midwifehelpYou are passionate about breastfeeding. You want to support other breastfeeding moms. You want to devote yourself to helping educate families and individuals about the importance of breastfeeding, and now you want to figure out how to do it.  Read on – this post is for you. 

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As an aside – Welcome to April’s “Carnival Of Breastfeeding !”

This month we are bringing you posts on “How To…” do something related to breastfeeding. Be sure to check out the other blogger’s posts at the bottom of mine. I hope you will find them helpful and informative. Oh right, and there will be no Monday Musings at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! today, due to the carnival. But feel free to muse about my post in the comments section!

Now back to How To Become a Breastfeeding Support Professional…

1) Become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

To become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), exam candidates must have background experience in providing care to breastfeeding families and complete education in lactation and breastfeeding. There are three pathways to choose from to become an IBCLC, and once you start you have five years to complete the educational training and clinical hours. While it does not actually cost very much money to take the five-day (45 hours) course leading up to the exam to be certified, it can take five years to gain the required clinical hours needed before the exam can be taken, which range from 300-1000 hours depending on one’s educational and/or work background.

Most people who decide to become IBCLC’s are already health care professionals like nurses, midwives, physicians, dieticians, occupational therapists, etc. If you are not already a licensed health care professional (instead, perhaps you are a La Leche League leader, doula or mom) you may also need to take a few university level courses in things like anatomy and physiology, psychology, sociology, nutrition and child development.  While IBCLC’s are probably the most respected for their breastfeeding knowledge in the “field” of breastfeeding and the profession shows job growth within the health care industry, this route is certainly the most time consuming. However, women who choose this route do it to have a career. Lactation consultants can make an average of $60,000 USD working full time in a hospital setting. Other settings IBCLCs work may include public health, physician offices, private clinics and in the United States, WIC clinics. To read more about becoming a Lactation Consultant go here.

2) Become a La Leche League leader.

La Leche League leaders are volunteers. To become a LLL leader candidates meet pre-application prerequisites. If she does not meet all of them special consideration can be made depending on the issue. All issues must be discussed with one’s LLL group leader or sponsoring leader.

In a nutshell, in order to become a LLL leader, the applicant must be a member of LLL and support the LLL purpose and philosophy, have attended at least one series of meetings (4 weeks), own and be familiar with The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and have a recommendation from an LLL leader.

She must also be breastfeeding for at least 9 months or have breastfed for at least one year. If she has weaned she must have respected the baby’s needs while transitioning. As a mother she must value nursing as the optimal way to nourish, nurture and comfort her baby, understand and respond to her baby’s need for her presence as well as her milk and manage any separation from her baby with sensitivity and respect for the baby’s needs.

She must also be accepting, respectful, warm, empathetic and demonstrate or be willing to learn effective communication skills. All of this information comes directly from LLL’s publication LLL Leadership: Is It For You?

A part of the process in becoming a leader is to share your childbirth and breastfeeding experiences, and beliefs and mothering philosophies. LLL needs to make sure these are in line with theirs and while each leader is her own individual who sometimes may do things differently from what the LLL philosophy is, she just has to uphold the LLL philosophy when she’s being a leader.

It can take 3-18 months to complete the process. There is reading and assigments, and meetings to attend. LLL lets each mom work at her own pace. Once accredited, LLL leaders help other breastfeeding mothers, on the phone, in person, or by email. They lead groups and can speak about breastfeeding at childbirth classes, new mom groups and schools, and write articles for LLL publications. You don’t have to be breastfeeding to be a leader either. Some women become leaders long after their children have weaned. 

3) Become a breastfeeding mom.

I have met with lactation consultants at my local public health unit and I have attended La Leche League meetings. While I have nothing but good things to say about all of the breastfeeding professionals I have talked to, my all time favorite people with whom to discuss breastfeeding, exchange tips, and share stories are other breastfeeding moms.

Because the questions and concerns going through the minds of new breastfeeding moms aren’t always medical or physiological. They usually sound a lot more like this: “How do other families deal with night time wakings? What do other moms do when their families aren’t supportive? Who else has to wake up six times a night to breastfeed? How do you deal with sibling jealousy? How long did it take you to lose your pregnancy weight? What do you do when you hate breastfeeding?”

Every breastfeeding mom has her own breastfeeding experiences that she has become an expert about. Whether it’s how to deal with a plugged milk duct, biting, balancing work and home life, nighttime parenting, tandem nursing or weaning, someone out there has done it and has a story to share. It is through our and other people’s experiences that we gain knowledge and truth. Wisdom is nothing more than learning, knowing, and regurgitating information, no matter who you are.

The only fallback I see in taking advice from other breastfeeding moms is that what works best for some moms will not work best for every mom. We are the lay-professionals here. We may all breastfeed, but we don’t all share the same values and beliefs or comfort levels, so we must always consider that when giving or receiving advice. And moms need to be able to filter out what will work best for them and their family from what won’t. If something doesn’t ring true, they should investigate by doing their own research, whether it’s on-line, in books or by talking to a professional. And I think there is a huge difference between having been a breastfeeding mom for three months as opposed to a year or more. The longer you breastfeed, the more experience you gain and the more knowledge you have to share.

I am purposely not including the routes of becoming a physician, pediatrician, obstetrician, or nurse here because I have learned that as much as we expect them to know about breastfeeding, unless they take extra courses above and beyond what they are taught in school, they receive very little formal training in breastfeeding practice. In my opinion, this is why moms have the breastfeeding problems in hospitals that they do. See Monday Musings: How Hospitals Contribute to Lower Breastfeeding Rates. If you have a problem with breastfeeding, the first people you should contact for the most up-to-date information and support should be a lactation consultant or a La Leche League leader. If your baby is under 8 weeks old and you had a doula or midwife at your birth, they are also good resources. For instance, the photo above shows my midwife checking my second daughter’s latch a couple days after her birth during a routine home visit, with my mom looking on.

*Be sure to check out these other blog posts (to be updated throughout the day)

Mama Saga - on how to breastfeed (or just look like you know what you’re doing)

Motherwearon how to help your baby kick the nipple shield habit

babyREADY - on how to get your baby to take the bottle (after breastfeeding has already been established!)

The Marketing Mama - on how to pump successfully at work

Strocel – on how to get breastfeeding off to a good start

Baby Carriers Down Under – on how to breastfeed hands free

Breastfeeding Mums - on how to wean a breastfed toddler

Mama Knows Breast – on how to get a spouse to help with breastfeeding

Milk Act - on how to care for a sick nursling

Maher Family Grows - on how to increase breastmilk supply using supplements

Blacktating – on how to treat a cold while breastfeeding

The Bee in Your Bonnet - on how to be comfortable around breastfeeding

Zen Mommy – on how to use Youtube to stop nosey questions

MoBoleez – on how to increase your milk supply naturally

Happy Bambino’s Blog – on how to deal with unsupportive family members

Breastfeeding 1-2-3 – on how to teach your baby nursing manners

Natural Birth and Baby Care - on how to improve milk suppy through nutrition

Tiny Grass – on how to tandem nurse without driving yourself and your nurslings crazy

Related Posts with Thumbnails

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15 Responses to “How To Become A Breastfeeding Support Professional”

  1. #1 Steph Says:

    April 20, 2009 at 2:21 am
  2. #2 Missy Says:
    April 20, 2009 at 4:37 am
  3. #3 How to Get a Good Start Breastfeeding | Strocel.com Says:

    April 20, 2009 at 7:24 am
  4. #4 Amber Says:

    April 20, 2009 at 8:46 am
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    April 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm
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    April 22, 2009 at 9:59 pm
  11. #14 How I Lost Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days Says:

    May 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm

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