Monday, January 23, 2017

Check out the Terrific Breastfeeding Support Available in the TN Valley


By Glenni Lorick, IBCLC

We are so blessed in the Tennessee Valley to have a really wonderful array of people committed to supporting you in your breastfeeding journey. Support options range from peer counselors to support group leaders with specialized training to International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Each one of these plays an important role in making the Tennessee Valley a terrific place to have a baby. Each also has a specific skill set when it comes to making sure you and baby are nursing well.

Peer Counselors

These amazing ladies often work with a local health department. They are mothers who have successfully breastfed their own children, and they tend to use their own and other anecdotal experience as a framework from which to counsel. They are usually avid students of breastfeeding, but have not yet obtained any certifications or received any formal training. However, they may be going through the steps necessary to become an IBCLC; be sure to ask! They may provide support groups and classes for mothers in which they share common breastfeeding knowledge. I actually began my breastfeeding career teaching classes for a local WIC office as a peer counselor 26 years ago.

A breastfeeding peer counselor is a great resource in dealing with common breastfeeding problems like poor latch, engorgement, sore nipples etc. A good peer counselor will know when she needs to refer to an IBCLC and will usually have good relationships with local IBCLC's. 

La Leche League Leaders

In order to become a La Leche League Leader, an applicant must have successfully nursed her own child for at least nine months. She must demonstrate certain personality characteristics and must thoroughly prepare herself by studying a variety of resources. These mothers offer terrific support both in a group setting as well as in one-on-one situations. Meetings are a great place for expectant mothers to gain a good understanding of breastfeeding. When I was a young mother 28 years ago, La Leche League was key in helping me achieve a good breastfeeding relationship.

Much like the peer counselor, however, a La Leche League leaders recognizes her limitations. She will have developed good rapport with local IBCLC's so that she can refer as necessary. It is worth noting, however, that many La Leche League leaders do end up becoming IBCLC's.


An International Board Certified Lactation is a health care professional who has extensively studied lactation. He or she (yes, there are male IBCLC's) is familiar with a wide variety of situations that can occur, and has demonstrated that knowledge in a comprehensive exam. In order to even sit for the exam, a candidate must have a solid understanding of biology, anatomy and physiology, human growth and development, psychology, sociology, nutrition, medical ethics, clinical research, medical terminology and documentation and basic life support. In addition to a basic foundation in health sciences, a candidate must have 90 hours of education specific to breastfeeding. Finally, depending on his or her background and the pathway chosen for certification, 300-1000 hours of direct patient contact with breastfeeding mothers and babies is required before the exam can be taken.

This is why an IBCLC offers the Gold Standard of breastfeeding support. The experience and knowledge base required to become an IBCLC make her the ideal person to teach your breastfeeding class and support you through your breastfeeding journey. We are very fortunate to have many amazing IBCLC's in North Alabama. Huntsville Hospital has 13 IBCLC's on staff; Madison Hospital has 4 on staff; Crestwood Medical Center has 3 on staff; and Athens Limestone Hospital  has 2 on staff. Additionally, there are IBCLC's in private practice as well as in physicians' offices. Huntsville Pediatric Associates employs an IBCLC. And, of course, when you get breastfeeding support at A Nurturing Moment, you are receiving IBCLC support.

Many IBCLC's offer support groups and breastfeeding classes. Each of the local hospitals offers a breastfeeding class for expectant mothers. We also offer a class the second Thursday of every month here at A Nurturing Moment. All of the local hospital IBCLC's run support groups as well. All of the groups listed below are open to any mother, regardless of where she had her baby.
Many IBCLC's wear this symbol.
  • Huntsville Hospital's group meets every Tuesday and the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month at 10:00 in the Women's Pavilion, Room 120B. 
  • The Madison Hospital Support group meets Mondays at 10:30 and Thursdays at 6:30 in the Madison Hospital Wellness Center. They also offer a special "Extended Breastfeeding" Support Group for mothers breastfeeding beyond 12 months which meets the 2nd Friday of each month at 10:30.
  • Athens Limestone Hospital offers ALH Moms and Babies every Friday at 10:00 in the Medical Office Building Conference Room at 101 Fitness Way.
  • Crestwood Medical Center offers a support group that meets every Wednesday at 5:00 and every Thursday at 10:30.
  • Huntsville Mommy Milk Meet-up meets the 1st Monday and 3rd Saturday of every month at A Nurturing Moment at 10:00

Taking Classes and Getting Support

When you choose a breastfeeding class, you want to know that your instructor is a professional committed to helping you throughout the course of your journey. An IBCLC has the depth of medical background to help you work through any potential physiological problems. She will know when to refer you to a primary healthcare practitioner and will probably have established relationships with several physicians. 

If you're simply experiencing engorgement or a plugged duct, then a peer counselor or La Leche League leader is great. However, if you have a more serious issue, you really need to be in contact with an IBCLC. She will be able to do a pre-feed weight check, then weigh your baby after feeding to see exactly how much milk he took. She is trained to recognize and counsel you through a wide range of problems. Most IBCLC's carry malpractice insurance because they recognize that as healthcare professionals, they have that responsibility. So be sure that you get the Gold Standard Care when it comes to you and your baby!

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