How an IBCLC is different from other lactation professionals, and when you should see one

You might have heard the term LC bounced around in prenatal education sessions, in moms groups, or by friends and family. But what exactly is an LC? And what do they do?

LC, or Lactation Consultant, is a broad term, often used to describe any type of lactation professional. … Lactation trained nurses, breastfeeding educators, peer counselors, lactation counselors, La Leche League leaders etc. And while these are all positions of value, the role designations between each one of these unique professions varies. And so does the care that they are able to provide.

A lactation trained nurse is often times who you will see in the hospital as your labor or postpartum nurse. A breastfeeding educator might also be a doula or work leading moms groups. Peer counselors work for WIC. Lactation counselors are generally nurses that hold a secondary certification, or who you will find leading breastfeeding groups or classes. La Leche League Leaders lead mom to mom support groups. And then there is the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC. 

IBCLC is the highest designation that can be awarded to a lactation professional, and also the most difficult to achieve. To become an IBCLC there are very strict requirements for college level courses, lactation specific education, and hundreds of hands on clinical hours. IBCLCs have to pass an intensive international board exam, and then recertify by exam or by continuing education credits every five years. IBCLC’s work as integral members of the healthcare team. Often times driving the care between pediatrician and patient. You may see them working in hospitals, in doctor’s office, or within their own private practice. You could think of them sort of like the Nurse Practitioners of lactation practice. 

So how do you know who to see? 

 The help that each of these professions is able to provide is backed by what type of experience and knowledge base they have, as well as where they practice within the community. Lactation nurses are great at getting routine breastfeeding off to a strong start. Lactation Counselors are able to handle more complicated cases, either through group meetings, or often times even on a one to one basis. For routine breastfeeding concerns, like questions about establishing or maintaining milk supply, returning to work, pumping, or feeding logistics, Lactation Counselors are a great place to go. But when more complex breastfeeding concerns arise, such as managing low milk supply, infants who will not latch, non-healing painful or damaged nipples, concerns of potential tongue or lip ties, hormonal imbalances, failure to thrive, recurrent mastitis, or induced re-lactation, to name a few- an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant is the way to go. 

To find an IBCLC, you can simply call your local hospital and ask to be directed to the office of the Lactation Consultant. Hospital based care is easy to access, and is typically covered up front by insurance. But appointment availability can be hard to come by, knowledge base may be stronger in the area of newborns, and resources and referral options are sometimes limited. You must also be clear that you would like to see somebody who is board certified, as sometimes, the personnel employed in these positions are not. 

If you find yourself in a more complex breastfeeding situation, something that will require more follow up care and one on one attention- and especially if you are experiencing potential symptoms of tongue or lip ties, a Private Practice IBCLC is the way to go. 

Private Practice IBCLC’s differ from hospital based IBCLCs in the amount of time that they are able to commit to each case. They generally offer lengthy in-home consultations and unlimited follow up conversations, at almost any time of the day. They are able to provide many different resources that hospital IBCLC’s may not have access to, including extensive referral listings for other trained professionals who may also be able to help you and your baby. 

Currently, in NH, there are only a handful of Private Practice IBCLC’s offering services. Lucky for you, they are quite spread out around the state, so nearly the whole state is serviced by one. In order to find out who services your area, you can use the IBCLC finder on the websites, or …And that gets me to my shameless plug. 

Hi! My name is Sara Ann Hiland. I am a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and I own and operate a Private Practice out of Bedford NH, called Nourish Holistic Lactation Support. I am happy to be able to offer both in-office and in-home appointments, within a 45 minute travel distance of the greater Bedford area. 

Appointments are confidential, comprehensive, and non-judgmental. All of my initial appointments last for 2-3 hours, and include unlimited follow up conversations by email. Follow up appointments in-office, or in-home are also available. At each and every one of my appointment clients will receive: a thorough review of health history, observation of a feeding session, a weighted feed, a breast assessment, an assessment of the baby’s oral cavity and musculature, hands on help and educational information, and referrals to any other resources that may be of assistance given the circumstances. Office visits take place in a warm, comfortable, inviting environment. For home visits- you don’t even have to get out of your PJs. 

While I am able to provide assistance with nearly any breastfeeding or pumping concern, I also have extensive experience with bottle fed babies; and I specialize in assessing for tethered oral tissues (tongue and lip ties), feeding the premature infant, and in getting bottle fed infants back to breast. I would love to help you on your journey to reaching your breastfeeding goals! Please stop by my expo table to meet me :)