What is a lactation consultant?

A lactation consultant is a health care provider with an expertise in breastfeeding care and lactation education. Many who become International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are nurses, midwives, dietitians, physicians, and experienced breastfeeding counselors. 

To become an IBCLC, an individual must meet eligibility requirements in education and experience. They also must pass an independent exam administered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). 

Once they pass the exam, lactation consultants are granted the IBCLC credential. Still, they are responsible for maintaining and enhancing their knowledge and skills through breastfeeding-focused continuing education at seminars and professional conferences. Five years after their initial exam, they may apply for recertification based on taking the exam again or applying continuing education credits. Every 10 years, lactation consultants are required to retake the IBLCE exam in order to recertify. 

IBCLCs work in many different settings, including hospitals, neonatal care units, health care clinics, doctor’s offices, private practices, WIC offices, and human milk banks. You can use the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)’s database to find an IBCLC in your area. 

In the same way that not all nurses are registered nurses, not all lactation consultants are IBCLCs. Breastfeeding care providers include CLEs (Certified Lactation Educators), CLSs (Certified Lactation Specialists), CLCs (Certified Lactation Counselors), and CBCs (Certified Breastfeeding Counselors) and others. Certification requirements (level of education, hours of clinical experience, and written examination) vary from program to program. Parents seeking breastfeeding care are urged to choose an individual who has been certified by an internationally recognized certification organization such as IBLCE.

Last updated March 31, 2021

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