The Nine Roles of a Lactation Consultant

nine-roles-of-a-lactation-consultantThe following are the nine roles of a lactation consultant as defined by the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA).

Advocate:

  • The IBCLC is the advocate for breastfeed¬ing women, infants, children, families, and communities (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006). The IBCLC role is integral to the function of the mother’s and infant’s healthcare team.

Clinical Expert:

  • As a clinical expert in the management of breastfeeding and human lactation, the IBCLC is trained to counsel mothers and families on initiation, exclusivity, and duration of breastfeeding, and to assist amidst any difficul¬ties or high-risk situations. IBCLCs are sensitive to and support the needs of mothers, infants, children, and various family structures in working toward breastfeeding goals (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006).

Collaborator:

  • Partnership is central to IBCLC practice. The IBCLC collaborates with mothers, infants, children, families, and communities to meet their breastfeeding and lactation needs. IBCLCs are members on healthcare teams that care for mothers, infants, and children. IBCLCs also collaborate with policy makers at all levels in various organizational settings, to implement evidence-based, practical, and economically sound lactation policies and programs (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006).

Educator:

  • The IBCLC shares current, evidence-based infor-mation in breastfeeding and lactation to provide anticipato¬ry guidance, as well as to empower mothers and families to manage breastfeeding challenges if they arise. IBCLCs also provide staff and clinician education on the science of lacta¬tion and clinical management of breastfeeding. Therefore, the IBCLC is required to keep up-to-date with the science of clinical lactation via mandated recertification (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006).

Facilitator:

  • The IBCLC is trained to facilitate breastfeeding mothers and families in reaching their breastfeeding and lac¬tation goals. IBCLCs facilitate program and policy develop¬ment to support breastfeeding and lactation.

Investigator:

  • The clinical expertise and skill of the IBCLC is in breastfeeding and lactation management. Thus, the IBCLC supports, directs, and participates in research and evidence-based practice that moves forward the body of empirical lactation knowledge (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006).

Policy Consultant:

  • The clinical expertise and practice experience of the IBCLC provides substantial insight into the viability of practice changes that affect lactation and breastfeeding initiatives (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006). In light of the strong evidence to support the health and economic benefits of breastfeeding, the IBCLC is well-posi¬tioned to be the primary consultant for any institutional or legislative initiatives that influence breastfeeding, breastfeed¬ing mothers, families, and communities.

Professional:

  • The IBCLC is a healthcare professional with a multi-disciplinary role that straddles generalized support for breastfeeding, and allied health care. As a professional cadre, IBCLCs are guided in practice by a set of standards, a code of ethics, and a defined scope of practice. These regula¬tions are aimed at protecting the public and ensuring that IBCLCs provide safe care. Standardization of specialized knowledge and skill is accomplished through one interna¬tionally administered exam and movement towards ap¬proved or accredited collegiate-based educational programs (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006).

Promoter:

  • The IBCLC is trained to promote breastfeeding, i.e., carry out activities to increase interest in breastfeeding and breastfeeding support. IBCLCs support breastfeeding and lactation by providing skilled support for mothers in their breastfeeding journey. The presence of an IBCLC sends the message that breastfeeding is supported in that setting (IBLCE, 2003, 2008; ILCA, 2006). Often accreditation bodies that endorse institutions as breastfeeding friendly will assess the availability of an IBCLC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011; IBCLC Care Award, 2011; National Immunization Survey, 2010; United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2010).

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