What Exactly Is An IBCLC And How Can They Help?

Here at Boobie Foods, we talk a lot about IBCLCs – International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. In fact, Boobie Foods founder, Pinky McKay is one of Australia’s most recognised and respected IBCLCs.

An IBCLC is an allied health professional with specialist education in lactation, infant feeding, infant development and nutrition. But what exactly does an IBCLC do, and how do you know if you need to see one?

What does an IBCLC do?

An IBCLC offers non -judgemental reassurance, support and information to help you reach your personal breastfeeding goals. If you want to set yourself up for a positive breastfeeding experience, especially if you have had challenges with a previous breastfeeding experience (yes, IBCLCs do antenatal consults too); are struggling with nipple or breast pain; have a premature or unwell baby or a baby with a special medical condition; multiples – twins, triplets; want to breastfeed after breast surgery – eg a breast reduction or implants; need to express to supply milk for your separated baby or a baby who won’t breastfeed; are returning to work and need strategies to maintain breastfeeding; or have concerns about your milk supply; In fact, if you are having any challenges with breastfeeding, an IBCLC can provide invaluable support that will help you relax and enjoy this precious time with your baby.

They will take a baby and maternal health history, observe a breastfeed, check your baby’s oral function, troubleshoot and support you through any breastfeeding challenges.

These can range from baby issues, including:

  • poor latch
  • ineffective sucking
  • Inadequate Milk Transfer
  • Fussy Baby
  • Oral ties
  • low oral muscle tone

They will also investigate maternal health conditions that may be impacting breastfeeding, including:

Mastitis/breast and nipple pain

• breast surgery

• retained placenta

• postpartum haemorrhage

• Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

• Diabetes

• Thyroid conditions

• insufficient glandular tissue (IGT)

• Medications

• lifestyle issues

How is an IBCLC different to a ‘Breastfeeding Consultant’/Lactation Consultant (or any other name that implies the person may have qualifications in lactation)?

When it comes to breastfeeding help, information and support, an IBCLC is a gold standard qualification. To qualify, an IBCLC needs:

• 1000 documented hours experience helping women breastfeed

• 500 hrs lactation education

• a medical background or 14 university level health science qualifications

• to pass a 4 hour international exam

• to recertify every 5 years, either by exam or 75 CERPS (that's 75 hours of verified continuing education).

In contrast, not all lactation consultants/breastfeeding consultants have qualifications, and they are not required to meet the same stringent requirements as an IBCLC. If you need help with breastfeeding, ask your health carer – are you an IBCLC?

How to find an IBCLC.

Many Maternity hospitals have midwives who are also IBCLCs and some Maternal and Child Health Nurses and GPs have an IBCLC qualification (ask!). To find an IBCLC in private practice who will either work out of a clinic or visit you in your home, which is so much easier if you have a newborn,  check the Find a Lactation Consultant pages on LCANZ (Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand) or ILCA (international Lactation Consultants Association) website. You can search by suburbs and postcode to find your closest IBCLC.

IBCLCs are members of the allied healthcare profession, so it is appropriate for them to charge for the time they spend in a lactation consultation. The fees may be covered by your health insurance or, if your IBCLC is also an Endorsed Midwife, you may be able to claim from medicare if you have a newborn less than 6 weeks old.