Christina Longo, RN, BSN, IBCLC,CLE is a Certified Lactation Consultant and lactation educator. She is employed by United Health Services for Community Health as a Health Information Nurse Specialist.
The Role of the Lactation Consultant
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recognized breastmilk as the preferred choice of infant nutrition. Current AAP recommendations suggest that mothers feed their infants breastmilk exclusively for the first six months of life and continue to supplement their baby’s diet with breastmilk into the first year of life. As research continues to show the long term benefits of breastfeeding, health care professionals have also taken a more active role in providing support, education, and assistance to mothers and babies.
In 1985 the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) was founded. Mothers quickly learned that they now had a new resource for breastfeeding support, the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. The International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) includes a wide variety of health care providers: nurses, educators, midwives, physicians, social workers, and physical and occupational therapists.
Preventative health care is the main focus of the IBCLC. The lactation consultant demonstrates the skills and knowledge to provide quality care to breastfeeding families. Qualifications to become a Certified Lactation Consultant include meeting a number of eligibility requirements. These requirements are based on educational as well as clinical standards. After successfully passing a certification exam, the title of IBCLC is awarded. This exam is offered on an annual basis in several countries in a variety of languages. Board certification insures a high quality of care and management for breastfeeding families. The technical skills of the lactation consultant are invaluable. The ability to assist with breastfeeding in a variety of situations such as prematurity, neurological impairment and congenital defects in the newborn has provided mothers the opportunity to offer their babies the best form of nutrition for optimal growth and development. The lactation consultant functions as an educator, counselor, and clinician.
In order to maintain a high standard of breastfeeding management, the lactation consultant is required to re-certify after five years. This can be done by written exam or documented completion of seventy five hours of continuing education in breastfeeding. After ten years, the lactation consultant is required to re-certify by written exam.
In nursing we have seen the advantage of additional credentialing and certification in a wide variety of health care disciplines. The lactation consultant has definitely proven to be an asset in the area of Maternal-Child Health Nursing.
Last Updated: 1/8/13