Why Hospitals Need Breastfeeding Counselors – ACOG Breastfeeding Guidelines
Wondering how you can help your patients with breastfeeding?
Are you looking for professional training to support your new mothers?
Many new mothers hope to breastfeed their babies. In the US, over 80% of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth. By 3 months, just under half of babies are exclusively breastfeeding.
While most mothers begin breastfeeding, a good portion struggle to meet the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.
While breastfeeding is a personal journey for each mother-baby pair, overall breastfeeding rates are a public health priority.
On a population level, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of postpartum hemorrhage, female cancers, diabetes and more. For infants, breastfeeding reduces the risk of illness, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma and more.
A mother-baby pair’s ability to meet breastfeeding goals is strongly tied to breastfeeding management in the early days and weeks. For healthcare professionals, evidenced-based breastfeeding education is vital.
What Is A Breastfeeding Counselor?
If you’re a maternity or pediatric healthcare provider, chances are you’re familiar with International Board Certified (IBCLC) lactation consultants. These professionals have extensive academic breastfeeding education and clinical experience.
An IBCLC lactation consultant plays a vital role in supporting mother-baby pairs facing challenges like tongue ties, difficulty transferring milk, slow gaining, flat nipples, and more. They play a vital role in helping establish breastfeeding and aid in mothers meeting breastfeeding goals.
However, another important professional in lactation support is a Breastfeeding Counselor. Breastfeeding Counselors are individuals educated in normal breastfeeding support. They provide education and support to new mothers, helping them to reach their breastfeeding goals.
For maternity nurses, OB/GYNs, midwives, NICU nurses, and pediatricians, becoming a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC) is one way to help your patients reach their breastfeeding goals. By helping your patients, you’re also aiding in improving breastfeeding rates in your community and your hospital.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ (ACOG) current recommendations support additional breastfeeding training for OB/GYN professionals.
What Are ACOG’s Current Breastfeeding Guidelines?
ACOG recognizes that a woman’s maternity care provider has a unique opportunity to influence her prenatal breastfeeding views and early breastfeeding initiation. They also understand the impact breastfeeding has on reproductive health, including its ability to reduce female cancers.
Their recent recommendations include providing education, support and policy changes which support breastfeeding.
Education guidelines include:
- Recognizing that clinical lactation management is a core piece in reproductive health care.
- “Because lactation is an integral part of reproductive physiology, all obstetrician-gynecologists and other obstetric care providers should develop and maintain skills in anticipatory guidance, support for normal breastfeeding physiology, and management of common complications of lactation,” written in the ACOG committee report.
Recommended support for breastfeeding women:
- Providing and encouraging women to breastfed and recognizing each woman’s right to do so.
- Supporting and encouraging women in breastfeeding in accordance with current recommendations to exclusively breastfed for 6 months, then alongside solids for a minimum of one year, then as long after as mutually desired by mother and baby.
- Advice and encouragement from OB/GYN professionals should support informed infant feeding decision making free of coercion or pressure.
- OB/GYN professionals should support each woman’s informed infant feeding decisions.
- Be aware that women facing breastfeeding challenges are at an increased risk of postpartum mood disorders, proper awareness and screening is important.
- Healthcare professionals should support mothers of preterm or otherwise medically fragile infants to establish a full milk supply through proper guidance, milk expression within 1 hour of birth when possible and frequently thereafter.
Policies also have a big role in breastfeeding outcomes:
- The World Health Organization’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” should be integrated into maternity care. This can increase the likelihood of women initiating and sustaining breastfeeding, as well as achieving personal breastfeeding goals.
- OB/GYNs should support policies in their practices, hospitals, and communities which support women in initiating and sustaining breastfeeding.
How can maternity professionals implement the above breastfeeding support recommendations? One way is to become a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor.
Why Do Hospitals Need Breastfeeding Counselors?
As mentioned above, many maternity and pediatric healthcare providers are familiar with IBCLC lactation consultants. Many hospitals have seen their breastfeeding rates improve since having staff IBCLCs has become the norm.
While breastfeeding rates have increased, we can still improve our rates, especially breastfeeding duration.
What if a new mother was given a bit of evidence-based breastfeeding information at each prenatal appointment via her OB/GYN’s nurse who is also a CBC? What if a new mother’s midwife had additional lactation skills to help prepare for breastfeeding initiation?
What might breastfeeding rates look like if several L&D nurses were trained in up-to-date, evidenced-based breastfeeding initiation recommendations? Beyond suggesting breastfeeding within the first hour, additional education can help nurses keep an eye for an appropriate latch, support through edema impacting latch, help reassure moms about normal initial breastfeeding challenges and more.
Most hospitals can’t have an IBCLC in each delivery room. However, having a nurse who is also a CBC available in the immediate postnatal period could be a reachable goal for many hospitals.
Having a NICU nurse familiar with lactation can be a vital part of supporting the most vulnerable mother-baby pairs. Combining the knowledge of premature infants with lactation education offers a unique advantage in planning care both in the short term and well after discharge.
An OB/GYN with breastfeeding education has the ability to make decisions and support women just before and after birth with the knowledge of how each choice can impact breastfeeding. In the postpartum period, they’re able to provide continued support and education at follow up visits.
How Does Becoming A Certified Breastfeeding Counselor Support My Career?
As a healthcare professional, continuing education is an important part of your career. With breastfeeding rates, baby-friendly hospital initiatives, and overall support for birthing women being current priorities, a certification which supports those can be an excellent career move.
Some healthcare employers also increase pay with relevant certifications added to your career education. Any additional skills you possess increases your marketability as a valued employee.
The IDI program is designed as a stand-alone credential, or to meet the requirement for the IBCLC Lactation Specific Training. Whether you’re looking to advance your education for your current position or considering a career move, this program is a great first step.
The CBC program meets the requirements for the first 40 hours and the other 50 hours are offered in our CBC Advanced Programs.
Career benefits aside, becoming a CBC equips you to support your new mothers and babies in a way that can positively impact them for years to come.
Be a part of the change focused on increasing breastfeeding rates to best support mothers and babies. You can begin your journey today by clicking here.