Every year in March we celebrate IBCLC Day, this year it is March 5th and the theme is “How Has Your IBCLC Helped You?”
When a mom has a question about breastfeeding, she usually turns to her family or friends first. However, if she is serving in the military, far from family and friends and is facing a big problem she may call on an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) to help her.
There are many IBCLCs serving AD military mothers, and for good reason. IBCLCs have extensive training in breastfeeding care through coursework and clinical practice, and have passed an internationally-recognized exam. They come from many backgrounds, including but not limited to nursing, dietetics, medicine, and mother-to-mother support such as La Leche League and WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling. Some, but not all, have experience serving in the military as well. IBCLCs take their initial interest in breastfeeding and expand that into professional expertise to help military mothers overcome a wide variety of challenging breastfeeding situations.
Although most IBCLCs who work with AD military mothers work in military hospitals, others work at base or post clinics, local health departments, or their own private lactation consulting practices. They provide families with breastfeeding information through prenatal breastfeeding classes; immediate help in learning breastfeeding after the birth of the baby; and on-going help and problem-solving after military moms return to duty and breastfeeding (and pumping) continues as the baby grows.
IBCLCs help military mothers learn the facts about breastfeeding and how breastfeeding works. IBCLCs help military mothers learn how to express their milk and ship it home. IBCLCs help military mothers find a time and place to pump whether that is on the range, overseas, or down the hall in a converted supply room. IBCLCs help military mothers to wean if that is necessary. IBCLCs help AD military mothers succeed in their breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be. IBCLCs also help by training other health care professionals in evidence-based breastfeeding care, collaborating with local breastfeeding support groups, and consulting with commands to create breastfeeding friendly workspaces and lactation polices.
Did an IBCLC help you reach your breastfeeding goals?
“Thanks to my IBCLC, I went from thinking I could never breastfeed while serving in the military to becoming the go-to person at my command for other breastfeeding military mothers. She helped me with getting the best pump, finding ways to maximize my supply, and even how to talk to my supervisor. I was able to breastfeed him for two years while on active duty!”
Did an IBCLC help you establish breastfeeding?
“My IBCLC worked really hard those first six weeks of convalescent leave to help me get breastfeeding established. She knew how important it was to me to make this work.”
Did an IBCLC help you out when you were sent away on a training exercise or a deployment overseas?
“My IBCLC helped me figure out a plan for shipping my milk home when I was sent to an 18-week long school. She kept in touch with me via email to make sure that pumping was going well.”
Did an IBCLC help you feel supported as you went back to duty with unsupportive co-workers or workplace?
“My IBCLC has listened to me complain about my unsupportive workplace, has given me tips for combating the worst of it and put me in touch with a virtual support group. It makes me feel not so isolated and tells me that she really cares about my success.”
Did you have milk supply issues that made breastfeeding and pumping more challenging?
“I had a low supply to begin with , and combined with my work schedule, I thought breastfeeding was a no-go. But my IBCLC helped me find ways to successfully breastfeed and pump what I could. She taught me about alternative ways to provide my milk and that breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing.”
IBCLCs make a difference for AD military mothers. Celebrate IBCLC Day by sending your IBCLC an e-card or posting a Thank You on her Facebook Page or printing a certificate to give her in person. More ideas can be found here.
How has an IBCLC helped you? Please share your thoughts, either in the comments here or on Facebook.