JoAnne W. Scott, an advocate of breast-feeding who helped advance the professional qualifications of lactation consultants around the world, died Sept. 18 of breast cancer at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va. She was 62.
Rarely heard of a generation ago, lactation consultants are now on the staffs of hospitals, maternity and pediatric centers and private medical practices in dozens of countries. Largely through Scott's efforts, the field has become a licensed profession with rigorous requirements for certification.
Scott had long believed that breast-feeding conferred physical and psychological benefits to both mother and child, but when she encountered problems breast-feeding her children in the early 1970s, she had few places to turn for help.
She later learned of La Leche League, an international group of mothers who offer assistance with breast-feeding, and in 1975 she became a volunteer. By the late 1970s, trained lactation specialists in California were offering practical guidance to nursing mothers.
In an effort to develop consistent standards, Scott became director of La Leche League's lactation consultant department in 1982. She helped develop educational programs, professional regulations and certification tests as her specialty rapidly expanded in the United States and overseas.
In 1985, she became founding director of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, an independent examining body to certify specialists in breast-feeding. Consulting with doctors, nurses and mothers, Scott recruited volunteers from around the world to help administer the testing program.
At the first certifying examinations in 1985 in Washington, D.C., and Melbourne, Australia, 259 people took the test. Today, there are more than 16,000 certified lactation consultants in 69 countries. They must be recertified every five years.
To get her licensing board established, Scott worked for years with no compensation. She traveled throughout the world to develop networks of lactation specialists and to promote the idea of breast-feeding.
Today, more than 70% of U.S. mothers breast-feed their babies for at least part of their infancy, and rates in other Western countries are as high as 98%.
JoAnne Winney Scott was born in Wilmington, Del., and graduated from Hanover College in Indiana. In 1965, she received a master's degree in English from the University of Virginia.
As she became more established, Scott wrote papers on breast-feeding and spoke at international conferences. But she also worked with volunteers and mothers individually.
"I have worked with very few people longer than I worked with JoAnne, and no one has come close to matching her ambassadorial skills and global diplomacy," said Leon Gross, a doctor in Charlotte, N.C., who is an authority on breast-feeding.
"And literally, the entire world is a better place as a result."
"She truly felt like the Lord had called her to help mothers and babies in this way," said her daughter, Cordia Hennaman of Richmond, Va.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 40 years, Douglas Scott of Annandale, Va.; a son, Christopher Scott of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.