IBCLCs, Negative Experiences, and Self-Advocacy



This post made possible in part by the generous support of Boba, makers of the Boba Baby Carrier.

Jessica and Sugarbaby Bfing

When my daughter was entering the 2nd grade at our local public school, we were all enthusiastic about the coming year.  She loved school, loved learning, loved everything about it.  But just a few short weeks into the school year things we drastically different.  She cried all the time, she hated going to school, she started struggling with school work, and every day she complained that her tummy hurt and she was too sick to go to school.  We were confused.  What had happened to our little girl?

It quickly became apparent that while there were multiple issues going on that I won’t go into here except to say there were some technical difficulties and an adjustment period that needed to happen.  Still, there was one particular issue that emerged as being critical: she didn’t like her teacher.  Believing we need to encourage her to work with people, even ones she didn’t like, The Piano Man and I tried to help her navigate this relationship.  This proved to be more challenging than we expected because, as it turned out, we didn’t like her either.  She simply wasn’t the kind of person we thought would be teaching second grade.  Or teaching at all.  Grough, grumpy, rarely smiled, she came across as cold and distant.  Suddenly, challenges our daughter had previously felt empowered to tackle loomed as impossible mountains.  Intimidated by the one she thought was there to guide and support her in facing these challenges, she withdrew and began to give up.

We tried to work with the school and the teacher but in a short amount of time we felt we needed to explore other options and ended up transferring schools.  It was that, or risk killing our daughter’s love for learning and that simply wasn’t something we were willing to sacrifice.

When we visited the new school Earth Baby was nervous about meeting the 2nd grade teacher.  Gripping my hand she whispered “I don’t like 2nd grade teachers, they are mean.”  I was surprised she had already jumped to a conclusion about a group of people based on her experience with just one of that group.  Given that she was 7 at the time, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at such an immature response but I felt that we had worked hard to help our children understand how individuals can be so different.  Encouraging her to remember that Miss B. would be a person first, a 2nd grade teacher second, we met with the teacher.  Gentle, kind, friendly, and very warm, Miss B. proved to be the opposite of the previous 2nd grade teacher and Earth Baby ended up flourishing in her class.  Inspired with hope and confidence, Earth Baby made a lifelong friend in her teacher (and is seeing her this summer) and not only met but surpassed her goals for the year with an enflamed love of learning.  Interestingly enough, now she will talk about how wonderful 2nd grade teachers are and being a teacher is in her top 5 career options.

Why am I sharing this story on a breastfeeding site?  Moms often come to TLB looking for breastfeeding support. The support they are looking for is usually just about what is normal in breastfeeding journeys, the mom-to-mom support of experience and camaraderie.  Sometimes it’s for issues that are outside of normal and require more expertise support and help.  It isn’t uncommon for a Leaky and/or one of the admin to recommend seeing an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for experienced and trained support.  These experts are usually the most equipped to help moms with true lactation problems having gone through intense training and having to comply to regular board standards in their continuing education and certification.  Just as often, someone then shares their negative experience with an IBCLC.  Frustrated and hurt, these women sometimes share that an IBCLC almost ruined their breastfeeding relationship with misinformation, intimidating and overwhelming directions, and sometimes down right bullying.

Find the right IBCLC

From these comments it sometimes sounds as though they fear all IBCLCs will be just like the negative experience they had.  Hurt and discouraged by the one or two individuals they encountered in the profession, they are unsure they can trust anyone with the title and position.  Like my daughter felt unsure about 2nd grade teachers, these moms are skeptical of the entire IBCLC profession, not because they don’t know that they are all different people but because they may believe that what they didn’t like is actually expected to be a part of the profession.  As if the consultants are trained to support that way.  Just as with any profession, there are individuals within the lactation consultant profession that are rude, unsupportive, not helpful, judgmental, dismissive, and misinformed. Thankfully, most I’ve met go into supporting breastfeeding moms because they genuinely care and want to help moms reach their breastfeeding goals.  The IBCLCs I’ve interacted with understand the vulnerable nature of that time in a mother’s life and the importance of providing the right kind of support.  Most IBCLCs aren’t in the profession to push an agenda or tell moms what to do, they genuinely seek to provide legitimate support unique to each mothers’ needs.  Sure, I’ve met a few that seemed burned out and dogmatic just like my daughter’s first second grade teacher, but just like most 2nd grade teachers actually enjoy children and teaching, so most IBCLCs aim to provide sincere information and assistance.  I encourage moms that need lactation support to move on from someone that isn’t supportive to find someone that’s a better fit.   It’s that, or risk not reaching your breastfeeding goals and that simply isn’t something we should be willing to sacrifice without a fight.

I am aware that for many, a second choice, let alone a third or fourth, isn’t readily available.  Financial restrictions, local availability, and even cultural support from family and friends can make it difficult to find someone.  Sometimes, shoot, maybe often, the support you need will find you in unexpected places such as the internet or a new friend.  Moms may have to try other paths for lactation support such as virtual appointments via the web or attending a local breastfeeding support group or even reading articles online.  Whatever it takes, pushing on to find the support you need may be work but you and your baby are worth it.

You don’t have to be stuck with a professional providing inadequate support.  In the end, you are the biggest advocate for you and your child and if advocating for you both means moving on to find the assistance you need, you won’t regret doing so.  As Leaky and IBCLC Jackie Rauch shared:

I will sometimes tell my clients the story of me seeking her out just to let them know that even the people with the knowledge need to seek out help from people with the knowledge. If you are not getting the help you need, keep looking!

You never know, you may find the one that helps you turn it all around and inspires you with hope and confidence.

Need a lactation consultant?  This site can help you find one.


What about you?  What has your experience with an IBCLC or other lactation professional been like?  Did you have to find someone else for better support at some point?  Did an IBCLC or other lactation professional help you in your breastfeeding journey?  Check out the conversation we’re having on this very topic over on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page



  1. I would probably turn the box into some sort of fort.

  2. I agree with your daughter. Second grade teachers are mean! At least some of them are. I was also in second grade when I met my first mean teacher. I kept telling my mother I didn’t like her. In 1st grade I was kind of the “smart darling” of the class. I was always right. I was made to feel like I was the smartest in the class even if I happened to be wrong. I was given encouragement and the most important lesson of all, self-confidence. What my 1st grade teacher accomplished in one year, my second grade teacher destroyed. I failed that year and had to repeat the grade. When I did repeat it, I had a new teacher who was again encouraging. She flat out told me and my mother that there was no reason for me to have repeated that grade. I knew the material, its just with the overbearing, mean spirited teacher I had, I wasn’t able to flourish.

    So bravo Mama for listening to your kids and not letting her love of learning die.

    • Oh that makes me so sad! I feel confident that if Earth Baby didn’t fail that year she would have barely survived and hated school forever. So grateful we were able to get out of that situation. So sorry for the suffering you endured. ~Jessica

  3. I used a lactation consultant for my son who was very negative towards me being able to breast feed as a person of size. I didn’t manage to establish a breast feeding relationship tho I pumped 6 mths. When I found out that I was pregnant again I used that time to research on my own and am now at 19 mths nursing

    • I’m so glad you were able to reach your goals with breastfeeding this time around and I’m so disappointed and sorry that it was such a struggle with an unsupportive LC with your first. ~Jessica

  4. Absolutely! Just like there are good doctors and bad ones, good lawyers and bad ones, good teachers and bad ones, every lactation consultant or counselor brings with them their own style, knowledge, baggage, and ability. Not everyone is good at his or her job and, unfortunately, jumping through the hoops of certification doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have a talent for the work or compassion for your clients.

  5. Thank you for this! I understand your daughters story quite well as all 3 of my boys had similar issues with different teachers in school until I pulled them and we homeschooled.

    As far as the LC gig goes – yeah, I have had moms come to me (I am a private practice LC) with one hell of an attitude. Their comments range from, “My friend says you can help me. I don’t buy it, but I am desperate and you can’t be any worse than the 5 other ones I’ve seen already,” to “If you can’t help me I quit. You are my last resort.” Um…no pressure there right? Luckily I must be pretty good at what I do because we generally can get them back on track and they soften up and realize that not all LCs are like the ones they worked with.

    As you stated – there are good people in every field and then there are ones you just have to wonder why they are still there. They harm people, they don’t care…and LCs are no different. And it’s sad. I tell the mama’s I talk with that LCs don’t all have the same background or even the same education. Some got into this to pay the bills – bigger paycheck because they added IBCLC to their RN for the hospital. Some just need to never be allowed near a mama and a baby again. Others are so passionate they will work darn near for free. And, many of us find a specialty – something within the lactation field that just hooks us and we need to learn as much as we can about that aspect and we become specialists. And I tell moms that all LCs do not work well for all moms. Personality clashes happen, and when they do, moms need to move on and find someone who she feels safe with, she can trust and who she will ‘click’ with.

    So – thank you! This is an important topic…

    Jaye Simpson, IBCLC

    • We are now homeschooling too. The right choice for us at the moment.

      Personality clashes is a big one I think. My favorite doctor is a rough guy with terrible bedside manner. Many can’t stand him. But I appreciate his upfront, blunt ways… most of the time. What works for one person may not work with another and that’s ok. You’re right, some aren’t in it because of the work, they’re there for the pay check. So grateful for those that help moms reach their goals and I hope more and more we have options to turn to if one doesn’t work for us and more moms get the support they need. Thank you for the work you do! ~Jessica

  6. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jessica! It is so important for moms to know that they are able to question and look for second opinions with ANYTHING having to do with parenting, whether it be with an IBCLC, pediatrician, or school for their child. I actually wrote about this a few months ago, as well, after hearing so many mothers on Facebook speaking about this issue. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us! Here’s my article, as well: http://sdbfc.com/blog/2012/12/6/when-its-time-to-find-a-new-lactation-consultant.html

  7. I have known some wonderful IBCLCs! Helpful, kibd, thorough- an IBCLC helped defend my breastfeeding relationship against an ignorant physician!

    I have also known some truly horrible IBCLCs. One in particular who actually caused the immediate cessation of a breastfeeding relationship.

    I agree that if one hasn’t found the help one needs, keep going. And not only to IBCLCs as there are other kinds of professional lactation supporters available to women- Certified Lactation Counselors, Advanced Lactation Consultants and Advanced Nurse Lactation Consultants are also available in many communities- and they are sometimes more numerous in number than IBCLCs.

    Also, peer support is an amazing resource as well- if you want to breastfeed, please build your support network before delivering your baby so you can call on that network at a moment’s notice IF there is difficulty!

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