What Is a Certified Breastfeeding Educator and How Can They Help?

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At Family First Maternal Wellness Centre we are committed to improving access to education and support during the perinatal period and that’s why we are proud to have Certified Breastfeeding Educator Martha Neovard on our team! Below you will find a list of frequently asked questions about her scope of practice and how she can help you achieve your breastfeeding goals.

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What exactly is a Certified Breastfeeding Educator?

A Certified Breastfeeding Educator (or CBE) is a person who has taken a course and undergone training to both teach breastfeeding classes, work in the community as an advocate, and do peer breastfeeding support with women. Typically a CBE course lasts a few weeks, and any further education is up to the individual. Different organizations have different requirements to obtain a certification. I took a certificate course in Breastfeeding Education through the AVIVA Institute in 2009/2010. They have since discontinued that specific course, but still offer other breastfeeding education courses for birth professionals. My course was taught by IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) and was an American course. Since then I have continued to both increase and update my knowledge base through various conferences, training opportunities, and peer coaching. I have been honoured to work with many different women in the course of my time as a CBE, and learned from them and their babies as well. Often mothers and babies are the best teachers.

What is the difference between a CBE and an IBCLC?

An IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. (Learn more here) They are an internationally recognized group of individuals and health care providers that have a vast knowledge base and a wide scope of practice. Many, but not all IBCLCs also have a medical background or other related certification like RN, LPN, or Doctor. Some IBCLCs may work for health regions, while others may have private practices. A CBE is like a doula to the IBCLC’s midwife. Where CBEs have undergone a weeks long course and continuing education, an IBCLC has undergone years of training, must have at least 1000 hours of supervised breastfeeding practicum, and sat a certification exam. They must rewrite the exam every five years to maintain their certification, and attend a certain number of education events each year. A CBE has a more limited scope of practice.

What is your scope of practice as a CBE?

My scope of practice extends to normal breastfeeding behaviour in healthy babies who are having a difficult time latching or transferring milk from the breast. Things like helping to establish a good latch, fixing a poor or painful latch, teaching helpful positioning, moving back to exclusive breastfeeding from supplementation, helping to establish and maintain a milk supply, identifying and basic assessment of breastfeeding difficulty, and of course answering any and all questions, as well as a lot of ongoing emotional support, often in the middle of the night when things are tough.

Things that are not within my scope of practice are diagnosing a health condition in mother or baby, weighing and measuring babe, prescribing medication, or working with babies or mother who have extraneous health issues, such as feeding tube, if babe is currently in NICU, has heart or breathing issues, extreme weight loss or metabolic conditions, or mothers who have or have had previous breast surgery, insufficient glandular tissue, are taking medications that affect breastfeeding, or have scar tissue on their breasts. I also cannot make recommendations on herbal or medicinal means to increase milk supply. For all of these issues, I can direct you to resources or refer you to a professional who will be able to help.

What if you suspect something like thrush, mastitis or tongue tie? Or if our problems turn out to be outside the realm of normal?

I have had three severely tongue tied babies and worked with many moms who had tongue or lip tied babies (or both!). Even so, I can only tell you when I suspect that ties may be present or interfering with establishing breastfeeding or maintaining a good latch, based on symptoms observed in the baby. I cannot assess for or diagnose tongue or lip tie. If we have established symptoms that point to this as a potential issue, I will then refer you to other professionals who are equipped to make a full assessment and create a plan and pathway for you and babe in treatment if it is needed.

If babe undergoes a revision for a tie, or even if it is determined by a skilled professional that they don’t need one, I can continue to support you in your breastfeeding journey, helping you and your babe to relearn breastfeeding, or provide emotional support and find resources. In the event that you had questions about healing, post-revision bodywork and stretching, or other health-related questions, I would refer you to your IBCLC or healthcare provider for answers. As you are seeing them, I can also provide appropriate paper or online resources that you can continue to read and research through. The same applies to suspected thrush. While I can make an educated guess, I cannot diagnose or provide treatment for thrush or mastitis. For those instances, I would refer you to your healthcare provider and support you with peer-reviewed paper or online resources in getting rid of it and keeping it away. Jack Newman and kellymom.com have excellent info on thrush and mastitis protocols.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how I can help support your family and I look forward to working with you in the near future!

Martha Neovard CBE

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