House Bill 649
By signing HB 649, the Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act, into law, Governor Nathan Deal has improved access to clinical lactation care for Georgia’s mothers and babies. Georgia can significantly increase the initiation and duration of breastfeeding rates that have continued to lag behind the national average. We appreciate his leadership and vision in establishing Georgia as the second state in the country to license lactation consultants.
We are also extremely grateful for the leadership of Representative Sharon Cooper for carrying this bill. She understood the barriers to clinical lactation care, and she delivered the needed help. She was a courageous champion!
There is no dispute that breastfeeding improves the health of both mothers and babies. For the mother, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cardiovascular disease. For the baby, the benefits are profound. Breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of lower respiratory infections by 72%, asthma by 40%, obesity by 24%, SIDS by 36%, and the list goes on. In addition to improving these critical healthcare metrics, HB 649 will save significant healthcare dollars for the state.
Nearly 75% of Georgia’s mothers leave the hospital breastfeeding their babies, but only 19% are making it to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months. Mothers are failing at breastfeeding because of unresolved problems. Lactation consultants have proven clinical skills and knowledge for solving those problems.
What is a board-certified lactation consultant?
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are allied health professionals. They are knowledgeable and experienced members of the maternal-child health team who have specialized skills in breastfeeding management and care. IBCLCs have passed a rigorous examination that demonstrates the ability to provide competent, comprehensive lactation services. IBCLCs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, neonatal intensive care units, human milk banks and private practice. There is no current equivalent to the IBCLC.
What does the IBCLC credential represent?
- One must have 300-1000 hours of directly supervised experience, an additional 49-90 hours of formal lactation education and pass a rigorous exam
- Recertify every 5 years with 75 continuing education credits or by repeating the exam
- Adherence to a defined scope of practice and within national standards
- Adherence to documented ethical principles and accountability for practice through a grievance process
Currently, only IBCLCs are held to these high standards of competency. IBCLCs are certified by an independent organization (IBLCE) that is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies
Why should IBCLCs be licensed?
- To protect the public by ensuring only qualified individuals can practice lactation consultation
- As of August, 2012, historic new guidelines will ensure women receive preventive health services at no additional cost including breastfeeding support. Georgia needs to move quickly to ensure these services are provided b y qualified, licensed lactation consultants.
- To improve Georgia’s breastfeeding initiation and duration rates according to Healthy People 2020 goals
- The US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations mandate breastfeeding support services for private insurance plans beginning 2014
- The Joint Commission has implemented “exclusive breastfeeding” as a core competency measure for hospitals
- The American Association of Health Plans recommends the use of certified lactation consultants to reduce health care expenditures
- To supply an unmet need for lactation services in communities and health care systems
- To ensure breastfeeding as a preventive health behavior necessary to improving lifelong health of mothers and babies, thus saving health care dollars and infant lives
- Numerous studies have shown that women who interact with International Board Certified Lactation Consultants have higher rates of breastfeeding success
- Other health care providers have limited ability and time to support breastfeeding
- The National Business Group on Health recommends IBCLC support services be provided in employee health plans
- Businesses who provide lactation services for employees realize a 3:1 return on investment
- Like nurses, physical therapists, dieticians, and other licensed allied health care professionals; hospitals and the public depend on lactation consultants
- Licensing IBCLCs improves eligibility for third-party reimbursement. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding recognizes that lack of reimbursement represents a significant barrier to care, especially for families who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket. IBCLCs currently are not credentialed to receive third-party reimbursement.
Letters of Support
We acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of many medical and community organizations across Georgia and the country. We had many partners laboring with us, including:
Medical Association of Georgia Alliance
and a grant from Kaiser Family Foundation
We look forward to working with Brian Kemp, Georgia’s Secretary of State and Georgia’s community colleges to grow the number of licensed lactation consultants in Georgia. This new law will draw people into the profession because licensure makes these allied healthcare professionals part of the clinical healthcare team. With this law, Georgia is out front as a leader in maternal & infant health and in public health. We are so very pleased for the mothers and babies of Georgia.