The Ontario and Canadian Government, Canadian Pediatric Association, American Pediatric Association, the WHO (World Health Organization) and many other important health organizations, promote and support breastfeeding and informs families and the community about the health risks to not breastfeeding your baby. This promotion aligns with the WHO and is a step in the right direction but it doesn´t get us all the way there. The way to truly support and help families reach their breastfeeding goals is to increase the access to IBCLCs (International Board Certified and Registered Lactation Consultants).
Some families are having real challenges trying to breastfeed their baby and find the need to turn to Lactation Consultants. Unfortunately, not all families have access to skilled quality care by the experts in breastfeeding; the gold standard for breastfeeding and human lactation is the IBCLC. Please note that only health care practitioners with the IBCLC designation are Lactation Consultants.
In Ontario there are several free drop-in breastfeeding clinics, but did you know that most of the help is given by health care providers (mostly public health nurses) with limited breastfeeding and human lactation education and training? These clinics are not staffed by IBCLCs and if they are, there are not enough IBCLCs to help the huge demand for breastfeeding support.
By not properly funding breastfeeding services, many families are not able to breastfeed their children and end up replacing breastfeeding with other feeding options such as formula, and dangerous options such as homemade infant formulas. Families that chose to breastfeed their babies and are not able to do so, end up feeling that they have failed in one of life´s most basic desires of nurturing their babies, the normal human way: breastfeeding. What is more perplexing is that by not funding breastfeeding services, babies who are not breastfed and mothers who do not breastfeed are more likely to have health issues that ultimately cost the health system more than the funding requiered to support breastfeeding services in the first place.
In Canada we often brag about our health care system compared to other countries where the health consumer has to pay for health care services directly. In the United States the services by IBCLCs are now covered by extended health benefits and many states are in the process of licensing IBCLCs. Rhode Island is the first state to license the IBCLC professional and families are benefiting from skilled and safe care for their breastfeeding challenges. It is 2015 and it´s time to continue promoting breastfeeding by also increasing the community´s access to IBCLCs.
In 2011 the United States Surgeon General´s Office drafted a document concerning breastfeeding called: The U.S... Surgeon General´s Call to Action; in the Call to Action the U.S. Surgeon General specifically stated this regarding IBCLCs:
- "International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) are health care professionals certified in lactation care. IBCLCs have specific clinical expertise and training in how to manage basic and complex breastfeeding problems. IBCLCs need to be involved as core members of lactation care teams."
Action 11, which addressed "Lactation Care Teams" stated:
- "... Guarantee equitable access to services provided by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Include support for lactation as an essential medical service for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children. Ensure that reimbursement of IBCLCs in not dependent on their having other professional certification or licensure. Work to increase the number of racial and ethnic minority IBCLCs to better mirror the U.S. population."
Currently many IBCLCs practice privately and are able to provide skilled, safe, quality services to families needing support. However, the services of an IBCLC are not covered through OHIP or private health insurance extended health benefits. This needs to change now so that ALL families, regardless of financial status can benefit from safe and skilled support. It is puzzling that families can submit breastfeeding pumps expenses but not the services of an IBCLC. Take action! Click here!
Source: U.S.. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General´s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. U.S.. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General´s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. U.S.. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2011. For more information click here!