Let's talk about credentials and scope of practice: how healthcare providers in the valley are here to help mothers in need.
To start this conversation we need to decipher just what the different credentials your health care provider may have when helping you with breastfeeding. There are several breastfeeding specific credentials that all have very different scope of practice and education background. Let's start with the Certified Lactation Educator (CLE). This is a person who has been trained to help educate families on the importance of breastfeeding and the basics of starting out right through classes, counseling and support. According to CAPPA who owns the trademark CLE and offers the courses , they “provide candidates with complete evidenced- based training for offering private and public breastfeeding classes, advocacy, and support.” They are not a clinician and refer out when support requires clinical assessment. A breastfeeding counselor is a wonderful addition to a team of healthcare providers working with families.
Next let's talk about a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC). A CLC has taken a week long breastfeeding education coarse and sat an exam at the end of the week on the information covered. A Lactation Counselor is a very qualified person for the assessment of initial breastfeeding establishment, breastfeeding education and basic breastfeeding challenges. Breastfeeding Counselors are a critical part of the team of healthcare providers in rural areas where access to other professionals is limited or unavailable. Breastfeeding counselors are invaluable to WIC as support for breastfeeding mothers and a great asset to a healthcare team.
Finally let’s talk about an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). For starters an IBCLC must have a four year degree, must have completed one of three pathways to become eligible to sit the boards, all of which include classwork as well as clinical work. For example: Pathway 2 is a yearlong course offered by 6 different universities with clinic rotations required. Once the course has been completed and the clinics have been completed and verified then one is eligible to sit the boards. The boards are offered internationally twice a year. Once passed you are then awarded the credential of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (Lactation Consultant, IBCLC). A Lactation Consultant has a strict scope of practice (you can view here) and codes of conduct which should be adhered to in order to serve our communities with the best of our ability. We work in a healthcare team setting providing feeding assessments, feeding plan of care and practice through evidence based information. A Lactation Consultant has the professional obligation to refer to an appropriate care provider when a feeding assessment needs further expertise. An IBCLC is an asset to a healthcare team in their ability to work with the majority of breastfeeding issues with collaboration between physicians, midwives, NP’S, RN’s, OT’s, OB’s and other healthcare providers. Lactation Consultants also work closely with lactation educators, lactation counselors and doulas by being available for referrals when mothers and infants have feeding issues that require feeding assessment and care plans.
The message I wanted to portray here today is that providing support through education, counseling and clinical assessment is a team approach and every member is a valuable contributor to the health and success of the mother and babies breastfeeding journey. As a member of the team it is so important to remember when it is appropriate to call on other healthcare professionals to step in when the mother or baby needs further assessment or the problem is simply outside of one's expertise. As healthcare providers in the Gallatin Valley we are all here to help mothers and babies succeed in their breastfeeding journey regardless of who helps them. My hope is that every breastfeeding woman, and family will have access to comprehensive lactation care and the support of her healthcare providers.