As an expectant parent or breastfeeding mother you may come into contact with many different professionals who may offer advice to support you and you may come across these people in a number of different settings.

Do you know who’s helping you?

Lactation Consultant IBCLC

A Lactation Consultant is a professional  who is registered with the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC).  Their background is normally that of a health professional and are accredited breastfeeding councillors or individuals who have demonstrated that they have studied topics that are set out by the exam board. They will also demonstrate 1000 hours helping women in groups and clinics after qualifying as a Breastfeeding Councillor or healthcare professional before they can sit the exam and have also independently studied 90 hours of advanced breastfeeding  education.  They have in-depth counselling skills and keep to the standards of practice set out by IBLCE.  They are kept current by recertification every 5 years. They are paid members of the profession and can work in hospitals, the community  and private practice. They have the ability to deal with complex breastfeeding issues and see the mother and baby as a holistic picture or as a dyad.

Breastfeeding Counsellors

Breastfeeding Counsellors will work under the supervision of an organisation which may also give them a variation to their title. So you may hear them referred to as La Leche League Leaders (LLLGB), Breastfeeding supporter (BFN) or Breastfeeding counsellor (ABM or NCT).  These are voluntary originations who will accredit and run training over a period of two years part-time, some being at college level and others being University accredited. These professionals would also be experienced breastfeeding mothers who have fed their own baby for 6-12 months many practicing extended breastfeeding. They will have extensive counselling skills and will be working with the mother to ascertain what her own goals are in her breastfeeding relationship. To keep up the licence to practice each organisation will have its own policy on continuing education that they will require. BFC volunteer in a number of different settings such as antenatal classes, helplines and mother support groups. They provide a free service to mothers although some may be paid for some of the hours they do. Their skills are to help mothers with common breast feeding problems and get a picture of what may be causing the mothers concerns. They also work to help normalise breastfeeding patterns and behaviours of the baby. Making referrals to further professional advice and services where needed. They attend regular supervision within accredited body.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

A breastfeeding peer supporter works under the supervision of the Children Centres as Volunteers, they may also be found in breastfeeding drop-ins and hospital and provide their services to mothers for free.  The peer supporters would have completed a basic 8 week training course which may be accredited through an organisation and some may even receive a qualification from a University or college. Peer supporters are mothers who have breastfeed for a period of time and are motivated to help others due to their own experiences positive and negative. They cover a range of topics from positioning and attachment, communication and listening skills, anatomy of the breast and many others. They are taught skills to be able to work as mother-to-mother helpers and understand the limitations to their role.  As a peer supporter they are expected to attend enrichment days to ensure they are kept up to date with current information and also attend supervision.  They are able to support mothers in a number of basic breastfeeding issues such as positioning and attachment and help signpost mothers to BFC/LC and information available within the breastfeeding group. They are trained to recognise when they need to refer a client onto one of the other specialists.  Peer supporters also offer a friendly listening ear and may welcome and greet mothers and babies when they arrive to group, acting as a triage if there is a BFC or LC present in the group to allow them optimum time with each mother.

Further reading

Milk Matters. Who’s helping you?

Lactation Consultants of Great  Britain. Who’s Who in Breastfeeding Support and Lactation in the UK.