How to Become a Lactation Consultant

How to Become a Lactation Consultant

How to Become a Lactation Consultant

Lactation Consultants are health practitioners specifically trained in the clinical management of breastfeeding. There are so many cases in which a breastfeeding mother (or mother-to-be) may need a breastfeeding consultant. Breastfeeding is the very best start for a baby (and for a mom). However, questions or issues with breastfeeding can arise, and problems that were not there at the beginning may suddenly arise. It’s not shocking that you may feel frustrated and need help from outside your home. In the process, you can never feel alone. In such situations, a lactation consultant is the best person to call. 

Breastfeeding is a lifetime blessing that continues to be offered to mothers and babies in the form of well-being. Both reap several health benefits from breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC 2019), including a greatly decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers and a reduction in ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections for children. Public health support for breastfeeding has been galvanized in recent years. The CDC registered an 11 percent rise in the number of mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies between 2004 and 2016 and an increase of 26 percent in maternity care practices that promote breastfeeding in hospitals (CDC 2019). 

Although these are promising figures, larger numbers indicate that nursing mothers need more support; 60 percent of mothers quit breastfeeding earlier than expected, citing lack of education in hospitals and prohibitive workplace policies (CDC 2019). In order to address this need, lactation consultants seek to empower nursing mothers through educational support and play a much-needed role in making the benefits of breastfeeding more available. 

Lactation Consultants may also help infants who do not gain weight fast enough, premature infants, or those with medical conditions, such as those with a cleft lip and/or palate. Lactation Consultants may work in a variety of environments, including a hospital, private practice or clinic, public health services, or a G.P.’s office. 

Who is a Lactation Consultant 

Many new mothers have breastfeeding issues, such as discomfort, latching problems, or low milk production. In such cases, a lactation consultant may be consulted to provide information and training on baby positioning for breastfeeding, breast pumping, healthy storage of expressed milk, and increased milk production. 

Nurses with a highly specialized function are lactation consultants. They work with new mothers to ensure that they are able to breastfeed their newborn babies. They also provide information on the benefits of breastfeeding and can run breastfeeding classes as well. These experts are careful, successful communicators, and passionate about supporting children and their mothers. Most of them have breastfed themselves, although this is not a prerequisite for a job. These experts also talk to the public and therefore become supporters of breastfeeding. 

What Do Lactation Consultants Do? 

Lactation experts teach nursing skills for mothers and children to tackle breastfeeding difficulties. The lactation consultant’s primary role is to gently direct the breastfeeding mother in a manner that requires the least intervention and creates a minimum amount of complications. The expertise of the consultant is focused on scientific information and experience of breastfeeding.  

They provide a range of services to encourage mothers to nurse their children, including: 

  • Teaching postpartum moms what to look for in a successful latch 
  • Instruction of expectant parents on best practices for breastfeeding 
  • Helping the role of babies and mothers 
  • Advising parents on breast pumps 
  • Information sharing with parents about child feeding 
  • Quality of weight tests on infants 

Advocating policy improvements and keeping up to date with professional growth 

In addition to the Board’s certification by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE), a variety of professional associations are committed to professional advancement in the field of lactation consulting. The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and also the U.S. associated group United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) are affiliates of the Lactation Consultant Association of Breastfeeding Family Care Practitioners. Membership is available to all those who endorse and encourage breastfeeding. 

Where to See a Lactation Consultant 

You will see a lactation counselor in different places. You may take a prenatal breastfeeding class with a lactation consultant when you are pregnant. A lactation consultant could see you in the hospital after your baby is born. There could be a lactation counselor at your clinic or at your doctor’s office. Or, you could be seen privately in your home. 

Lactation consultant training? 

Those seeking to become the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) must comply with the specifications laid down by the International Board of Lactation Consultants (IBLCE). In order to be eligible for the IBLCE certification test, prospective IBLCs must meet the requirements of health science education, lactation education, and lactation clinical experience.  

IBCLCs need to complete courses in 14 subjects, including eight health sciences college courses on topics such as genetics, human anatomy, human physiology, infant and child growth and development, diet, research, sociology, and psychology. They are also expected to complete CPR classes, medical documentation, medical terminology, occupational safety, professional ethics, and safety precautions for infectious diseases. Current health care professionals, such as physicians, nurses, midwives, and medical assistants, can be excluded from these criteria. 

Lactation consultants must also undergo 90 hours of lactation-specific preparation. The IBLCE does not accredit any lactation education services but suggests that a course be selected that covers all the topics that appear in the certification test. 

Medical training is the third criterion for eligibility for the test. Those who have 1,000 hours of experience working with breastfeeding mothers in the five years prior to taking the exam do not have to complete any additional hours. Prospective IBCLCs who do not fulfill these criteria must complete 300 supervised hours of clinical practice with breastfeeding mothers. 

Lactation Consultant Specializations & Degree Types 

There are many approaches to being a lactation consultant. Although there are currently no state-level licensing standards for professions, there are approved training programs and board certification tests to be carried out in order to demonstrate professional credentials. Lactation consultants with higher education and qualifications may expect to have a wider choice of career opportunities and higher salaries. 

Lactation consultants can seek training across three distinctive pathways: 

  • Trade school or undergraduate credential programs 
  • Bachelor’s degree programs in health sciences, nursing, or public health with a lactation consultant’s certificate 
  • Master’s degrees in nursing, health sciences, or public health with a lactation consultant’s certificate 

Both of the above pathways allow prospective lactation consultants to carry out board certification through the International Board of Lactation Consultants (IBLCE) and to receive the title of Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC). Some employers may require more advanced degrees in nursing, health sciences, or public health in addition to the IBLCE RLC board certification. 

Duties 

A lactation consultant has a lot of work to do during the working day. 

Any of these responsibilities shall include: 

  • Advising mothers on childcare  
  • issues 
  • Evaluating the needs of the patient 
  • Creation of reports 
  • Preparation of patients for treatment 
  • Delivery of drugs 

Many Lactation Consultants work very closely with new mothers in the Maternity Department, while others may work in a doctor’s office or clinic. This means that the duties of the job can differ depending on the environment. 

Certification  

To become a licensed lactation consultant, you must comply with the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) requirements for health science education, lactation-specific education, and lactation-specific clinical experience and adhere to their professional code of conduct. Once you have reached these requirements, you are qualified for a certification test. The IBCLC certification is valid for five years, and you can be re-certified after completing your continuing education. IBCLCs are also expected to retake the certification exam every ten years. 

The International Board of Lactation Consultants (IBLCE) is the only international body to be accredited as an International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC). Health practitioners must be IBCLE accredited before they can work as a lactation consultant.  

Health practitioners qualified for certification (such as nurses, midwives, physicians, and many allied health professions) would need to: 

• Complete lactation specific clinical practice – between 300 and 1000 hours
• Complete at least 90 hours of lactation and breastfeeding education
• Reach the passing grade of the IBCLE exam

If you aren’t a health professional, you will need to complete additional tertiary health sciences studies, medical terminology courses and documentation, basic life support, first aid, infection prevention, and ethics. 

What does a lactation consultant earn? 

Certified lactation consultants charge $100 to $200 per session or more, depending on where they are based. Health care professionals(physicians, nurses) who integrate lactation consultation into their current practice will earn a wage for their occupation in the standard range. 

Work Environment 

Most lactation counselors can be found in clinics, delivery centers, and postpartum recovery rooms. They work closely with mothers to teach them how to lock, hold the infant, and sometimes feed. Essentially, they teach new mothers the art of breastfeeding. Since babies can be born anywhere, at any time, lactation consultants can also be found in different places. That includes hospitals, schools, running their own businesses, new mothers’ homes, group environments, etc. 

The practice position is also decided by what other certification the client had prior to being a lactation consultant. In the hospital setting, the lactation consultant is also a registered nurse in the maternity unit. In a clinic such as the Special Supplementary Food Program for Mothers, Girls, and Children (WIC), the consultant may be a registered dietician. 

How are the long term career prospects for lactation consultants? 

Self-employed lactation consultants can establish an active private practice and draw more clients by seeking referrals from former clients and other community health practitioners. 

In addition to doctors or nurses, those who are lactation consultants can advance their careers through further education and training, moving to hospital or practice leadership positions. 

How can I find a job as a lactation consultant? 

If you want to work personally as an independent lactation consultant, you need to advertise your services and make connections to your group. You can get referrals from health care providers, including nurses, doctors, or midwives, so it’s crucial to create a network of providers that can confidently recommend your services. 

If you would love to work in a hospital, a medical office, or a lactation center, additional qualifications may be needed beyond a lactation consultant’s certification. For example, many employers are searching for lactation consultants who are also registered nurses. 

How Much Do Lactation Consultants Make? 

Salaries for lactation consultants differ on the basis of a variety of factors: training, schooling, qualification, job experience, self-reported earnings, and regional living costs. The average annual salary received by registered nurses (including those with lactation consultant training) ranged from $54,931 (Payscale ’19) to $71,730 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019). 

Registered nurses, beginning as lactation consultants, can expect to earn about $50,800, and individuals with significant experience and training in teaching positions can earn an average annual salary of $82,217 (As per salary.com 2019). Lactation consultants also opt to teach lactation clinical courses to prospective nurses or to see clients as private practitioners. Salaries for highly skilled, top-earned registered nurse lactation consultants such as these can be as high as $106,530 (BLS 2019). 

Education Requirements 

While not needed to be a registered nurse before becoming a lactation consultant, many employers search for both. This means that you’ll want to participate in a nursing program if you’re interested in being a lactation consultant. Every Lactation Consultant also has nursing experience because the two functions are very similar. 

A standard nursing program can normally take from 16 months to four years, depending on whether you choose to obtain a bachelor’s degree. It is possible to participate in one of these online programs, but you would need to do clinical in-person with an approved facility. When you’ve graduated from a nursing school, you’ll want to concentrate on the maternity ward. 

Make sure you have some quality experience with lactating women, do this by going to a doctor or becoming part of the La Leche League. You will need to participate in the Lactation Consultant program for lactating and pregnant women in your clinical experience. A lot of these services can be found online as well.  

These programs will cover all the basics, but also key information like: 

  • Basic life support 
  • Medical terminology
  • Safety and infection control 
  • Ethics 
  • Medical documentation 

A Lactation Consultant program can also cost anywhere ranging from $600 to $2,000 dollars. 

If you intend to do some kind of internship through the program you are enrolled in; there might be additional steps. For example, a variety of programs require you to complete an application and apply $100 dollars to be used to position you in an internship. 

You’re going to need to complete a Lactation Consultant program or be enrolled in one to be an intern. A background check is needed as well as an internship fee of around $1,000. After you’ve had enough experience to get through the Lactation Consultant program, you’ll want to start the IBLCE test. 

This will ensure that you are competent in the profession and that you are in line with your career. 

How To Become a Great Lactation Consultant – Step-by-Step Guide  

Graduate from The High School or Earn a GED (Four Years) 

Many fulfilling careers begin with the essential accomplishment of a high school diploma, and most of the certificates and graduate programs require a high school diploma for entry. Courses in anatomy and physiology, genetics, and chemistry will help high school students prepare for a lactation consultant career. 

Complete Prerequisite Courses (At Least One Year) 

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) must take 25 hours or more of the lactation health academic courses outlined by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) depending on the route chosen. The courses include biology, nutrition, sociology, and communication. 

Enroll in an Accredited Program (At Least One Year) 

Those seeking a credential or degree in lactation consulting are encouraged to seek programs recognized by programmatic accrediting organizations such as CAAHEP or a regionally accredited school approved by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Complete supervised practicum hours (Timeline Varies) 

All applicants wishing to take the IBLCE exam must complete a minimum of 90 hours of lactation and general education. The number of hours of practice required varies for each pathway. 

Pass The IBCLC Licensing Exam (Less Than One Year) 

The International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) tests are provided a few times a year, and the appropriate coursework and practicum requirements must be met before being qualified to take the examination.  

Average Training Program Duration 

Average preparation to become a lactation consultant will take from one year to six years. Although it is important to become a nurse before becoming a lactation consultant, the actual lactation consulting program can be extended from 12 weeks to a year. 

A Bachelor’s degree in the nursing program will take about four years to complete. Although the Lactation Consultant program may take a lot less time, you would need at least a Bachelor’s degree to get into the program. If you have completed the Lactation Consultant program, you will be asked to take an IBLCE exam, which can take many months, depending on how many hours of clinical experience you have. 

Job Outlook 

It looks like the profession will rise to about twelve percent in the next ten years. This means that there will always be a market for Lactation Consultants. There are many health benefits of breastfeeding, and in our health-conscious society, more new mothers tend to feed their breastmilk infants. 

Owing to the increase in breastfeeding, it is common that many new mothers do not know how to latch their babies. This means that more and more Lactation consultants are required in hospitals and clinics to support new mothers in frustrating circumstances. 

The career growth forecast for the Lactation Consultant seems to be unbelievable. It seems that the number of jobs will rise by about twelve percent in the next ten years. More mothers are breastfeeding their infants, but that means there are a lot of latching problems. A lactation consultant can help bridge the divide between mothers and their babies by teaching them practical breastfeeding strategies. The more women are turning toward breastfeeding task, the better the job outlook for Lactation Consultants. 

Personal Skills Needed 

To be a very successful Lactation Consultant, one must remember that this is a very important and impactful moment in a women’s life and the life of her babies. 

This means that you’ll need to acquire certain skills in order to work in this career. 

Some of these top-notch skills include but not limited to: 

  • Interpersonal skills 
  • Accuracy 
  • Professional conduct 
  • Communication skills 
  • Patience 
  • Ability to motivate others 
  • Attention to detail 

Breastfeeding can be a very difficult ride for many new mothers, so keeping calm and helping a mother learn certain ways on how to nurse her baby is essential for this career. 

Key Takeaways 

Lactation consultants offer clinical assistance to breastfeeding mothers. They offer nursing education to expectant and new mothers and enable nursing mothers to resolve any kind of breastfeeding-related issues. While anybody, regardless of education and training, can use the title of “lactation consultant,” the field standard is for lactation consultants to become accredited and registered as an International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC).  

A lactation consultant’s potential problems would also go the extra mile to assist a client with nipple soreness, breast engorgement, and milk production. A lactation consultant should know the various components of lactation: milk production, normal breastfeeding behaviors, and factors that may impact the breastfeeding relationship. 

Lactation consultants may operate independently or be employed by medical offices, hospitals, or lactation centers. Some health care practitioners, such as nurses, physicians, and midwives, train to become lactation counselors. However, it is not mandatory to have an established career as a health professional to become a lactation consultant. 

Also read How to become a Doula

How to Become a Lactation Consultant

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