Archive for the ‘Lactation Consulting’ Category

Keeping Track

January 4, 2012

One thing that sets becoming an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) apart from other programs is the degree of independence that it requires. Where university degree programs specify which courses are required to graduate and provide you with opportunities to fulfill the requirements, the designation I am chasing simply lists what courses I need to take and how many clinical hours I need (500!)… finding appropriate courses and learning opportunities is entirely up to me.

Case in point: When I went to teacher’s college, I was assigned a “home group” with which I traveled to my various courses throughout the week, and when it came time for practicum, someone sitting in an office somewhere printed me off my assignment of which classroom I was to show up to practice teach in on what date. Of course, that degree (and other degree programs) do take dedication and hard work, but everything is laid out for you.

The IBLCE allows candidates a five year period within which to fulfill all requirements to write the exam. My plan is to write the exam in July 2015, which will mark the end of my five years.  All contact hours and courses must be completed by April of that year. This  gives me a little over three more years to fulfill all of my obligations.

I decided to take stock of exactly where I am, to better understand where I am going and what I need to do to get there.

The verdict: I need to kick it up a notch. I’ve still got lots of time, but I’d rather meet the requirements slowly but surely than to be panicking when only a few months remain.

University level academic requirements achieved:

  • Biology
  • Infant and Child Growth and Development
  • Psychology
  • Research
  • Sociology

Still to achieve:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Nutrition

Lactation specific education: Two courses down (Nine to go!)

There are a further six mini courses I must complete: (These are the ones that sound extremely exciting to me. YAWN!)

Basic life support (e.g. CPR – I have this one), Medical documentation, Medical terminology, Occupational safety for health professionals, Professional ethics for health professionals, and Universal safety precautions and infection control.

Clinical hours required: 500

Clinical hours achieved: 25 (only 475 to go!)

My biggest challenge right now is meeting the 500 contact hours requirement. I am currently interning one afternoon a week which typically gives me 2.5-3 hours. (To count for hours I must be actively working with mother-baby dyads). I don’t have enough weeks left to record just 3 hours at a time. Looks like working one more half day a week is in my future!

I’m starting a new course tonight, “Positioning and Latch of Baby at the Breast” – off to study I go!

Let’s Get Clinical

October 4, 2010

It’s official! I  finally received approval from the IBLCE to start collecting my clinical hours! Because I am not a health care provider, I had to (along with my mentor) develop my plan for how I am  going to learn all of the LC competencies AND accumulate 500 clinical hours.

Well, that plan has finally got official approval and I logged my first clinical hours this week. Three down, only 497 to go!

The list of competencies is lengthy but fascinating. It is amazing for me to look at that list, now 9 months into observation and course work, and realize how many of them I can cross off my list as knowing and understanding already. There is still much to learn but it is encouraging to realize just how far I’ve come. I look forward to all the experiences awaiting me. I am especially fascinated with the idea of working with infants under 2 hours of age… now I just have to find a couple mommies who’d like to have an LC in training attend their births!

Me Vs. Wrench…. I Soooo Win

June 29, 2010

I am happy to report that the changes that the IBLCE has made to their program will have a minimal effect on me. The only change to my plans is that I must take three additional university courses (anatomy, physiology and nutrition). Thankfully, because of my psychology degree, I have already taken the other 5 required university course. I will now take these three courses concurrently with the 11 breastfeeding specific courses I am already taking (or will take!), and the 500 practice hours required. No biggie. 🙂

Right now I am happily studying “Breastfeeding Foundations” and gearing up to begin accumulating my hours this summer, working directly with mamas and babes. Bye bye shadow!

A Wrench in my Plans

June 15, 2010

Just when I thought I was really on my way…

The IBLCE has recently amended their requirements for those lactation consultant applicants who are not health care professionals. That would be me. The changes require prospective consultants to have eight university credits from the health field. It makes sense – because LCs are a part of the health care provider  team, it is important that we be trained and have similar knowledge.

I get that. It just makes my journey not so clear cut anymore.

Thankfully, because of my psychology degree, I do have *most* of the required courses. I already have psychology, sociology, biology, research methods and infant development under my belt. All that I am missing is anatomy, physiology and nutrition.

What this means for me is that I must now take those three university credits in addition to my lactation specific courses as well as my 500 hours of clinical practice.

If I can take them concurrently as I progress through my learning journey, it won’t be that big of a deal. However, it is not clear to me on the website whether or not I must have those credits before I continue. I’m awaiting a response to my inquiring email.


I don’t even want to think about that. Fingers crossed.

Liquid Gold

May 25, 2010

I just finished my very first lactation consultant course, Breastmilk: Function and Composition. I was absolutely enthralled with all of the material I was learning and enjoyed sitting down at night to study. I am happy to report that I did very well (98%, 100% and 98% on the three tests!).

It is recommended that you have six base courses before starting the LC courses. I had most of them, but was missing out on the anatomy/physiology and medical terminology. I figured I would be just fine…. so I didn’t take the ones I was missing. OOPS. I think my brain was strained a little more than it needed to be, so before I continue on I am going to take the couple of courses that I am missing. At least it will save me having to be so dependent on Wikipedia for the next courses!

So about this course…. I always knew that breast milk was the best possible thing a mama could give her baby, and of course everyone has heard the phrase, “breast is best” I just never realized how dramatic an effect breast milk can have. And it’s not just while the baby is nursing;  there are effects from being breastfed (or not) that can continue on into adulthood.

Here are a few of the points that had me most amazed:

  • Breast milk contains hormones which continue to develop an infant’s digestive  and respiratory systems AFTER birth! The extra cool thing about this is that mothers who give birth to premature infants will have MORE of these hormones in their milk!
  • One of the proteins in breast milk (alpha-lactalbumin) takes a form that has demonstrated the ability to kill every tumour cell against which it has been tested. WOW. This may explain why children who are formula fed have higher incidences of cancer. It also may explain why breastfeeding women have lower rates of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
  • I was amazed by the immunological properties of breast milk. When the mother is exposed to a virus or bacteria, her body makes antibodies against the “bug” and IMMEDIATELY sends it to the breast (and hence into the baby.) It is so awesome how fast it happens!
  • On a related note, infants who have been introduced to formula before 6 months of age have a 6x higher rate of pneumonia. They will also have, on average, 3 more ear infections than their breastfed counterparts.
  • Being fed breast milk is the most important preventative factor for MS. This really interests me because I have two aunts living with the disease. I am very curious to find out if they were breastfed or not.
  • Children who are not breastfed are more likely to grow into overweight adults. I had heard this before but never understood the science behind it. Simply put, we have a hormone in our bodies called leptin. It’s job is to regulate food intake and metabolism. Infants who are formula fed have half the normal levels in their bodies! Again… WOW.

The more I read and learn about pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding, the more I come to understand that a woman’s body is really a miraculous thing!  I’ve just got to write it one more time…. WOW!  🙂

The Big Conference!

April 27, 2010

I sat down in my seat, surveyed the room full of two hundred lactation consultants, doulas and public health nurses, and felt…right. I belonged there. THIS is where I was supposed to be! I’m sure raging pregnancy hormones *may* have had a tiny role, but I actually felt tears prick my eyes as I realized that I have finally found my calling.

I learned so much, and it was reaffirmed to me just how much there is still is to learn. I am looking forward to being in a role where my sole responsibility is to help mothers and babies. I am certain challenging times will present themselves, but I imagine it will be a rewarding career.

My most favourite presentation was by Diane Weissinger. She gave a presentation which was focused on what we, as humans, can learn from other mammals about the birth process and breastfeeding.

I was fascinated the entire time she was speaking and am not sure if I can do justice to the gist of her message here.

She began her career as an ethologist – someone who studies animal behaviour. She studied the “sand bathing rituals of the brown quail”  – or something of the sort – which when she announced that at the beginning of her talk brought several snickers from the crowd. We were wondering how THAT exactly brought her to be speaking at a breastfeeding conference…

Well, she eventually did go on to become a certified LC, but there were experiences from her first life with quails that taught her a lot about humans.

She told us a story of when she would be observing these birds in a lab setting. When the study first started, her bird blind  had not yet arrived so she crouched in the corner of the room to observe the bird’s behaviour. She was astounded by the strength of the pecking order that existed. There were very clear boundaries and roles within the bird’s flock. Her bird blind eventually arrived and once she was undercover and no longer noticed by the birds, an astounding thing happened: the pecking order completely disappeared. She realized that it was her mere presence that was causing the birds to act a certain way.

She went on to talk about birth and always came back to the example of the quails. What smalls things are we doing with births that are unknowingly altering it’s natural course?

She discussed the “birthing practices” of several mammals. Pick a mammal. The literature for every single of  them  tells owners/vets to make sure the mother is in a comfortable, familiar place. Lights should be dim and the room should be quiet.  You are never to move a labouring mammal… she should be left to position herself as she pleases. Interrupting her can stall her labour….

So here’s the big lightbulb… WE ARE MAMMALS!!!

Think back to the quails…. what interferences are we lending to the birth process by continually checking dilation (the cervix knows how to dilate – it doesn’t need help!), telling women when to push (again – women know how and when), and having women lie down flat on their backs (women who are allowed to position themselves almost always squat when giving birth…)

Somehow through the medicalisation of birth, women have learned that we don’t know how to give birth and to breastfeed, when our bodies and our babies know exactly what to do.

I remember moments after Tristan was born, asking my midwife if I should try to nurse him. She told me to go ahead and I clearly recall looking up at her with anxious eyes as I replied, “But I don’t know how….”

The truth is, if an (un-medicated) baby is left to lay skin-to-skin on his mothers chest, he will find his way to the breast all on his own. When he is only minutes old. Amazing! (You can see an example of it here and an interesting study here). Of course, it is common for help to be needed with positioning and latch, but the point is that it is natural and instinctual for both mama and baby.

Anyways, just some food for thought. It’s really making me think about how I would like my upcoming birth to unfold.


My first course, Breastmilk: Composition and Function starts this week. I know, sounds thrilling doesn’t it?

To me, it actually does! 🙂

My First Conference!

April 21, 2010

Just a little update…. I am going to be spending the next two days at the Ottawa Valley Lactation Consultants annual conference! The event is titled, “Strategies to Help with Breastfeeding.” It sounds like a great way for me to start my formal education in my new field.

I’m excited to meet new people, and I know I will be exposed to more knowledge that I can hope to remember in such a short time frame. It will be fun to feel like I am really “one of them!”

I know I will be exhausted by the end of it. No parks and playgroups for me for the rest of the week – the conference runs 7:30 to 4:30 both days!

A Mentor?!?!?!?!?

March 31, 2010

I am so excited about the email I just received! I am squealing with excitement! Ok, so the squealing is only in my head but I am squealing nonetheless!

I went ahead  and asked one of the local consultants I’ve been working with if she’d be interested in being my formal mentor. I’ve been really hoping she would say yes as we get along really well and seem to have similar ideas about breastfeeding.

I just received an email back… and she’s interested! She is going to call me so that we can chat more! YIPPEEEE!!!!

Becoming More Than a Shadow…

March 31, 2010

I am enjoying my time shadowing the talented and knowledgeable lactation consultants in Ottawa.  I am still visiting a couple of clinics regularly and tomorrow will work with a new consultant at another clinic. It is very valuable for me to work with many different consultants in a variety of settings. Though they all have a similar knowledge base, their personalities, and thus, the way they deal with mommies are all very different.

I love shadowing, but I am anxious to start learning a little more and start  getting a little more experience.

Based on the IBLCE‘s guidelines, I need to find a mentor who will help me to plan out how the next couple years of learning will go. This person will help me figure out how I will get my 500 hours of practical experience, course learning, and other learning experiences  before I write the final exam. All of the requirements must be met within five years prior to sitting the exam.

I am encouraged to continue to work with several consultants, but I do require one main mentor who will oversee my learning plan and oversee all of my work. Without a mentor, I really can’t move forward toward my goal.

I have someone in mind. I know she is busy as she works full time and has a family at home. We work well together (I’ve shadowed her for several weeks.) She always makes a point to include me when meeting with a mother and makes sure I understand what’s going on. Consequently I am learning heaps from her!

I am emailing her to see if she is at all interested in being my mentor. Fingers Crossed!

The Learning Curve

February 11, 2010

I have had several opportunities to work with various lactation consultants over the past month. What an interesting learning experience it’s been. I look forward to continuing to learn more and more about breastfeeding mothers and babies and the hurdles and joys that they face. It was wonderful to see the consultants in action. I look forward to the day where I can include myself among their ranks.

Among  the consultants I have been lucky enough to work with, I have seen such a variety of techniques and mannerisms. While they are all wonderful at what they do, I definitely relate to some styles more than others. Sometimes the interaction seems almost clinical to me, friendly but serious. Other consultants will sit down beside a mother and to an outsider you may think that they had been friends for years. This particular approach is very appealing to me. At a time when a mother is feeling stressed and exhausted and hormonal, I’m sure it is very reassuring to have that “girlfriend” type figure holding your hand as you struggle to learn what is so important to you.  Watching some of the women, it seems more like mother-to-mother support than a clinician-client relationship.

That is the kind of lactation consultant I hope to be one day! Now to get onto the next challenge of finding someone to mentor me…. 🙂