Breastfeeding is a public health game changer. It is low cost, low tech and seldom requires any durable medical equipment, drugs, or infra-structure. It does not discriminate. It improves the health of both boys and girls; healthy or sick; premature or full-term, rich or poor.
Breastmilk has short-term and long-term health benefits. It protects against:
- type II diabetes
- certain forms of leukemia
- ear infections
- gastrointestinal infections
- SIDS and
- impaired neurodevelopment.
It protects our most vulnerable low birth weight infants from the deadly necrotizing enterocolitis.
Women who breastfeed reduce their long-term risk of:
- pre-menopausal breast cancer,
- ovarian cancer,
- type II diabetes,
- hyperlipidemia and
- cardiovascular disease ( the #1 killer of women and recently determined to be the MOST costly women’s health condition).
Importantly, the protection related to premenopausal breast cancer afforded by breastfeeding is even more significant in African American women, a population at significantly high risk of both breast cancer and unsuccessful breastfeeding.
In light of these and other benefits, breastfeeding has the potential to lower U.S. healthcare costs by up to $ 13 billion each year.
So, why are only 13% of Georgia’s mothers following the AAP’s guidelines and exclusively breastfeeding their babies at 6 mos? And what can WE (what can YOU) do about it?
About 70% of our mothers are initiating breastfeeding. At a hospital like Northside that delivers 18,000 babies at all three campuses, about 95% of women initially decide to breastfeed their babies. However, very few women are making it to the six month mark.
So…what is going on? Why are our mom’s failing to breastfeed long enough to enjoy the health, social and economic benefits it affords?
For a host of reasons all of which the Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant addresses during a lactation consult.
The Surgeon General has recognized IBCLCs as the “only health care professionals certified in lactation management.”
The Surgeon General issued her Call to Action to support Breastfeeding based upon uncontroverted research-based evidence that our women and children are more likely to begin and continue breastfeeding if they have access to a lactation consultant.
If these services are so great, why aren’t they available?
There are not enough IBCLC’s to meet the demand, and services are too expensive for most moms.
There are currently 319 IBCLCs in the State of Georgia; many of whom are not practicing clinically or full time. When considering lactation support in all settings, the Surgeon General recommends 8.6 IBCLCs for every 1,000 births. In 2010, Georgia had 133, 915 births. Thus, Georgia needs 1152 IBCLCs.
Why aren’t there more IBCLCs? Because we don’t yet have Medicaid or private insurance reimbursement for lactation consults. No reimbursement means women can’t obtain a lactation consult using Medicaid or other insurance for payment; no reimbursement means the IBCLC’s pool of clients is limited to self-paying clients; no reimbursement means that IBCLCs can’t make a living wage in this profession.
When you consider that 59% of all babies in Georgia are born through Medicaid. You quickly realize that the majority of our citizens will not reap the benefits of breastfeeding without a lactation benefit provided for by Medicaid. And, IBCLCs cannot provide Medicaid or insurance funded consults without first being licensed by the State.
The bottom line:
- Licensure of IBCLCs will allow reimbursement from Medicaid and private insurance.
- Reimbursement means more access by patients, which means more demand for IBCLCs, which means more IBCLC’s entering the marketplace
- Licensure will protect the public and good-faith practitioners; avoid confusion with clc, cle, lll, peer counselors and the other support personnel
"The mission of the HMHB Breastfeeding Licensure and Reimbursement Committee is to promote licensure of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in the state of Georgia in order to ensure that qualified and competent clinical lactation services are available, reimbursed by federal and private payors and provided equitably for Georgia’s mothers and babies."