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How to become a lactation consultant

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A few decades ago, breastfeeding rates fell to unacceptable lows because artificial milk was touted better than breast milk and a liberating measure for women. Thanks to the research, it became known, little by little, that what was supposed to be an advance turned out to be a setback because the artificial milk did not turn out to be better. The babies lost the defenses of breast milk and many associated characteristics since the breastfeeding is not just a portion of food.

When the mothers returned to breastfeed, a knowledge gap was evidenced at the social and health level. Women who had problems with breastfeeding did not obtain adequate answers in the medical consultation. It made some women decide to support each other, ultimately leading to the lactation consultant’s figure.

What lactation consultants do?

Lactation consultants are health practitioners, especially educated and trained in the diagnostic testing and management of breastfeeding.

Many new moms confront breastfeeding issues, such as discomfort, latching issues, pain, or low milk production. In such cases, a lactation consultant may be consulted to provide training and information on topics such as breastfeeding positioning, breast pumping, healthy expressed milk storage, and how to maximize the production of milk.

Lactation consultants may also assist infants who do not gain weight fast enough, premature babies, or those with medical problems such as children with cleft lips and/or palate.

How can I become a lactation consultant?

Certification:

The IBCLC is the only international certification for breastfeeding consultation. Obtaining this certification ensures that the lactation consultant is at the forefront of breastfeeding and human lactation knowledge.

The prerequisites for the exam.

To take the IBCLC lactation consultant exam, you must have the basic prerequisites: 1000 hours of clinical practice in breastfeeding in the five years preceding the exam and have completed 90 hours of specialized training in the past five years, not counting the teaching hours received to obtain the midwifery diploma. These 90 hours can be obtained by following training with the International lactation consultant association. 

Attend courses, workshops, and conferences

At the outset, it is good to take basic training that covers all aspects related to breastfeeding. It will give you a global perspective of what you are going to face and help you recognize your weaknesses and strengths. Then you can go on doing more advanced and specific training.

Read everything that falls into your hands: 

And when we say everything is EVERYTHING on physiology, contraindications, medication, diagnostic tests, protocols, etc. And from all kinds of sources, the bad and the good, so you will learn to differentiate them, you will form your own criteria, and you will also be able to guide mothers on where to look for truthful and reliable information.

Train yourself in counseling: 

You need various knowledge of physiology, pathologies, etc., but just as important are the skills of listening, support, and communication. Some women come very preparedly “as standard” with these skills. Still, they can learn techniques and recommendations, fortunately for those of us who have some problems in keeping quiet and listening carefully or in clearly transmitting certain concepts or instructions.

Learn from other advisors: 

In general, all advisers are usually more than willing to help and collaborate with other advisors, regardless of the experience that one or the other has.

Practice with mothers: 

With caution but without fear. At first, it’s scary, and you repress yourself for not wanting to make things worse, but you will learn much more and better if you put the knowledge you have acquired into practice. The meetings are the perfect setting: in a circle of women and surrounded by your companions.

Doze your energies: 

Take this activity like a marathon. Mentoring mothers is very rewarding but also exhausting and sometimes devastating. You will need a lot of “emotional” recharges. As much as we say it, no one can ever prevent the consultants from getting burned at some point. It is “the law of the consultant’s life.” But we’ll never stop saying it, so at least when it happens, it doesn’t catch you off guard, and you can cope better.

Get trained in ICT tools (Information and Communication Technologies): 

Certainly, this is not necessary to be a lactation consultant, but we find it highly recommended. ICTs allow you to access online training, a multitude of information sources, collaborative work teams, other advisors, involved health professionals, and thousands of mothers. It puts everything just one click away and also at the time that suits your best convenience.

What problems can a lactation consultant help with?

Among the most common problems with breastfeeding are summarized below, and how a lactation consultant can help.

A baby that won’t cling.

Ideally, your newborn should latch on during the first hours of life. If it doesn’t, or if the grip is uncomfortable, a midwife or other supportive mother can check. Don’t be afraid to ask to have the grip rechecked, even if it has already been done at your birthing center. If your baby still does not latch after 24 hours, and you are no longer in the maternity unit, an accredited lactation consultant (IBCLC) can offer further assistance.

Sore nipples.

The most common reason is the wrong latch on the baby. A support mother or counselor can help you adjust your position. If the pain is significant or persistent, even after adjustments, a reputable lactation consultant (IBCLC) can check for another cause that has not been previously detected.

Breast engorgement.

The best way to avoid engorgement (breasts that are excessively full and hard when the milk “comes in,” usually between days two and four) is to frequently feed your baby. A lactation consultant can show you how to massage your breasts and express milk by hand or with a pump to reduce pressure. If your baby is incapable of breastfeeding due to engorgement, you will need to see your midwife or a lactation consultant.

Concern about supply.

Many mothers worry about their milk supply for the first few days. A supportive mother or your midwife or nurse can point out that it is normal for the baby to feed every hour or two during this phase. Everything will be fine as long as you produce a good number of wet and dirty diapers and gain enough weight.

If your infant is not gaining weight, a lactation consultant or counselor can prepare a feeding plan for you to ensure nutrition and maintain your supply.

How much a lactation consultant earn?

Depending on their location, certified lactation consultants charge $100 to $200 per session or more. Medical experts such as general practitioners and nurses who combine lactation with their current practices receive a salary average for their occupation.

What are the job opportunities for lactation consultants in the long term?

Self-employed lactation consultants can establish a profitable practice and attract more new customers by receiving referrals from former patients and other health care practitioners in the community.

In addition to physicians or nurses, lactation consultants could very well advance their professional career with further education and training, progressing into leadership roles in their practice and hospital.

To know more, click here.

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