During my graduate study in speech-language pathology, I simultaneously had the opportunity to study at the University of North Carolina’s Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute. As an alumna of the Mary Rose Tully Training Initiative, being certified as an IBCLC has impacted my clinical practice as an SLP for the better as I’ve worked to help families through their children’s feeding and swallowing difficulties.

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Breastfeeding-specific education within Speech-Language Pathology is still lacking

From the beginning, I’ve been perplexed by how few speech-language pathologists have expertise in breastfeeding, because to me the two fields complement each other so well; the specific training in swallowing anatomy and physiology, as well as feeding skill development can greatly inform problem solving through breastfeeding difficulty – particularly in situations where the infant is medically fragile. At the very least, the lactation consultant and a breastfeeding-informed speech-language pathologist can make an excellent team.

My Master’s thesis examined the breastfeeding knowledge and skills of SLPs who provide dysphagia (pediatric swallowing) services, and their experiences dealing directly with breastfeeding issues. Most Speech-Language Pathologists reported that they encounter breastfeeding issues regularly in their practice. While some clinicians did not feel comfortable addressing breastfeeding issues, many had taken the initiative to learn breastfeeding support skills and translate that into their practice, particularly after having their own personal breastfeeding experience. Most of the clinicians surveyed acknowledged breastfeeding as a clinical area that provides the valuable opportunity to collaborate with and learn from other professionals, namely IBCLCs.

Like so many other healthcare professions, exposure to breastfeeding-specific education within speech-language pathology is lacking. But as the number of breastfeeding women grows, so must the number of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals to support them. With the right education and clinical experiences, SLPs can be a huge asset to breastfeeding dyads and the clinicians who support them.

Breastfeeding Knowledge and Clinical Management Among Speech-Language Pathologists

The Speech-Language Pathologist and the Lactation Consultant: The Baby’s Feeding Dream Team

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Adara Blake

Adara Blake

Adara is a speech-language pathologist and IBCLC currently living in Philadelphia. She is a proud alumna of New York University as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Adara seeks to use her clinical background in pediatric feeding and swallowing disorders to complement her lactation training, in order to better serve families who are experiencing difficulty during breastfeeding. She also has an specific interest in improving visibility and support for breastfeeding among women of color.
Adara Blake

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