The Metropolitan College of Professional Studies at historically Black Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina has established the Lactation Consultant Training Program. The program aims to increase the number of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) of color. In North Carolina, it is estimated that less than 5 percent of IBCLCs are Black.
Additionally, North Carolina has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, with Black infants dying at twice the rate of non-Hispanic White infants. Breastfeeding has been identified as protecting against infant mortality, the Black population has the lowest rates of breastfeeding duration. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 62 percent of Black infants born in the United States in 2010 initiated breastfeeding, compared to 79 percent of White infants. After six months, only 36 percent of African American infants were still breastfeeding, compared to 52 percent of White infants.
Through the new program at Johnson C. Smith University, students will attend classes at the university and complete clinical rotations through Novant Health and other community-based organizations. Upon successful completion of the program, students will have earned 12 college course credits, at least 90 hours of didactic education, and over 300 clinical hours, which will then make them eligible to apply to sit for the IBCLC exam. According to the university, this is the first lactation consultant training program of its kind at an HBCU.
“We are aware of the crisis in breastfeeding and the lack of available information and guidance among African American community members and infant and childcare professionals,” said Dr. Antonia Mead, chair of the department of health and human performance at Johnson C. Smith University. “There is an urgent need for more birth workers and lactation experts that can assist the families who need it the most. We want to help close that gap in the community and at the same time, create more employment opportunities.”
Dr. Mead holds a Ph.D. in health education and promotion from the University of Alabama.