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Celebrating Our Strengths for IBCLC Day 2023

Woman in green shirt smiling with arms crossed.

So often we think of the IBCLC® as one who works with individual families. Or we think of hospitals as employing perhaps only one IBCLC. Often, the IBCLC sees the breastfeeding couplet only once. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, “one” or “once” no longer describes the IBCLC. As we celebrate IBCLC Day 2023, consider the ways in which IBCLCs have taken on a broader role in the community.

Formula shortages

During the pandemic, there were several reasons for a shortage of formula. First, there was (and continues to be) some lagging in the supply chain.

Second, there was a formula recall during the pandemic.

Finally, shelves were sometimes bare because panicked parents hoarded toilet paper, diapers, formula, and food items that were shelf stable.

Hence, IBCLCs began to educate the community on issues such as relactation, milk sharing, and related issues. I even did a Facebook video on cotton diapers.

Dispelling fears

Understandably, families were fearful that the virus “went through the milk.”  As IBCLCs, we found ourselves defending breastfeeding as “best” feeding, even before we had evidence to back up that statement.

As we celebrate IBCLC Day 2023, I’d be quick to say that dispelling fears has a big part of my role, and I’m betting the same is true for you, too! There is so little public recognition that, with rare exception, the benefits of breastfeeding have historically far outweighed any possible risks.

Breastfeeding in special circumstances

Yes, birthing a baby alone happened more frequently than we might have imagined. Perhaps the hospital restricted visitors, or spouses were deployed, or any number of other situations may have resulted in lack of support from friends or family at this critical time.

Thankfully, IBCLCs were able to give accurate information and critical support — even if it was remotely — for the suboptimal circumstances before and after the birth occurred.

Meanwhile, we had natural disasters, where IBCLCs often assisted with emergency preparedness in addition to helping individual families.

Going beyond birthing and breastfeeding

I found myself giving information to parents and professionals in ways that I might not have done before the pandemic. As we celebrate IBCLC Day 2023, let’s give ourselves credit for making an impact on some issues that might not have existed if we hadn’t faced the pandemic.

As parents were trying to keep their kids out of the pediatric office, I found myself addressing issues such as the difference between diaper rash and a yeast infection.

Similarly, IBCLCs in private practice faced the issue or how to re-open their offices after the government restrictions were lifted. So, having no prior experience and no textbook to tell us how to do such things, we had to help each other.

Some of my IBCLC clients lost their jobs. Some just gave up or retired. Others were open to other opportunities.

I tried to help them with simple things like spiffing up their résumés. And, pandemic or no pandemic, I truly believe that it’s always good for healthcare professionals to rethink their job choices

Let me leave you with two thoughts.

First, the pandemic gave all of us an opportunity to gain 20/20 vision about our lives, our jobs, our families, and our communities.

Second, celebrate what you’ve given to the community. (And if you feel you haven’t made a big enough impact on the community, it’s never too late to start!)

We can’t wait to celebrate the dedicated IBCLCs this year! We have two amazing opportunities to make the most of your year!

As we celebrate IBCLC Day 2023, reflect on how the past 2 years have made you a better IBCLC. How are you using those new skills moving forward? Share your experiences with fellow IBCLCs below!

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