Lactation Management Training: From Novice to Expert

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Mentoring the Next Generation of Lactation Consultants

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The biggest challenge facing many aspiring lactation consultants is where to obtain their clinical hours.  Those who have the easiest path for this are RNs working in maternity, nursery, labor and delivery, or other maternity setting.  They can collect clinical practice hours at work as they focus on Pathway 1.

But for those who are not in this situation, finding an internship setting can be frustrating, discouraging, if not down-right impossible.  I hear from potential IBCLCs on a regular basis about how difficult it is to find a mentor.  This may be the stumbling block for many who throw in the towel at this point and give up on a career in lactation.  What can we all do to help?  We need as many workers in the field as we can find.

Do you want to retire at some point?  Do you want to leave the lactation world in a better place than when you came into it?  Then volunteer to mentor an intern.  Or better yet, seek out a potential IBCLC and offer to assist her through her journey.  List yourself on the ILCA Clinical Instructor map so people can find you.  http://www.ilca.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3896 using the application found here http://www.ilca.org/files/education_and_research/Clinical_Instruction_Directory/Clinical_Instruction_Directory_Application.pdf

If you are not sure how to be a mentor, ILCA offers several modules on mentorship:  http://modules.ilca.org/index.php?p=view_catalog

Lactation students look to mentors to provide that real-world component to the “book learning” they have been doing.  Interacting with a variety of mothers, navigating “the system”, problem-solving in difficult situations: these are all skills best learned one-on one.  Remember the old saying “iron sharpens iron”.   Interns keep you sharp.  They ask questions that make you think.  You search the resource books together.

Mentors gain as much from the experience as the intern!  It is so rewarding to see one of your “fledglings” fly off and do good work on her own.

Tagged in: IBCLC

Vergie Hughes has a long history of experience in Maternal Child Health including labor and delivery, post-partum and pediatrics, and for the past 25 years she has been involved in lactation management. Ms. Hughes has a BSN from Pacific Lutheran University and a MS from Georgetown University. She has been a board certified lactation consultant since 1985. At Georgetown University Hospital, she was the director of the Human Milk Bank. She created and developed the National Capitol Lactation Center and the one week Lactation Consultant Training Program. This course has trained more than 4,000 Lactation Consultants since its inception in 1990.


She has been a private practice lactation consultant and business owner, and operated her own lactation center, Washington’s Families First. Lactation Education Resources On-Line is her website, offering training to professionals and information to parents as well. Ms. Hughes has served on the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and has served on the IBLCE exam writing committee. Her first love is teaching and that is exemplified by the creativity of the courses she has developed. A series of courses “The In-patient Breastfeeding Specialist,” "The Out-patient Breastfeeding Specialist” and “The NICU Breastfeeding Specialist” are all designed to advance the lactation management skills of nurses at the bedside. She regularly teaches skills to labor and delivery nurses and just recently developed the course “Towards Exclusive Breastfeeding.”


Ms. Hughes is the program director and content manager for all of the on-line Lactation Education Resources courses. Ms. Hughes was recently honored with a “lifetime achievement award” as Fellow of the International Lactation Consultant Association (FILCA).

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Guest Tuesday, 21 November 2017