Becoming a Lactation Consultant or IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant) 

When it comes to breastfeeding, there is a lot of research and personal stories that share and emphasize the benefits for both the mother and the child. However, many mothers and families have reported the struggle of nursing their children. To assist these families and their babies, a Lactation Consultant may come in to help them navigate the breastfeeding process. 

What is a Lactation Consultant? 

Essentially, Lactation Consultants are breastfeeding consultants. They handle the clinical management of breastfeeding. Lactation Consultants take care of questions and concerns, manage and prevent breastfeeding issues, and help families effectively nurse their children. Here are some examples of what Lactation Consultants do: 

  • Teach nursing skills to mothers and families 
  • Guide postpartum mothers on good latching 
  • Share best breastfeeding practices 
  • Position babies and mothers for efficient nursing 
  • Advise on breast pumps 
  • Provide knowledge of nutrition 

Lactation Consultants receive comprehensive training and board testing. They are thoroughly educated and undergo lots of hands-on training. Throughout their career, they have used evidence-based practices to help families. To continue working and do well, they must stay up-to-date on policy changes, periodically get recertified in their work, and educate themselves on the latest research. 

Who can become a Lactation Consultant? 

To become certified, Lactation Consultants need to take many science courses, receive training, and have clinical experience before taking the board exam. But who can be Lactation Consultants? 

The answer is anyone, as long as they have graduated from high school, are committed to getting educated in science and lactation-specific courses and obtain the necessary clinical hours. The type of person that becomes a Lactation Consultant varies based on their background. Some people that become IBCLCs are Speech, Language Pathologists and Registered Nurses, or they are recent high school graduates that have taken part time science courses at a college near them. Many have Bachelors and Master’s degrees in nursing, health sciences or public health or enrolled in an undergraduate certification program. While there is a huge range of educational backgrounds that candidates have, all candidates put in effort and are motivated to continue down the path of becoming an IBCLC and must be board certified. 

How to become a Lactation Consultant?

To become a Lactation Consultant, you do not have to have a healthcare professional job beforehand. So, how do you become a Lactation Consultant regardless of your professional background? Well, here are the steps: 

  1. You must graduate from high school and receive your diploma. 
  1. You must complete prerequisite courses or complete education in 14 health science fields. These include biology, chemistry, communication, and more depending on where you are taking these classes. These courses can be taken during undergrad or can be taken part-time. If one is already a healthcare professional such as a Nurse or Speech & Language Pathologist, they do not need to take these prerequisite classes again. They can just provide evidence from a government authority that recognizes their job as a clinical health professional. 
  1. Next, you must get a minimum of 95 hours of lactation-specific courses within 5 years from an IBCLC verified CERP Provider (Continuing Education Recognition Points) or lactation education programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP). 
  1. Afterwards, you must get supervised clinical hours, ranging from 300 to 1000 hours, based on your educational and professional qualifications. 
  1. Finally, you take the IBLCE board exam. 

Keep in mind that this is a general idea of how the process works and that the pathway to becoming a Lactation Consultant or an IBCLC may look different for everyone. It is best to do further research once you finish this article and are interested in Lactation Consultancy. 

How much do Lactation Consultants make? 

Salaries depend on where you live, your professional and educational background, experience, and where you work. In general, Registered Nurses starting out as Lactation Consultants may earn around $50,800. Those with extensive experience and training in teaching roles can earn average annual salaries of $82,217. Certain highly experienced, top-earning Registered Nurse Lactation Consultants can make as high as $106,530, especially if they choose to teach clinical courses in lactation. 

Lastly, where do they work? 

Lactation Consultants can be board certified in many different settings. They can work in hospitals, private practice, clinics, and government and non-profit agencies.  

Being a Lactation Consultant and helping mothers, children, and families can be rewarding work. However the path to getting there requires effort, motivation, and further research on your part. Check out these resources for more information: 

Photo by Anna Shvets:

By Medha Purushotham
Medha Purushotham