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What is an IBCLC?

June 3, 2019, By Carol Kidd, BA, IBCLC, RLC

IBCLCs are highly skilled allied healthcare professionals with an international board certification. We specialize in the care of the breastfeeding dyad.

We are also skilled with assessing and supporting the pumping pair, the partially breastfed dyad, the family whose baby is in, or just out of, the NICU, parents suffering loss and needing to end lactation, returning to work, breastfeeding without a birth, and non-traditional breastfeeding families.

We can help families manage medications, treatment, or surgery while breastfeeding, and other scenarios involving lactation. We can help with babies who have clefts, Downs Syndrome, low muscle tone, surgeries, and many others.

Many times, a breastfeeding difficulty leads us to the discovery of an underlying issue or illness either in the parent or the baby. We refer mothers for blood work to find retained placenta, thyroid disorders, and diabetes. We screen for breast health, mastitis, and thrush. We refer babies for torticollis, failure to thrive, and other possible conditions.

The most common of these is oral restriction, the infamous tongue tie, lip tie, and buccal ties. The IBCLC is in a unique position to discover oral restriction. We have a unique understanding of the suckle pattern involved in feeding and can tell when it’s not working optimally. While oral ties must be officially diagnosed and treated by a medical provider, it’s your IBCLC who will know you need to be seen and to whom to send you.

It’s important to listen to your IBCLC’s advice when it comes to providers. We are a small collaborative community serving breastfeeding families and we know each other well. We are familiar with, and work closely with, our local providers. We know the techniques and tools they use, their aftercare programs, and the outcomes that commonly occur with each one.

As IBCLCs, we care deeply about the success of your breastfeeding relationship. We seek excellent outcomes. To that end, we will send you to the very best providers.

We spend an average of two hours with the dyad performing very thorough assessments. We typically begin with a feeding assessment. A thorough history is taken and a breast assessment performed. The baby’s latch is analyzed. A weighted feeding may be taken, and a gentle exam to assess the baby’s oral function is performed.

During the visit, many recorded data points, along with excellent clinical problem solving skills, allows the IBCLC to get an overall picture of what is going on. This is when we can make our recommendations and work with the family to create a care plan. The care plan is usually a plan for the next 24-48 hours as life with a baby moves quickly and things change.

IBCLCs continue to keep in close contact with families and adjust as needed. It often includes referrals to excellent providers as mentioned earlier. You’ll receive instruction for stretches and exercises to do with your baby to support proper growth and development, sleep support, and recommendations for baby care.

Listening to and empowering families is what we do best and you should feel informed, equipped, and prepared to take the next steps in your breastfeeding journey.

We truly do serve an important role in the early health of you and your baby.

How do you find an amazing IBCLC? There are many avenues. Word of mouth will often bring you to a great IBCLC. You can contact your local chapter of La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA. These organizations are made up of compassionate, knowledgeable, accredited volunteers. They are familiar with their local IBCLCs and will give you a list of them to choose from.

Your hospital may have a referral list. You can do a search on the International Lactation Consultant Association’s website. Sometimes a google search for an “IBCLC near me” can be helpful. And did you know that lactation consultation expenses are covered by insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act? Call your insurance company to find an IBCLC who is contracted with your plan.

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