CLC vs IBCLC My Take on the Whole Debate
As some of you already know I am a CLC. That is a Certified Lactation Counselor. I became one back in 2013 when my first son was 6 mths old. After a difficult breastfeeding start and getting a lot of bad advice I decided to take matters into my own hands and further my understanding by getting my CLC license. The Certified Lactation Counselor training is a week long course taught by Healthy Children. It is a very approachable way to get involved in the lactation field of study. It is especially approachable for non-nursing majors. Lets start by reading the basic definitions and descriptions.
What is a CLC as stated by the certifying group?
"CLC Exam certification holders have demonstrated competence in the lactation skills, knowledge and attitudes that are essential to helping women in the United States and have agreed to comply withThe Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice code of ethics.
CLC certification means that a person has received training and competency verification in breastfeeding and human lactation support including assessing the latching and feeding process, providing corrective interventions, counseling mothers, understanding and applying knowledge of milk production including in special circumstances and other commonly encountered situations. All of this give CLCs a strong foundation with which to help moms and babies." http://www.healthychildren.net/clc.htm
What is an IBCLC as stated by the certifying group?
"An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) is a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. An IBCLC is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®), independently accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). An IBCLC works in a wide variety of settings, providing leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research in the lactation field." http://www.ilca.org/main/why-ibclc/ibclc
Now, that you have a general understanding let me briefly talk about how to become an IBCLC and why I am not one. There are 3 pathways to achieving the IBCLC license. Each of these pathways includes completing science courses, minimum required lactation specific study hours, observed hours with an existing IBCLC and passing the IBCLC examination. To become an IBCLC can take years, for some as many as 5. If you are already a nurse this process is a lot easier and most likely your employer (the hospital) can assist you in getting the designation. It is still a lot of work, so I am taking nothing away from people who use this pathway. If your college degree was not in a science, like mine (B.A. in History) you must take the science courses along with the traditional trainings, observations, and exam.
The IBCLC designation is certainly a more advanced training path. IBCLC's can diagnose and deal with issues far more complex than most CLC's. I say most because this is where the lines blur for me and for many others. While CLC's can not diagnose and treat things like tongue ties experience can teach you a lot about breastfeeding. The scope of practice is legally smaller for a Certifed Lactation Counselor. They can generally see when there is a bigger issue than is normal, that it is negatively impacting breastfeeding, and can refer out as necessary.
The passion of the person practicing also makes a huge difference. I am a passionate Certified Lactation Counselor. While my current situation, of having little people at home and a huge financial commitment make it unreasonable to pursue my IBCLC at this time, I am confident it is something I can achieve when the time is right. I regularly read the latest breastfeeding research and stay up to date on all modern suggestions for achieving a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
The overarching theme in my mind is that an IBCLC is certainly more qualified on paper, but don't discount a passionate CLC with a strong mind. The CLC designation is more attainable for moms of all incomes. CLC's can be available in even the smallest of communities and make a huge impact for the better. By pitting the IBCLC against the CLC we are really just hurting the lactation field. CLC's can handle most of what ails new mothers and walk them through the process of adjusting to being someone else's main food source. IBCLC's are certainly necessary to diagnose and treat more complex issues that sometimes arise. Starting with a Certifed Lactation Counselor is the best place to start when available. They can and will refer you to your pediatrician and local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant when the need arises.
If you are a mom in need consider searching the Certified Lactation Counselor database to find a CLC near you.
Photo credit: Wicklund Photography