4 Reasons to Become a Lactation Counselor if You’re Already a Birthworker
In the world of birthwork, we’ve all faced the initial overwhelm of the alphabet soup that is certifications. Do I need the CLSC, CD, PCD, IBCLC, CLC, or CLE? Do I become a CNM or CPM or CM? The certifications are endless. But there is one thing that we can say with certainty: working with a care provider with more than one certification often appeals to parents as they navigate the myriad of new experiences during pregnancy and postpartum! Let’s get into why — if you’re already a birthworker — you should consider becoming a Certified Lactation Support Counselor (CLSC).
Lactation is an Essential Tool in the Birthworker Toolbox
To some, parents and professionals alike, lactation seems like a no-brainer, while to others it’s a massively complex endeavor. Whatever the type of birth work you do, you’ve probably realized, with any time in practice supporting families, that it is impossible to ignore the challenges lactation can pose. Regardless, when working with pregnant people and new parents, it’s critical to have a basic understanding of lactation and bodyfeeding, its “normal” functions, and problematic signs to look out for. Nourishing a baby is so much more than bodyfeeding so it is also important to understand all aspects of lactation and be fully trained on pumping, bottle feeding, etc. So if you don’t already have some basic knowledge about lactation, consider acquiring some! In doing so, you will be able to help countless families to achieve their feeding goals.
Know When You Need to Make a Referral (and To Whom)
As birthworkers, we bring our wisdom and learned skills to families in need. However, it’s fair to say that our wisdom and skills have their limitations, especially if we’re new to birthwork. While working with families with children experiencing more complex feeding challenges outside our realm of expertise, it is so important to have self-awareness and recognize when we’ve reached the limit of our own capabilities. For example, if you are a birth doula who sees a child with tongue tie, without any lactation training this may go unnoticed, bringing confusion and stress to the parent(s) and the infant. However in this example, with basic lactation training in addition to your birth doula training, you would be able to notice red flags and refer the parents to a tie-savvy IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), a bodyworker, a mental health therapist, or other health professional. Though we may want to believe we can be an all-in-one professional for parents, as birthworkers we have to know where our expertise ends and where someone else’s expertise begins.
More Skills = More Valuable Birthworker
Let’s face it: parents (or soon-to-be parents) may fall in love with the value that our presence as birthworkers brings, but they pay us for the services that we provide, with an assigned value to those services that we establish. For all types of birthwork, there is a “going rate” for our area, and we typically align our prices to this rate in a way that feels comfortable for us and meets our needs. Many birthworkers offer a base package, which includes their most basic skills at the most inexpensive rate. Anything outside of those basic skills, comes with an added fee. Gaining additional knowledge and certifications works in the same way: the more skills you apply to your craft, the more marketable you become and the more you should be paid for your enhanced expertise. If you’re serious about a career in birth work, consider seeking out supplementary certifications. Having more than one certification as a birthworker makes you more knowledgeable and your skill set more comprehensive. With that in mind, our CLSC training is perfect for birthworkers of all types seeking inclusive and holistic knowledge in lactation and feeding.
Impact of Breastfeeding/Bodyfeeding on Health Outcomes
As you may know, feeding a baby with milk from one’s body for the first two years of life is recommended by the CDC, the WHO, and many other experts. At the personal level, bodyfeeding increases time spent bonding, provides babies with antibodies to fight against illness, reduces money spent on formula, and so much more. At the public health level, countless studies have shown that bodyfeeding decreases infant mortality, rates of chronic disease, obesity, and even cancer. The benefits of breastfeeding/bodyfeeding and its impact on health outcomes are clear, but unfortunately, lactation education and support are lacking in many communities. A long history of racism in lactation support has disproportionately impacted Black and brown families, who have lower rates of bodyfeeding compared to white families.
If you are someone who cares about creating a safe environment for all babies, lactating parents, their families and their communities, while working to improve health outcomes and experiences for all, consider taking our Certified Lactation Support Counselor workshop. This course is unique in its focus on disparities and racism in lactation support. It’s an intimate and engaged group and the course is deeply loved and highly rated. Beloved NYC lactation consultant Lea Rivera Todaro, IBCLC, teaches this course through a combination of case study, research analysis, and protocol development, this training counts toward an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) credential. We hope to see you there!