08.09.22 3 min read

So You Want to Be a Lactation Consultant?

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated its guidance to recommend  continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond (1). Despite this, more than half of new mothers stop breastfeeding sooner than they originally intended. While rates of breastfeeding initiation in the U. S. are high, only about a quarter of babies continue to be exclusively breastfed at six months (2). 

And here’s the thing–while the new AAP recommendations are aspirational, the reality for many new parents is a lot more complex. It can be hard enough to navigate feeding issues, find a balance between parenthood and career, and reconcile the ever-present “mom guilt.” For some, these new guidelines may feel like asking too much, especially faced with a lack of public policies that support people in the transition to parenthood. 

Lactation consultants can be a key resource in helping new parents feel held and validated while navigating these recommendations alongside their real-life challenges.

Kimberleigh Weiss-Lewit, IBCLC with Zaya Care, explains: “Having a trusted professional validate your experiences can make a huge impact on early parenting. My work is really so much more than just infant feeding—my goal is that the whole family is cared for and nourished.”

Read on to find answers to the most frequently asked questions about becoming a lactation consultant. 

What is a lactation consultant?

Lactation consultants are experts in breastfeeding. The term is broad and covers a variety of professionals who are trained to provide breastfeeding support and triage common nursing complications. 

What kind of things can a lactation consultant help with?

A lactation consultant provides help with all things breastfeeding–from planning a nursing journey through all the ups and downs. Lactation consultants can help with a variety of the most common challenges, including:

  • Increasing milk supply
  • Correcting improper or painful latch
  • Assessing for tongue tie
  • Navigating nipple confusion, bottle refusal, or nursing strikes 
  • Aiding in resolution of plugged ducts 
  • Assistance in learning to use a pump or navigating return to work 

Weiss-Lewit also notes that some lactation consultants can counsel on “more general needs, like how to get more sleep, calm a fussy baby and share infant care between partners.” 

What’s the difference between the different types of lactation consultants?

The two most common types of lactation consultants are Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). 

A CLC completes a certificate course in breastfeeding. This 52-hour training covers lactation basics and common breastfeeding concerns. Applicants take an examination at the end of the course to complete the training. They must complete 18 hours of continuing education and recertification every 3 years (3). 

In contrast, an IBCLC completes 300-1,000 hours of clinical training alongside 90 hours of extensive health science coursework. Applicants take an examination prior to licensing. They must complete 250 hours of practical lactation consulting and recertification every 5 years (4). 

IBCLC vs. Certified Lactation Counselor: Does it matter?

Because there are different training processes between the two certifications, they tend to draw different people. Many IBCLCs are healthcare professionals, like registered nurses and midwives, who have already completed the prerequisite health and social science coursework. However, there are also pathways that allow people without healthcare backgrounds to obtain IBCLC certification. 

CLC certification provides a broad breastfeeding knowledge that allows CLCs to give new parents guidance when it comes to establishing and maintaining breastfeeding. In comparison, the hours of mentored clinical experiences required for IBCLC certification may help IBCLCs assist parents confronting a greater variety of real-world breastfeeding concerns and complications. 

Some people view the CLC certification as a stepping stone to becoming an IBCLC, though others feel the overall scope of lactation support can be the same regardless of which licensure is chosen.

Ultimately, choice between certifications depends on a variety of factors including cost, location of practice, insurance reimbursement, and career goals.

How can Zaya help my lactation practice grow?

Zaya makes it easy to grow your lactation practice and offer in-network care. We provide enhanced terms, a guaranteed payback for every visit, and handle all of the administrative tasks, so you can spend less time on paperwork and more time on client care. 

There are many benefits to going in-network including a reliable source of new clients, client base diversification, and greater consistency in how frequently each client sees you.


References:

  1. Meek JY, Noble L; Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 2022;150(1):e2022057988
  2. Breastfeeding Report Card: United States, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed November 24, 2021. Accessed June 29, 2022. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm
  3. Frequently Asked Questions: CLC. Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice. Accessed June 29, 2022. Available from: https://alpp.org/faq-s/faq-main-clc
  4. Prepare for IBCLC Recertification. International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Accessed June 29, 2022. Available from: https://alpp.org/faq-s/faq-main-clc