Breastfeeding is one of the best gifts a mother can give both to herself and her child. Its benefits to the child are incomparable to any other supplement and it also gives a foundation of good health that no other food can provide. As for mothers, breastfeeding has been shown to provide benefits to her health as well - one of which is lessening chances of certain cancers. Truly, breast milk is the perfect food, and breast is best!
However, as many breastfeeding mothers would know, breastfeeding comes with its own set of challenges. Many times, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding fails when the mother is not given the proper education and the support system she needs to face problems and challenges as she goes through her breastfeeding journey. This is the reason why it is important to have people in the know to help in starting, maintaining and extending breastfeeding, such as Breastfeeding Counselors and Lactation Consultants.
I had the honor to have a chat with a Nanay Nona Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC, one of the few Lactation Consultants here in the Philippines. She was able to shed light on the differences and roles of her profession, as well as that of Breastfeeding Counselors.
Nanay Nona shares that both Lactation Consultants and Breastfeeding Counselors are important in helping mothers succeed in breastfeeding. Breastfeeding Counselors are usually people of two types; one of which are mothers who have had success breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocates that provide peer counseling based on some trainings and experiences they have had, while the other type consists of health workers and social workers that are trained to educate mothers and soon-to-be mothers about the proper ways, advantages and other topics concerning breastfeeding.
Lactation Consultants, on the other hand, are usually people with a medical background, such as doctors or nurses, though it is not always the case. Nanay Nona, for instance, terms herself as a ‘lay person’ Lactation Consultant. It takes a lot of years of learning, certification and experience to become a Board Certified Lactation Consultant thus there are only a handful here in the Philippines and re-certification exams are done every five years to make sure that IBCLCs are always updated on the latest researches and advancements. Abroad, IBCLCs are vital members in institutions and hospitals for sharing their expertise with new breastfeeding mothers and handle more complicated breastfeeding cases like babies with cleft lip/palate and the like.