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Your Guide to Becoming a Lactation Consultant


Do you feel drawn to helping others as they welcome their new baby into the world? Are you passionate about breastfeeding and dream of helping others meet their breastfeeding goals? Working as a lactation consultant is a rewarding and incredibly important career path.

There are many ways you can gain the knowledge and experience necessary to start a business in providing high-quality breastfeeding support to families. If you’ve started to research this field, you would have probably come across various titles: breastfeeding or lactation counselor, lactation educator, and lactation consultant. 

Which type of lactation consultant do I want to become?

Let’s look at each type of expert, what they do, what is involved in becoming accredited, and what you need to do to get started in a career in lactation. 

Becoming a breastfeeding or lactation counselor

Your Guide to Becoming a Lactation Expert

lactation counselor is a trained and accredited volunteer who provides evidence-based breastfeeding information and support to mothers through in-person meetings, phone, or online.

Prerequisites: If you are interested in helping breastfeeding mothers in your community as a Breastfeeding Counselor, you will probably need to have breastfed at least one child and for at least one full year before applying.

Training: Here are two organizations offering comprehensive education courses:

Breastfeeding USA 

Provides evidence-based information to promote breastfeeding as the biological and cultural norm. Accreditation is for the purpose of volunteering for Breastfeeding USA only:

  • Delivery method: Online.
  • Time to complete the course: The average is about 9 months, but can be completed in 4 months or less. 
  • Cost: $125 non-refundable.

La Leche League International 

Provides accreditation for successful applicants to become La Leche League Leaders (LLLL):

  • Delivery method: It’s an extensive application process rather than a course. Read LLLL’s FAQs.
  • Time to complete the application: Most applications are completed within 6-12 months.
  • Cost: Fees vary according to where you live and include a membership fee, application fee, materials, and accreditation fee. 

Opportunities: Breastfeeding counselors may offer breastfeeding support in various ways, including teaching breastfeeding classes, and there may be opportunities to help at the national level, including fundraising, writing articles, and education. 

Limitations: You will not benefit financially from this role, and the credential is not designed to be used in professional lactation or other healthcare services. 

Potential earning: As this is a volunteer position, you might find the knowledge valuable if you already work with other mothers and babies in another capacity, such as a doula, newborn photographerbaby planner, or sleep coach. 

Becoming a lactation educator

lactation educator is a certified professional who answers lactation questions in the prenatal and postnatal periods. You would provide breastfeeding information and strategies, public education, and be a general advocate for breastfeeding. 

Prerequisites: There are usually no prerequisites, but it’s generally most beneficial for someone already working in the wellness field who wants to deepen their knowledge of breastfeeding. 

Training: Sign up today to start your training to become a certified lactation educator. Here are two organizations offering programs:

CAPPA 

Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) is an international organization for Doulas, Childbirth Educators, and Lactation Educators. The details for their Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) course are:

  • Delivery method: Available online.
  • Time to complete the course: You must satisfy all requirements (see what they are here) within 2 years.
  • Cost: $700 and up, not including the cost of books. 

Bebo Mia 

Provides inclusive and accessible training that provides the necessary skills to grow and sustain a lucrative lactation education business. The details for their Certified Lactation Educator course are:

  • Delivery method: Online.
  • Time to complete the course: Go at your own pace, but you must complete the requirements within 2 years. 
  • Cost: $679 with payment plans.

Opportunities: You can teach lactation classes and provide clinical care, counseling, and support to parents and other healthcare professionals. This certification is a great way to supplement your current business supporting families, such as childbirth education, nursing, massage therapy, or prenatal and postpartum fitness. 

Limitations: A certified lactation educator is not qualified to offer medical advice but will appropriately refer their clients to a lactation consultant or other medical professional. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), some lactation education courses aren’t connected and won’t count toward your required contact hours. 

Potential earnings: According to Comparably, the average Certified Lactation Educator in the US makes $55,371 annually. This will vary depending on your location and experience.

Becoming a lactation consultant (IBCLC)

lactation consultant is a health professional who holds an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant qualification. They usually work in hospitals, child health services, or in private practice. 

Prerequisites: The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) is the organization that administers the certification exam. To sit the exam, you are to meet the eligibility criteria via one of three pathways. Find your appropriate pathway here.

Training: You will be required to complete 90 hours of lactation education, 5 hours of communication education, plus 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience with breastfeeding mothers and babies. You can complete a course via organizations such as:

Lactation Education Resources 

Offers a Lactation Consultant Training Program, which is approved by LEAARC (the leader in establishing standards and guidance in lactation education):

  • Delivery method: Online, with 1-year access after enrollment.
  • Time to complete the course: 90 hours; most students complete it in 4-6 months. 
  • Cost: $975.

United States Lactation Consultant Association 

Provides education designed to meet the requirements to be able to sit the IBCLC exam:

  • Delivery method: Online.
  • Time to complete the course: 90 hours; most students complete it in 4-6 months.
  • Cost: $999 (purchase it here).

Opportunities: IBCLCs work in a wide range of settings, such as hospitals, milk banks, lactation centers, medical practices, midwifery practices, and private lactation consultant practices. 

Limitations: The exam is only held twice a year, and you will need to study and complete many hours of supervised practice, so this is a career path you won’t be able to start quickly. 

Potential earnings: According to Indeed, the average salary for a Lactation Consultant is $68,311 in the United States. 

Your Guide to Becoming a Lactation Expert

Conclusion

Many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding, and lactation consultants are always in demand. If you feel deeply committed to supporting and caring for families through their breastfeeding journey, then you’re on the right track.

Has this helped you make an informed decision about which type of lactation expert you would like to be? If you’re still on the fence, you might want to try volunteering as a lactation counselor first to see if it’s the right fit for you. Chat to other people in the industry, follow IBCLCs on social media, and join Facebook groups to learn about the pros and cons of working as a lactation expert. 



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