Originally posted March 3, 2012
This past week marked International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Day. All over the web, there were articles printed about ways to say thank you to these dedicated professionals who are in the trenches daily working to help mothers feed their babies. I saw many testimonies to the wonderful ways women have been served by IBCLCs all over our country. Sadly, I also saw places where other types of Lactation Guides were torn down; their experience and knowledge dismissed because they haven’t been tested and certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).
How have we gotten to this place? Why do some imagine that only a specific kind of professional can assist women and children to breastfeed? Since when is it ok for one group to imply that they have exclusive, special knowledge about human bodily processes? Do we really think that *only* IBCLCs know how to help if a woman is having difficulty feeding her infant? Are they a ‘secret society’ that has special insight into breastfeeding that non-IBCLCs can’t possibly understand?
I know that the IBCLC designation was created to protect the consumer. We all want to be sure that women are getting reliable breastfeeding information from people who have proven experience. Certainly, there are many ill-informed people offering opinions based on personal experience without the benefit of evidenced-based information. But since when do IBCLCs have*exclusive* information?
I’ve written before that IBCLCs are intricately enmeshed with Certified Lactation Consultants. Did you know that the IBLCE has now approved Healthy Children’s- the group that trains CLCs- to offer advanced education to IBCLCs which would allow them to use the designation ALC (Advanced Lactation Consultant)? This same training is available to CLCs who will also then use the ALC designation.
I have no issue with the IBCLC certification. Most of the professionals who go through this program are committed individuals who work hard to help women through research, advocacy, and direct care. My concern is when we accept *any* profession that implies exclusive knowledge and ability to assist women. I have the same issue with Registered Dieticians when they imply only *they* can explain good nutrition (traditional/whole foods proponents would have a real problem with that). I have this issue when OBs want to claim only *they* can attend childbirth or when some claim that only one type of midwife is legitimate. I cringe when allopathic physicians sneer at naturopathic modalities of care (or the other way around). Since when did we all become so… elite? Proud?
Knowledge, experience and excellence can be had by many different types of professionals and can be gained in many different ways. By remaining humble and open to the possibility that someone who has a different training background might also have legitimate insight and wisdom to share, we make ourselves better. We keep learning and this improves how we care for our clients.
Since the breastfeeding duration rates in the country are so dismal, I really hope that the day comes when we are able to dismiss those who claim exclusive knowledge about women’s bodies and, specifically, lactation. We need all dedicated lactation professionals coming along side women as they battle the larger culture to reclaim their rightful biological heritage. Women already have a fight on their hands when they decide to breastfeed. They aren’t helped by in-fighting between varieties of Lactation Guides.