Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy IBCLC Day! (How timely is that?)

Today is the day where I thank my lucky stars that I had access to one of the very best IBCLCs out there, Jennifer Tow of Intuitive Parenting Network, LLC. Due to some serious challenges, my daughter Lily would never have been able to nurse without her expertise, immense patience and the support of her nursing support group. (If you haven't read the whole crazy epic, it's laid out here if you have the stamina.)

Our booby-trapped world needs more qualified, educated, and dare I say, real lactation consultants. The impact of bad breastfeeding information and advice (often well-intended but poorly-informed) cannot be underestimated. Take a look at this piece, aptly named "A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing", about a self-styled "breastfeeding specialist" in the UK, Clare Byam Cook. She happens to be a retired midwife, but has no formal training in breastfeeding beyond her personal experience. Read the piece for yourself and cringe - then imagine how many mothers have had their breastfeeding lives impacted by this kind of sabotaging misinformation, without having any idea that this specialist is a specialist just because she decided to call herself one, and that her advice could easily sabotage a nursing relationship. Or better, check out her appearance on a British talk show comparing breast milk to Coke, among other bon mots.

Point being, beware the self-appointed expert. When seeking advice, be aware of what kind of training and experience they have*, or whether it's personal experience and self study - not at all without value, but something to be taken into account. Am I saying one HAS to be an IBCLC to have anything to offer on breastfeeding? Of course not. Mother to mother support has gone on for thousands of years. It's the very foundation of La Leche League, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for helping breastfeeding to reemerge after losing it for several generations.

However, those lost generations mean lost connections and often a dearth of accurate information that still affects us today, especially when it comes to addressing more serious conditions. Peer support is a fantastic thing, but being able to refer out to a specialist when needed is imperative. And I say all this from a place where I currently have my own limitations. My training has included basic breastfeeding, but extreme emphasis on the basic. Anything challenging that arises is considered beyond our scope of practice, and rightly so.

Did an IBCLC help you and your baby? Consider giving them a shout-out today.

*While the IBCLC is the gold standard, there are other designations, like the CLE and CLC. that are valuable as well. LLL leaders also go through a solid training.

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