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Georgia Lactation Consultants Sue to Keep Their Jobs—and Keep Helping Moms and Babies

Despite popular perception, breastfeeding is an acquired skill, and many moms, first-time and veteran alike, benefit from working with lactation consultants who offer assessment, guidance, and support. That’s why it is so important that IJ is teaming up with lactation consultants in Georgia to challenge a new law that threatens to put more than 800 qualified lactation consultants out of business with the stroke of a pen.

One of these lactation consultants is IJ client Mary Jackson, a certified lactation counselor (CLC), who has worked with hundreds of families over the past three decades. Mary also co-founded Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), a nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness of breastfeeding and offer breastfeeding support to communities of color.

CLCs like Mary become certified by taking a 45-hour course and passing an exam. A second kind of private certification also exists: Becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) involves approximately two years of college-level courses, 90 hours of breastfeeding-specific education, and at least 300 unpaid clinical hours. Unsurprisingly, practicing CLCs outnumber IBCLCs in Georgia three to one.

There is zero evidence that unlicensed lactation care has ever harmed anyone, anywhere. Nonetheless, Georgia ignored the recommendation of its own Occupational Licensing Review Council and created a new license requiring anyone who makes a living helping new mothers learn to breastfeed to become an IBCLC.

Georgia’s new law forces nearly 75 percent of the state’s lactation consultants out of work. They simply will not be able to bear the huge burdens of time and expense it would take to meet the new licensing requirements. This includes CLCs who, like Mary, have taught physicians around the country breastfeeding best practices. Moreover, it creates a huge deficit in care for the 2,500 babies born in Georgia each week—all to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

IJ moved swiftly to stop the law from taking effect, pulling our case together in a matter of weeks. We won a first-round victory just days after filing suit when Georgia agreed to stop enforcing the law during litigation. That means Mary and hundreds of other CLCs can continue working until IJ strikes down this unjust and unnecessary licensing law once and for all.

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