When the Indigo Girls sing, “It took a long time to, become the thing I am to you” clearly they aren’t talking about studying to become an IBCLC, but it certainly applies. As parents go through their own breastfeeding journeys some realize they want to help other people as well. They often start out in Peer-to-peer support, such a vital resource for new families, and soon begin to think about increasing their knowledge and expertise by becoming an IBCLC. Since I did not start out as an RN, nor in a peer support organization, I often have inquiries from people who are interested in chatting with me about the process. Just in the past few months, several women have contacted me to chat so I thought it was the perfect time to write about the process of becoming an IBCLC for someone who is not an RN.
There are many blogs out there describing the various pathways to certification and, as always, it’s important to become completely familiar with the information provided by IBLCE. I’m going to focus on Pathway 3: Mentorship, as that is the route I took to certification. When people reach out to me for information, it is not so much for the facts and details, but rather the experience, the personal take on the journey.
The three criteria IBLCE lists are Health Sciences Education, Lactation Specific Education, and Lactation Specific Clinical Experience. Since the IBCLC exam is the last step, I will add that as the fourth component.
Health Sciences Education - You will need to determine which courses you are missing based on your own college education. Eight of the courses must be for college credit; the other six may be continuing education.
*Tip* Start gathering your transcripts early to ensure you have proof of all courses to fulfill the education requirement.
Lactation Specific Education - All IBCLC candidates, regardless of which Pathway they choose, are required to take at least 90 hours in lactation and breastfeeding education. IBLCE does not recommend specific courses, nor do they approve them in any way. It is your responsibility to be sure the course you take meets the requirements as outlined in the IBLCE Detailed Content Outline.
I’ll save the steps of setting up a private practice for another post. That has its own pitfalls and triumphs!
Hopefully I’ve given you some insight into the process of becoming an IBCLC through Pathway 3. Get to know the Pathway 3 Plan Guide well. Know all your requirements for education, for clinicals, for having your plan approved (you have to submit it to IBLCE), and all your dates. Don’t forget to keep track of all your education along the way in case you are audited. None of the steps are hidden, but you are responsible for keeping on top of all dates and requirements.
If you are thinking about becoming an IBCLC, what is your biggest concern?
We’ve all done it - we look to google for answers and information. The internet has provided us with the ability to access information more than any other generation. We have information and knowledge at our fingertips. But what if that information is incorrect? What if that information sends us down the wrong rabbit hole?
Breastfeeding used to be a normal part of everyday life in a community; grandmothers, mothers, aunts, friends, all breasted around each other and learned from each other. We are physically more separated now, but the internet does provide a place we can ask questions and find answers. So where do we find accurate and helpful information?
I’ve gathered just a few of the websites where you can find helpful, trusted information about lactation and breastfeeding.
Kellymom.com - Kellymom is one of the top sites for evidence-based information. Kelly Bonyata, owner and creator of Kellymom, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Her articles help many families navigate issues and concerns and provide further references for follow through.
LactMed - Did you ever want to know how a certain medication might affect your milk supply or baby? From the National Library of Medicine at the National Institute of Health, you can search for both prescribed medications and over-the-counter products to determine whether or not they are safe to use while lactating.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) - While the CDC is not a support website, if you are looking for the latest official regulations and recommendations, it is worth visiting.
AskDrSears.com - Dr. Sears and his team are well respected pediatric practitioners. Visit his site for understanding normal infant behavior and common issues associated with breastfeeding and parenting.
La Leche League International - La Leche League has been providing peer-to-peer support for over 60 years. Along with their in-person meetings, they have forums and online groups for breastfeeding information and support.
Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio - This organization provides in-person appointments and support, but they also have online information and resources from experienced IBCLCs. They are well-known and respected for their therapeutic breast massage and hand expression.
Information garnered online can be helpful in handling minor issues, or even reassuring yourself everything is going well. Online education is not a substitute for an in-person consultation with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Please reach out to an IBCLC in your community for assessment, evaluation, and care.
What online resources do you find most helpful for lactation and breastfeeding?
You’ve made it through the first few weeks of breastfeeding, gotten into a groove over the next few months, possibly went back to work and handling the hectic schedule, and then you see it looming ahead - 6 months! Starting solids (also called complementary foods) is an exciting time, but it’s also another learning curve, for both you and baby.
This roller coaster is what parenting is all about - just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something changes...
Just like with any parenting task, there is more than one right way to introduce solid food to your baby. We all know about the lines of cute little baby food jars in the grocery stores. Some people choose to make their own baby food, and others use what is called Baby Led Weaning. We’ll briefly discuss these options here, but you will definitely want to read more about whichever method fits your parenting style.
When your baby reaches 12 months or just beyond, they will probably be getting most of, or all, of their nutrients from their solid foods. You can continue breastfeeding and providing breast milk for as long as you both want. Breast milk continues to provide normal and optimal nutrition and immunities for your baby well beyond the first year of life.
But if you’re reading this post, you’re probably not at 12 months yet, so enjoy the next few months of your baby experiencing new foods - and making a mess!
Ohhhh, We’ve Got Trouble, My Friends, right here in River City!
...With a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Bottle!
You’ve gotten breastfeeding off to a great start; baby is happy, healthy, and gaining well. You’re feeling great about your breastfeeding relationship and that awesome milk you provide. A couple months down the road you decide to give baby and bottle, and she refuses!
For some families, bottles are essential for when the nursing parent goes back to work. For others, it may not be needed every day, but parents want to have some time to run errands, go to appointments, spend time with friends, and be able to leave baby at home. So what do you if baby won’t take a bottle?
Bottles & Milk
Alternatives to Bottles
Offering the Bottle
Some babies choose not to take a bottle. For short periods of time, they may not need to have milk. For extended time, they may choose to go without milk when away from the breast, and get all their milk in the evening and overnight. This situation may not be ideal, and may be more tiring for the nursing parent, but fortunately baby is still getting all his nutrients and is happy during the day.
Take your time
Your baby cannot be forced into taking a bottle through hunger and persuasion. You may have to work on it over time. It’s ok to let baby play with the bottle and nipple in her mouth, getting used to the idea.
All of these tips are for babies refusing the bottle out of preference for feeding at the breast. If it seems your baby is struggling with a bottle for other reasons, please speak with an IBCLC or your pediatrician to rule out anatomical concerns. Some IBCLCs (including myself) do bottle consults to work with your baby and help you develop a plan for guiding your baby towards taking a bottle. Bottle refusal is yet another time you are not alone. Always reach out for help.
I’ve also included this information in the attached PDF for easy printing and reference.
Silver Bells, Silver Bells, It’s Breastfeeding time at the Holidays
In the end, the most important tip is to treasure the holidays and this time with your little one. I know it can feel overwhelming, especially if you are struggling with breastfeeding or the postpartum period. Take a moment to breathe and know you have created this little being, or you brought him/her into your home to love. Through breastfeeding, you are sustaining your baby’s life and giving him/her all s/he needs. That is something to celebrate!
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Cynthia Bischoff, IBCLC, is the owner and provider at Lactation Life, offering lactation consults in Maryland.