How do I know who will provide the lactation care I need?
Updated: Apr 13, 2022
There are numerous levels of lactation care for mothers and babies and it is important to know who will be the best person to help you with breastfeeding. A breastfeeding peer counselor is a mom who has experience breastfeeding and can offer mom to mom support about breastfeeding. You may find a breastfeeding peer counselor at a WIC program or other support program. A peer counselor can answer basic questions about breastfeeding.
At the next level of experience, a certified lactation counselor (CLC) is someone who has taken a four-day course about breastfeeding and has to pass an exam at the end of the course to become a certified lactation counselor. This person has more experience and knowledge about breastfeeding and can usually give more specific answers to difficulties in breastfeeding. The CLC certification is often a pathway to becoming an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) because it supplies about half of the hours needed to fulfill the education requirements to become an IBCLC.
The IBCLC is a professional medical provider of lactation services and support, but even among IBCLC’s, there are differences in training. All IBCLC’s must have 90 hours of lactation-specific education requirements and a variety of college courses, including psychology, science, and child development. Then they must have extensive medical knowledge and experience and pass an all-encompassing Board-Certification Exam. To gain the medical knowledge needed, some IBCLC’s find a mentor and follow the mentor for 1000 hours of experience. Other IBCLC’s, like myself, choose to earn a degree in lactation from an accredited university and then do an internship with another IBCLC mentor.
I chose this route because I wanted to learn evidence-based information and current research regarding important topics in breastfeeding and supporting moms. Several skills I gained while obtaining my degree included looking deeper into a situation than what may first appear on the surface, such as how a baby is latching and how to support a mom throughout her breastfeeding journey. Some IBCLC’s work in a hospital, primarily with new babies and moms and support the first days of breastfeeding. Other IBCLC’s work in private practice where they can support a mom and baby throughout the breastfeeding journey from prenatal education to weaning with evidence-based information. I choose to work in private practice because hospital stays are so brief. I believe forming relationships with moms allows me to meet them where they are at in their breastfeeding journey and guide them along the path to success. Some IBCLC’s, including myself, choose to do continuing education to become more knowledgeable in a certain subject, such as tongue and lip tie and how they affect the breastfeeding relationship. Knowing more about the levels of lactation care that are available will allow you to choose the type of support that will help you be successful in breastfeeding your baby.
~Becky Franzen, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant