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Lactation Consultant

Lactation Consultant

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Spotlights

Job Description

Lactation consultants guide and support mothers through the breastfeeding process from preconception to weaning. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • You get to make a difference in women’s lives; helping them to establish bonds with their new babies and providing the babies with vital nutrients.
  • Good work/life balance
  • Satisfaction of solving breastfeeding problems
  • Working with babies!
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

They show mothers how to position their babies and get them to latch correctly, and teach them about things like breast pumps or supplemental feeding options. They also help to ensure that the baby is getting enough milk and gaining enough weight. Lactation consultants often offer breastfeeding courses and seminars to parents.

When working in a hospital setting, the job may often require overnight shifts and odd hours. Consultants in the maternity ward may work for several days straight, followed by several days off. Working in a physician’s office often allows for a more predictable schedule. 

Skills Needed on the Job
  • Necessary Skills
  • Interpersonal Communication 
  • Accuracy/Attention to detail
  • Patience 
  • Teaching skills
  • Listening 
  • Ability to motivate
  • Ability to work with different people from different backgrounds
  • Discipline
  • Commitment 
Different Types of Organizations
  • Hospital - Maternity ward, NICU
  • Physician office 
  • Government office
  • Private practice
  • Outreach programs
Job Prospects

According to CDC, in the United States, 83.2% of new mothers begin breastfeeding their babies, and 57.6% continue for 6 months. Breastfeeding rates are on the rise, meaning that lactation consultant careers are as well. 

Education and Training Needed
  • Complete required health science courses
    • 8 college courses:
      • Human anatomy
      • Physiology
      • Biology
      • Sociology & cultural sensitivity
      • Psychology or counseling or communication skills
      • Infant and child growth and development
      • Research or statistics 
    • 6 General Education courses:
      • Medical terminology
      • Safety and security 
      • Medical documentation
      • Ethics for health professionals
      • Universal safety and infection control
  • Complete 90 hours didactic learning in lactation
  • Complete clinical experience (300-1000 hours)
  • Pass the IBCLE certification exam
Educational institutions with CAAHEP accredited lactation program
  • Birthingway College of Midwifery
  • UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health
  • Drexel University
  • Portland State University
  • Union Institute and University
  • University of California San Diego Extension
  • But you can enter this career with any or no degree, as long as you complete the requirements and become certified!
Typical Roadmap
Lactation consultant roadmap
3 Pathways

1. Healthcare professional (registered nurse, registered dietician, medical doctor, physical therapist, etc.)

  • Many lactation consultants were already healthcare professionals. These individuals must still complete 90 hours of lactation specific training and 1000 hours of clinical experience, although many of the hours they’ve already accumulated as a healthcare professional may count. 

2. Graduate from a university program in lactation

  • If you are choosing to go into a program specifically for lactation consulting, make sure that the program meets IBLCE requirements. It will provide all required courses as well as 90 hours of lactation-specific education and a total of 300 hours of supervised clinical experience. 

3. Mentorship. 

  • With no previous experience or education, or a degree in an unrelated field, you can find an IBLCE mentor to supervise and guide you through your 500 total hours of clinical training. With this pathway, you will have to submit an application to IBLCE, follow their guidelines, and pay them a fee. Your mentor will devise a plan for you to meet the IBLCE requirements. You will still have to complete the educational portion separately. 
  • Because this option is not through an educational institution, scholarships and financial aid will not be available to you. Alternatively, look for small business loans and grants.  
After Passing the Exam

Time to put your skills to work. 

  • If you prefer working alone or for yourself: build a private practice. Build a network of clients and rely on referrals to get your name out there and establish a successful business. Offer your services to the community around you for starters. 
  • If you’d like to work at a hospital or clinic, begin applying for jobs. Some of these jobs may have additional requirements. Some hospitals prefer lactation consultants who are registered nurses, but don’t let this stop you if that isn’t your path. You can still obtain these jobs. 
  • There is always room for advancement. You can always further your education and undergo additional training to move up to managerial/leadership positions. 
Words of Advice

“Many employers look for lactation consultants who are also registered nurses. If you have any interest in nursing, this may be a good path for you.”

“You need to have passion and an ability to market yourself.” 

Recommended Resources
  • www.ilca.org
  • https://iblce.org/
  • Accredited Academic Programs
    • https://iblce.org/step-1-prepare-for-ibclc-certification/lactation-specific-clinical-experience/pathway-2-accredited-academic-programs/
  • Exam Prep
    • https://iblce.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ibclc-detailed-content-outline-for-2016-for-publication.pdf
  • Scholarship Opportunities
    • MILCC Scholarship: http://www.milcc.org/apply.html
    • Health E-Learning Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship: https://www.health-e-learning.com/trudi-szallasi-memorial-scholarship
    • UCSD Vicki Wolfram Lactation Ed. Scholarship: https://www.breastfeeding.org/vicki-wolfrum-lactation-ed-scholarship/
    • Breastfeeding Outlook Felix Biancuzzo Memorial Scholarship: http://breastfeedingoutlook.com/index.php?pageID=176

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