I have been a midwife for nearly 20 years. I was the Infant feeding midwife at my local Trust for 8 years specialising in breastfeeding. My main role was to implement the UNICEF/Baby Friendly Initiative standards. This involved training all staff in maternity & the neonatal unit as well as paediatricians, so mothers received evidence based care. Under my direction we became a fully accredited Baby Friendly hospital. During my time as infant feeding lead I supported hundreds of breastfeeding mums. This ranged from support to hand express during pregnancy, initiating feeding in the first few hours after birth, to getting breastfeeding established in the early days. I also provided practical and emotional support to mums with premature babies or twins.
In 2013 I qualified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (LC). I recertified as a Lactation Consultant in 2018. The training to become a lactation consultant is intense and breastfeeding specific. To qualify to sit the 6 hour degree level exam I first had to demonstrate that I had accrued the minimum 2500 hours of supporting breastfeeding mothers. I achieved this through my role as both a midwife and infant feeding lead.
The International Board Certified Lactation Consultant exam blue print is very specific and covers all aspects of breastfeeding. It’s not simply supporting a mum with positioning and attachment, although this is hugely important. We have to learn and understand newborn and infant development, ethics, research, psychology, sociology, endocrinology, pharmacology, biochemistry, immunology, infectious diseases and medical conditions that can impact on a mums milk supply.
Becoming a lactation consultant is hugely rewarding. We specialise in supporting mothers and babies from a wide variety of backgrounds with both simple and complex feeding issues. This can include problems with positioning and attachment, prematurity, sucking problems and medical conditions in either mother or baby to name but a few.
You can confirm my qualification as a lactation consultant by visiting www.iblce.org/registry and typing my full name or certificate number L47892.
Please do not assume that everyone who provides breastfeeding support is a lactation consultant. If you are not sure ask them.
You may encounter many different people when you access breastfeeding support including health professionals and volunteers. Midwives and Health visitors receive basic breastfeeding training through their employer which is usually based on the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative standards. Initially this is a 2 day education programme with yearly updates from a couple of hours to a full days training. GP’s may or may not receive training. For those that do it is often on line training of around 2 hours duration.
If you attend a local breastfeeding group you may see a peer supporter. They can work on a voluntary basis, or as in some parts of the country, be paid to visit mothers at home. These are mothers who have breastfed themselves and who want to support other mothers. Their basic training is approximately 16 hours long. Their training includes being able to recognise some of the more common breastfeeding difficulties mothers experience, so they can refer to a health professional for additional support.
If you contact a national helpline such as La Leche League (LLL) or the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) you may come into contact with a breastfeeding counsellor. They too are breastfeeding mothers. Their training is more in depth than that of a peer supporter to approximately 100 hours. Their work is also on a voluntary basis.