriate information and support, relevant to their needs, they will become more confident, response parents and their babies will be calmer. If IBCLC support results in a longer breastfeeding experience then a baby will enjoy the health benefits of breastmilk and breastfeeding . We also know how important is for ALL babies to be cared for in a safe and responsive environment and thus I suggest that safe bottle feeding occurs is a responsive way which is led by the baby.
Are there any specific situations in pregnancy or for mums when they might really benefit from the help of a lactation consultant?
Any pregnant lady may benefit from time with an IBCLC to focus on her needs particularly
to debrief on a previous breastfeeding or birthing experience and plan differently this time.
Some situations women benefit from support include;
Looking after yourself is essential in everyday living but women often have an additional interest in their bodies during pregnancy . This can be a time to focus on dietary intake, cut down ( ideally stop) smoking and alcohol, and engage in appropriate physical exercise .
Get to know your baby during pregnancy.
about life choices that are going to be important as time goes on.
Especially if it’s your second ( or more) pregnancy you may find it more difficult to rest if you have an active toddler to care for. Do accept any offers of help in pregnancy or book in for after.
It’s quite normal to worry about how your older children are going to react to your new baby . Consider, age appropriate conversations about babies and breastfeeding, visiting your library for books/ resources to support these conversations. Speak with other friends and family about how
they managed they can support you .
Enjoy your pregnancy, it’s an exciting time but do talk to people around you if you have worries about any aspect of your physical or emotional health
What sort of training do you do as a Lactation Consultant?
To become an IBCLC an individual needs to have a recognised profession and level of education in both theoretic and practical skills to apply to do the examination.
The exam curriculum covers a wide range of disciplines so the training and preparation for the international examine depend on previous skills and knowledge. In my case, as a health visitor I felt quite confident in the feeding needs of a two week old baby into toddler and childhood but less so on pregnancy and the preterm baby given that midwifery training was nearly 35 years ago! The exam is held internationally twice a year and involves two papers held in recognised exam centres. The assessments involve a mixture of scenarios, questions with a number pictorial situations .
As an IBCLC it is essential to keep knowledge up to date with a requirement to demonstrate ongoing training at five years and resitting the exam every 10… since qualifying in 2005 I have done both and will be due again in 2020.
Is there a way mums can find out what training levels the person providing their breastfeeding support has?
Yes, depending on the discipline of the person providing breastfeeding support a mum can access this information from their professional or voluntary body for example
National Childbirth Trust
La Leche League
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Additionally, for registered health professionals, their credentials can be checked by visiting their regulatory bodies eg.
Nurses, midwives and health visitors - Nursing and Midwifery Council
Osteopaths - General Osteopathy Council
Doctors - General Medical Council
Dentists - General Dental Council
If a family are employing the services of any professional in a private capacity, in addition to checking their professional credentials as above, I would also urge them to ask to see proof of their indemnity insurance.
You can contact Lynn through her website www.breastfeedingmatters.co.uk or find her on Facebook
We also chatted with one of the mums who has benefited from Lynn's support here's what she had to say.
What prompted you to contact Lynn for support? How old was your baby and what was happening?
My baby was 5 weeks when I contacted Lynn. I was quite convinced by that point that my son had tongue tie but it had been missed by many healthcare practitioners at hospital, so it took me a long while experiencing pain from poor latch to seek help. I found out more about tongue tie from a breastfeeding support group on Facebook, and that was also how I found out how to find a specialist who could diagnose and cut tongue tie.
Where did you find out about the services Lynn offers?
The Association of Tongue-tie Practitioners.
How did Lynn help you and your baby with the issues you were having?
I met Lynn on Thursday and she was able to cut my son’s posterior tongue-tie first thing Monday morning. We had already discussed positioning too, which helped me get more comfortable. After the cut he was able to feed better instantly, with my pain gradually decreasing over a few weeks with some help from Mary Jane.
Did you go along to the group Lynn runs? If so how did you find that?
I went to the group first, at Lynn’s suggestion. The first few weeks it was my safe haven in a tough time, and I still attend regularly now (baby is 9 months). It was so helpful for me to hear stories from other mums who had been through or were going through a similar experience, I hope now I can pay that forward and help others. Lynn always has time for a chat and advice which is really helpful as my son and I continue our journey.
Did you also see Mary Jane the osteopath who works with Lynn at the group? If so how did you find that? Was it helpful?
Yes, Mary Jane was able to release a lot of tension in my son’s jaw from birth which had been hindering his feeding. She also helped later on with my pain and my son’s reflux.
Would you recommend using a lactation consultant to other families?
I would, and do, recommend lactation consultants regularly. I recommend Lynn and her group to locals, but through meeting Lynn have also been able to recommend others out of our area. They provide an incredible service which I think should be more widely recognised.
What's your top tip for any parent with a new baby?
Breastfeeding and bedsharing are my top tips. One allows me to feed my baby a perfectly tailored meal, whenever and wherever he wants it. The other allows me to do so easily overnight without losing much sleep. I would like new parents to know that breastfeeding is hard work for the first few weeks and you need support, but that the support is out there.