A Fulfilling and Rewarding Career: Why You Should be an IBCLC

Picture this: You are a first-time parent. It is 2 am, and you have just spent 18 hours in labor, and now your baby is here, so the hard part must be over, right? You have spent the last nine months dreaming of this day and planning it out. Your sister breastfed, so you figured you would try too. Well, now it is 9 am, and you have attempted to feed your baby four times, each time ending in pain and frustration. You are becoming worried that your baby is not getting enough breastmilk. Just as you are starting to think you may as well use formula, the hospital’s IBCLC walks in to check on you and observe a feed. 

They suggest minor changes to positioning and methods for getting a deeper latch that appear to be helping. Then, the IBCLC tells you about the numerous benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby. Many of which you had not heard about previously. After this visit, feedings continue to get easier, your baby is gaining weight, and it has reconfirmed your decision to breastfeed. You are not making this decision because others around you have, but because you know it’s the best thing you can provide for your baby.

Imagine being that IBCLC who helps breast / chestfeeding parents just like the one above? Wouldn’t that be a rewarding career choice?

Breastfeeding is Not Simply About Infant Nutrition

It is also about preventative infant and maternal health: 

  • The cost of not breastfeeding is between $257 billion and $341 billion annually. 
  • Approximately 595,379 child deaths get attributed to not breastfeeding worldwide each year. 
  • Proper breastfeeding could potentially prevent about 98,243 maternal deaths from cancers and Type II Diabetes per annum.
  • Breastfeeding may also reduce childhood obesity numbers by 975,000 per year. 
  • The benefits of breastmilk are astonishing and seemingly never-ending.

Being an IBCLC allows you to touch so many lives, help babies get their best start in life, and help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals. By becoming an IBCLC, you will serve as an advocate and educator and help increase potentially hundreds of individuals’ overall health.

The World Health Organization and World Health Assembly aim to increase the exclusive breastfeeding rates to at least 50% at six months by 2025. In the United States, the exclusive breastfeeding rate for six months is not even 25%. To bridge this gap, we need more lactation professionals to offer support and education to parents and the health professionals who will be working as a part of their health care team. 

There are approximately 33,492 IBCLCs worldwide and an estimated 140 million babies born each year. That leaves 11-12 babies per day per IBCLC per year. That is if no IBCLC ever took vacation time or days off and work all 365 days a year. With consults ranging from 1-3 hours, it would be a stretch to see everyone and not even on the radar to make follow-up appointments. 

There are many IBCLCs who do not work with parents or babies regularly but rather work as authors, researchers, educators, or other professionals, leaving a massive gap in access for parents to educational classes and private consultations. 

Outside the U.S., there are many countries with only 1-2 IBCLCs total. Even in parts of the U.S. with less dense populations, the nearest IBCLC may be as many as 3-4 hours away, making access to breastfeeding assistance nearly impossible. There are 91,915 pediatricians in the U.S. alone, yet only 18,541 IBCLCs in the U.S. and only 33,492 globally.

We need to make vast movements in normalizing breastfeeding, but there will need to be education and support to start. Generally, only 2-3% of women cannot breastfeed. Still, up to 15% think that they are unable to breastfeed when social, economic, or cultural barriers stand in the way of achieving their goals. Over 7 in 10 women don’t meet their breastfeeding goals, and by becoming an IBCLC, you can work to change that. 

If you are interested in starting down this incredibly rewarding path make sure to look into the Pathway 3 Global Mentorship Program.

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