“I am at my first La Leche League GB National Workshop, c.2002. I am (somewhat to my surprise) the mother of a breastfeeding toddler and pregnant with my second baby. There is a smart, impressively knowledgeable Leader giving a PowerPoint presentation about nipple shields. I am fascinated; I’ve never seen a nipple shield, can’t use PowerPoint, and had no idea there was so much to learn about breastfeeding. This is my first experience of an IBCLC.”
by Jayne Joyce LLLL, IBCLC
I joined La Leche League in 2001, when my first daughter was 4 months old. I didn’t have any breastfeeding problems, but I wanted to meet other mothers whose instinct was to feed whenever their baby wanted, and who fed their babies in bed. At my first LLL meeting I breathed a sigh of relief, as I learned that I was doing what mothers have always done, and still do all over the world; responding to their babies. I had found my tribe.
La Leche League shapes more than my mothering. I give up my career as a social worker in order to be with my children during their early years, and the energy I might have given to my work has been invested in volunteering as a Leader. I volunteer in our hospital Breastfeeding Clinic and at my local Baby Café, mentor other Leaders, assist with coordinating the national Help Form system which provides feeding support by email. My confidence in handling complex queries is growing; when I get one about something unfamiliar, instead of panicking and sending it back, I start researching. I love doing this; it feels like a vocation.
Up to this point, immersed in nappies and having not had an unbroken night’s sleep for years, becoming an IBCLC had seemed like a fantasy. Those competent, confident women with their laptops and smart jackets definitely aren’t from my planet. But…. every time I go to a national LLL event, I get talking to another Leader colleague who turns out to be an IBCLC. Some of them aren’t even older than me anymore. I begin to wonder whether it might actually be possible, and at a workshop run by Deborah Robertson IBCLC, I find the map to get from where I am, via IBLCE Pathway 1, to where I want to be: an IBCLC.
Most of my studying was done while I am crammed uncomfortably into my daughter’s high-sleeper bed, nursing her to sleep. Health-e-Learning provides the necessary pre-requisite courses and lactation-specific educational hours. In 2011, I celebrated turning 40 (and being a Leader for 8 years) by taking the IBLCE exam and was soon offered regular work facilitating some our local Baby Cafés. I led on safeguarding (putting my social work training to good use), and trained and supervised our peer supporters. I never knew I could teach, but it turns out that I do know enough. I got a laptop, and my teenager even taught me to use PowerPoint.
My Baby Café colleagues wonder how it might work, to be both an LLL Leader and IBCLC, but I am able to assure them that it is no problem at all. The IBLCE had its earliest roots in LLL, and from the start of the profession LLL has had clear expectations and guidance about how to manage the dual role.
There is a lot of overlap in where I see families, with many mothers coming both to Baby Café and LLL meetings. At any given moment, I am clear which “hat” I am wearing; which insurance I’m operating under and which recording system I need to use. The mother-to-mother support I have long offered is now underpinned by my increased understanding of theory and research. I am able to support two of my Co-Leaders to become accredited as IBCLCs. I have strong links with both volunteers and professionals working in feeding. I’m part of a new campaigning group, advocating for Baby Friendly implementation in Oxfordshire. I feel connected, and in the middle of the action, which I love.
I have always been completely clear that if I ever had to choose between my two roles, I would choose LLL. It is the heart and soul of what I do; my Co-Leaders are the sisters I never had and the philosophy of respect and relatedness continues to shape my life’s journey. But wonderfully, there is no choice to be made. I am proud to be a La Leche League Leader and an IBCLC.”
Jayne Joyce LLLL, IBCLC, is Facilitator for Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support (formerly Oxford Baby Cafés Group) www.oxbreastfeedingsupport.org – this role involves mentoring & educating others, both LLL Leaders and IBCLCs, as well as integration and involvement in providing both specialist breastfeeding support and policy level work, locally in Oxford.
If you are interested in knowing more, please see our information on pathways to the credential, here.