What is a Lactation Consultant?
Breastfeeding is a normal, biological process for babies and moms. It is not a “condition” that requires medical intervention. Your doctor helps you with medical concerns. A lactation consultant will help you with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants work in hospitals, clinics or may come to your home.
A lactation consultant is a skilled healthcare professional who specializes in the science of human lactation (breastfeeding), and in the assessment of breastfeeding women and their babies. Lactation consultants come from a variety of professional backgrounds. To ensure that a consultant has the minimum competencies recognized in the field, see an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). “Breastfeeding specialists” or “lactation educators” have not met those minimum competencies.
A lactation consultant must be certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). IBLCE requires several hundred hours of hands-on experience and classroom education before a candidate is permitted to sit for the certifying exam. The exam is offered once a year all over the world. When certified, the lactation consultant must maintain her credential with continuing education and periodic exams.
The credential of IBCLC stands alone. That means that an IBCLC with a PhD is not necessarily better than an IBCLC with a bachelor’s degree. When selecting a lactation consultant, however, feel free to ask about her experience and qualifications! It’s important to trust the person who will be helping you to begin your breastfeeding journey.
Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com.