What Is a Lactation Consultant?

Healthcare professional with new mother

A lactation consultant is a healthcare professional with clinical knowledge of human lactation as well as a counselor and educator who helps mothers learn to feed their babies. Not all healthcare professionals have the same training, accurate resources, or provide the positive support a woman needs during breastfeeding. There may be times when a women finds she needs a lactation professional to help her maintain a breastfeeding relationship with her baby.

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) is a professional association for lactation consultants, “a non-governmental organization (NGO) with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).” International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) provide the board certification that gives a healthcare professional the right to use IBCLC or RLC (Registered Lactation Consultant) after their name. Certification includes college courses, work with breastfeeding mothers, and an exam. They must also be periodically recertified.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a health care professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. IBCLCs are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc. under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies. IBCLCs work in a wide variety of health care settings, including hospitals, pediatric offices, public health clinics, and private practice.

“What Is an IBCLC?” International Lactation Consultant Association.

How Does a Lactation Consultant Differ from a Family Doctor?

While family doctors may help you anticipate the need to learn to breastfeed, and they may even help you as you learn, a lactation consultant has specific training to help you in your situation. Unfortunately, not all doctors and other healthcare professionals know how to help you when you have difficulties. Most women do have difficulties at some point, but experienced mothers or trained professionals can help.

All health professionals say they are supportive of breastfeeding. But many are supportive only when breastfeeding is going well, and some, not even then. As soon as breastfeeding, or anything in the life of the new mother is not perfect, too many advise weaning or supplementation.

“How to Know a Health Professional is not supportive of Breastfeeding,” Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, Breastfeeding.com

How Does a Lactation Consultant Differ from a La Leche League Leader?

La Leche League International Leaders have been through extensive training, but their training is not clinical training as a healthcare professional. LLLI Leaders are mothers who also draw on their own breastfeeding experience. They provide mother-to-mother breastfeeding support through community-based meetings.

Leaders know the importance of one mother helping another to recognize and understand the needs of her child and to find the best means of fulfilling those needs. Leaders provide information and support so that each mother can make the decisions which are best for her family.

“What Is Our Purpose as LLLI Leaders?” La Leche League International

Find a Lactation Consultant

Hospitals, birthing centers, and other healthcare facilities employ lactation consultants. Many are also in private practice. You may find a lactation consultant by asking around in your community. You can find an international listing of lactation consultants sponsored by the ILCA. Canadian Lactation Consultant Association is associated with the ILCA.

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2 thoughts on “What Is a Lactation Consultant?”

  1. Hi,
    Great to see you are providing information about International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC’s).
    Just a small correction. it is the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) that provide our certification and info can be found at http://www.iblce.org or http://americas.iblce.org/home. Great website.

    Carole Dobrich, RN, IBCLC


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