I have been helping breastfeeding mothers in Dumfries and Galloway for well over 20 years, the past 13 years as a fully qualified IBCLC Lactation Consultant.
It is probably not surprising if you have never heard of an IBCLC Lactation Consultant before as there are only just over 470 of us in the whole of the UK and very few based north of London, let alone in Scotland and the north of England. It is a global qualification and numbers here are steadily rising year on year. It is heartening to see that increasing numbers of practitioners who work with mothers and babies are appreciating the value of the qualification.
As a new mum myself, now 30 years ago, I became aware that many women were struggling with breastfeeding and were not able to find reliable help. I decided to train as a voluntary Breastfeeding Counsellor with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), a programme which took three years of part-time study to complete. There was a strong element of communication and listening skills, for which I still have cause to be grateful, as it has ensured that I am always aware of the need to listen carefully to the stories of individual mothers and to acknowledge their hopes and fears before moving on to the 'problem solving'.
While my three children were growing up, I offered breastfeeding help on a voluntary basis as an NCT counsellor. Then, in 2002, I started working for NHS Dumfries and Galloway as Breastfeeding Peer Support Co-ordinator. This role was more about providing a network of support rather than detailed one-to-one help, but it brought me into contact with many more new mothers and babies. I learned a lot on the job, but this work also led me to realise that I still had many gaps in my knowledge. I therefore undertook additional intensive training and passed the IBLCE examination in 2006 to become a Lactation Consultant. We are required to re-certify every 5 years. In 2011, I did this by completing 75 hours of mainly lactation-specific training.
In April 2016, re-certification was by examination – there is a lot of new research in the breastfeeding world and they like to ensure that we keep up to speed! I am pleased to report that I passed with flying colours.
In October 2015, I resigned from my NHS role to concentrate on developing my private Lactation Consultancy. I continue to learn about the subtleties and complexities of breastfeeding with each new mum and baby that I meet. Every one of them teaches and inspires me.
I should also add that I am a firm believer in the power of mother-to-mother support and I always suggest that women seek out and take advantage of whatever support (groups, Facebook, etc.) is available in their locality.