IB who? LC what? When it comes to breastfeeding, specifically breastfeeding problems, it's often recommended that you consult with an IBCLC. But what exactly IS an IBCLC and, more importantly, how can they help?
We spoke to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Osteopath and mama-of-two Tash Lunn AKA The Boobala to find out!
First things first, what exactly does an IBCLC do and how are they different from the midwife or Lactation Consultant you might see in hospital?
"An IBCLC is a lactation and breastfeeding professional who helps mothers, parents and caregivers when it comes to breastfeeding and breastmilk," says Tash. "We help mums and dads, mums and mums, dads and dads and all
type of caregivers, offering a wide range of breastfeeding support, education and assistance for all types of breastfeeding issues, from the simple to the complex and from before hub is born to weaning and beyond."
"In Australia, anyone (even someone with ZERO breastfeeding
knowledge or education) can call themselves a Lactation Consultant."
"I think most mums want to breastfeed but with modern society and
cultural taboos, moving away from the ‘village’, we often aren’t
exposed to breastfeeding from an early age."
As anyone who has ever breastfed will tell you, breastfeeding is a learnt skill. It can be tough going, especially in the early days, and as a new mama, you can feel completely alone. "I see a lot of mums in the early postnatal period, after they have returned home," says Tash. "Often they are feeling overwhelmed, sleep deprived and confused as to what is normal newborn behaviour and how their baby should be feeding."
It's often in these early days, when exhaustion is rife that breastfeeding concerns start to rear their head. "Usually it is in this state of tiredness and confusion that issues such as nipple pain, poor positioning or difficulty feeding, begin to appear and that is where an IBCLC can come and assess the mum and baby, see where the issue lies and assist in managing that issue."
A mama might also need the help of an IBCLC when they're further along in their breastfeeding journey and battling issues like low supply, recurrent mastitis/blocked ducts/infections, retuning to work or when they require help with weaning.
Image source: The Boobala
It's a statement not unfamiliar to Tash. "I often find mums are overwhelmed or
sometimes feeling unheard, but really do want to continue breastfeeding and need someone to help create a plan to get them through that hurdle," she says.
The most important thing to note is that you don't have to do it alone and help is available. "Getting the help of an IBCLC either in your area, or via Skype, who can assist you with your specific breastfeeding issue is invaluable," says Tash. "Many IBCLC’s are happy to have a chat with you before your initial consultation to see if they are the right fit for you or perhaps refer you on to another health professional if help outside their scope of practice is needed."
For immediate support and advice, calling the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s 24 hour hotline is a great start (1800 686 268). Their trained Breastfeeding Counsellors can give you general advice and help you talk through
Tash herself is not unfamiliar with the challenges that breastfeeding can pose. "My first baby had difficulty latching, was colicky, mix fed and ended up have quite a prominent tongue tie, bouts of mastitis, low supply, you name it," she remembers. "He breastfed for about 5 months before I put him on formula due to pressure from family and not knowing any better."
The way you feed your baby can sometimes be held up to a lot of scrutiny, with some women feeling nervous to seek help from a breastfeeding professional due to the fear that they'll be judged for using formula. This couldn't be further from the truth says Tash. "There is a long held misconception that an IBCLC’s are ‘lactivists’ or ‘nipple nazis’ and will be hell bent on you breastfeeding no matter what," she says. "IBCLC’s are trained to support you and your choices, and what you want to achieve with breastfeeding, taking into consideration your personality, other commitments, mental health etc. They are your advocate, supporter, educator and cheer squad!"
In fact, many of the mothers Tash works with are mix feeding and need help with transitioning back to exclusively breastfeeding or managing mix feeding.
Words of wisdom from Tash from mamas on their own breastfeeding journey?
"Take it one feed at a time, one day at a time. Be kind to yourself and reach out and get support!"
Tash is a Sydney based IBCLC, mama of two, experienced Osteopath and essential oils junkie. You can find her at www.theboobala.com.au or connect with her on social media:
Insta - @theboobala
Facebook - The Boobala
For more breastfeeding tips and advice, check out our resources here