The Milk-Making Guru
IBCLC's - The breastfeeding resource you want to know about.
August is National Breastfeeding Month which is the perfect time to talk about one of the best breastfeeding resources to exist – the IBCLC. Most women want to breastfeed their babies, but many women, including me, find out that breastfeeding isn’t a cake walk. In fact, according to the CDC, 60% of women don’t breastfeed for as long as they intend. Reasons breastfeeding becomes difficult vary, but many reasons relate to lack of support or education. For example, many women struggle with latching or comfort or worry about their child’s weight. Additionally, many women cite a lack of support at home or work as reasons they found it difficult to continue breastfeeding. What makes an IBCLC such an amazing resource is they offer solutions to almost every potential breastfeeding barrier. Before we dive more into IBCLC’s, whether you are or aren’t successful at breastfeeding does not measure your worth as a parent. No matter how your baby is fed, you are still the best parent for them. The point of this blog is simply to serve as information – not to persuade or dissuade from one feeding method to another.
IBCLC stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. They differ from a lactation consultant or counselor because they have extensive training. To be board certified, one must take several classes, spend hundreds of hours working with breastfeeding moms, and pass a certification exam. Typically, when you deliver in a hospital, you get a few hours with a lactation consultant, and then there isn’t any follow-up. So, when breastfeeding starts well in the hospital, but you get home and things change, you’re left without support. What makes IBCLC’s particularly amazing is the relationship you build with them (also, many will come to you in your own home or offer virtual meetings). The journey starts during pregnancy and continues well past when baby is born.
When I found out I was pregnant with LJ, I had a lot to learn about breastfeeding. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but that was almost all I knew. However, I had amazing medical providers who understood my desire to breastfeed and supported it. As a side note, I can’t stress this enough – find a provider that not only knows your plan but gives you resources too. The midwives that I saw throughout my pregnancy recommended an IBCLC to me and meeting her changed the trajectory of my breastfeeding journey.
I met Ashley when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I scheduled a prenatal visit with her and met her in her office. She asked me questions about my breastfeeding goals and my health history and performed a breast exam to evaluate any potential factors that could negatively impact my breastfeeding ability. I asked her a million questions – about pumping, feeding schedules, my fears, and my worries. What I loved about this appointment was the confidence I had when I left. She was realistic but supportive. She showed me the process of latching baby and different positions to give me an idea of what to do after baby arrived until I met with her again. She shared the good and the potential challenges, so I had practical expectations. She assured me she would be there to guide me and created a plan for us when the baby arrived.
Fast forward to a few weeks when LJ was born – I scheduled an appointment with her to come visit us two days later. Because I delivered at a birth center, she came to see us at our home; however, IBCLC’s can also make hospital visits too while you’re there post-delivery. She spent uninterrupted time with us – it wasn’t rushed or filled with distractions. She was focused on baby and me. She noticed LJ had a significant tongue-tie right away and suggested we have it revised. IBCLC's, among everything else they do, have training in identifying oral restrictions (tongue, lip, and cheek ties) and can help you decide how to move forward if it is identified. After his revision, we went to see her again to make sure everything was still going well and make a few changes to the latch post-tongue-tie revision.
She was such a comfort to me – such an amazing resource. As I continued breastfeeding, I knew if I had any trouble, I could schedule an appointment or a phone call with her and my questions would be answered. So many women struggle to breastfeed because they don’t have support or someone to turn to if things aren’t going the way they want. But developing that relationship with an IBCLC creates a support system that is knowledgeable and can offer solutions.
IBCLC’s also offer education around breastfeeding. Many offer classes on topics including breastfeeding basics, pumping, and ending your breastfeeding journey. They offer individualized education too. For example, when Luke was 6 weeks old, we discovered he was sensitive to dairy. This meant I had to cut dairy completely from my diet, so of course, I was freaking out. But, I scheduled a phone call with Ashley. She calmed me down, helped me come up with a plan, and offered great dairy alternatives to my favorite foods.
IBCLC’s are truly breastfeeding heroes, and if you want to breastfeed, the knowledge and confidence they inspire are second to none. Even though our breastfeeding journey has ended, I still talk to Ashley, and I know who I will call when we have our next baby. For those who wonder if this is an affordable resource, many IBCLC's take insurance or will assist you in requesting your insurance company to cover their services. If you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, I have linked websites for two IBCLC’s I know and trust below. If you live in a different part of the U.S., google “IBCLC’s near me” and pay attention to customer reviews.
Happy Breastfeeding Month!
IBCLC’s in Louisville, Kentucky:
Ashley Benz – Ashley is, of course, the IBCLC that helped me. She offers in-office, in-home, and telehealth visits.
Latched Louisville – Tereza is a women’s heath nurse practitioner and IBCLC. She runs the Latch Hatch, a mobile breastfeeding consultation suite.