The lactation consultant can be self-employed, employed by community agencies, or work in a hospital setting. When a new mother or pregnant woman has questions or problems with breast-feeding, the lactation consultant is the one to see. This specialist can provide advice on proper diet, positioning and general health for the breastfeeding mother.
Lactation Consultant Job Description & Scope of Practice
The lactation consultant may provide general information for the public on the benefits of breastfeeding. Other consultants provide advice and guidance for mothers who may be experiencing difficulty or discomfort in breastfeeding.
The lactation consultant may provide breastfeeding advice for mother is who feel their milk production is inadequate. Other consultants provide advice on breastfeeding for adoptive mothers.
The lactation consultant will have a good base in biology, nutrition, anatomy and many clinical hours spent counselling patients and families about breastfeeding. Very few mothers have any question that breastfeeding is a natural way to feed babies, and few question the superior value of breast milk. However, not all mothers understand how to breastfeed and return to work, the lactation consultant offers advice on breast pumps, proper breast milk storage and nutrition for the breastfeeding mother.
How to Become a Lactation Consultant
There are several paths to becoming a lactation consultant. Nurses and doctors will have fulfilled most of the general education requirements. Health care professionals may be allowed to show to satisfy this part of the requirements. Anyone else must meet these requirements as well as meet clinical hours in providing counselling and guidance for breastfeeding mothers and families. All of this is required to sit for the International Board of Lactation Consultants Examiners (IBLCE) examination. This is the most widely recognized certification available for lactation consultants.
Lactation Consultant Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs
- Obtain general education in eight subjects including sociology, biology, anatomy, nutrition, infant child development, anatomy, biology, and physiology. Candidates taking the test for the first time may also be required to take CPR, Infection control, medical terminology, medical documentation and ethics for the health professional.
- A health professional may have these educational requirements completed during the course of their training in the health field. Transcripts can be supplied by the professional in order to waive those requirements.
- Provide lactation counselling services for a minimum of 600 hours (for MDs) to 6,000 hours. Proof must be supplied that these clinical practice hours have been met.
- The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) offers certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Those wishing to become board certified must have experience working with breastfeeding mothers plus at least 90 hours of education in human lactation and breastfeeding. There are three ways or plans that candidates can follow to receive certification through IBLCE. The first path requires the appropriate education plus 1000 hours working in a clinical setting in the field of lactation and breastfeeding care. The second involves going to an IBCLC accredited school to receive education and practical experience. The third consists of education and shadowing another IBLCE for 500 hours. Exams are administered once per year at multiple locations worldwide. The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) provides a social network and educational platform for IBCLC. Certification is not required to work as a lactation consultant, but it is preferred.
Lactation Consultant Salary and Career Outlook
The lactation consultant career prospects are excellent and expected to grow apace with the demand for nurses and other health professionals. The BLS predicts a job growth of around 21% in the healthcare field over the next 8 years.
The salary of a lactation consultant ranges from around $60,000 a year in a hospital to over $85,000 for an independent lactation consultant.