LaVie Mom | What Are The Different Types of Lactation Consultants ?

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What Are The Different Types of Lactation Consultants ?

You might be a first-time expecting mother doing some research to prepare for the newest addition to your family or you’re in the trenches post-partum struggling with breastfeeding trying to find advice & answers. The internet has endless resources on breastfeeding from doctors, pediatricians, lactation consultants, and experienced moms sharing what worked for them. We’re going to break down the different types of lactation consultants to help you determine where you choose to get your breastfeeding support from.

Most new parents will have access to a lactation consultant while they are in the hospital or birthing center after birth. We surveyed our moms and the majority of them wished they had booked additional time with a lactation consultant in the weeks following the birth of their new baby. With all the acronyms for lactation support, it can be easy to get confused on which type will work best for you. 

Below are the different types of lactation support and how they can help you with your breastfeeding questions:

1. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

They have a college education, clinicals, a board exam, required continuing education, and must recertify every 5 years. These health care providers specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding and perform professional comprehensive clinical lactation consultations, assessing difficulties that a mother and baby may experience. IBCLCs are typically hired by hospitals and clinics, and often teach breastfeeding classes to expecting parents and postnatal mothers. The IBCLC was the first certificate for professional lactation support and the only breastfeeding certification recognized by the US Surgeon General, and the only one used as a quality metric by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Who Should Use an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?

We suggest seeking the assistance of an IBCLC if your baby is premature, immunocompromised, or NICU babies because the extensive training and expertise of IBCLCs can develop special feeding and storage plans uniquely for your family’s needs. They also are trained in anatomy, physiology and psychology, and focus on the anatomy of the breast and how milk production works.

2. Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC)

The Certified Lactation Counselor credential identifies a specialist in lactation counseling who has completed a minimum of 45 hours of training and successfully passed a criterion-referenced examination. CLCs demonstrate the competencies and skills required to provide safe, evidence-based breastfeeding management for pregnant, lactating, and breastfeeding women. CLCs come from a variety of different educational and employment backgrounds, including doulas, nurses, mothers, social workers, midwives, and many others. They require continued education and training.

Who Should Use a Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC)

Certified Lactation Consultants are perfect for first time parents, surogates, or parents who have already breastfed several children. CLCs focus mostly on education and support, rather than diagnosis and treatment of complex breastfeeding and lactation issues. A lactation consultant can assess, diagnose and treat many common breastfeeding issues. When medications or special therapies are required, the lactation consultant will refer the mom and baby to a specialist who can provide additional care.

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3. Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS)

The Certified Lactation Specialist Course is designed for aspiring lactation consultants and those who wish to improve their knowledge base and skills in working with the breastfeeding mother and child. A CLS has taken a 5-day course and obtained a certification to be used as a stepping stone to the IBCLC credential.


4. Certified Lactation Educator (CLE)

CLE programs are provided by various private companies and organizations. They have variable standards. CLEs are qualified to teach families about preparing for their infant, how lactation works physiologically, common challenges to expect, and other general lactation support. Certified Lactation Educators have completed a 20-hour breastfeeding training course and passed a final online examination. They can be found working as public health educators, WIC peer counselors, hospital/community educators, and a variety of other breastfeeding support roles. 


5. Peer Educators 

WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (WIC Peer Counselor)

Peer Counselors are women who have at least 6 months of personal experience with breastfeeding and have received 20 hours of on-site training to provide mothers with breastfeeding information and support from pregnancy through weaning.

La Leche League Leader (LLLL)

The La Leche League is an international nonprofit advocacy group where leaders hold local chapter meetings to provide breastfeeding information and support. A La Leche League Leader has breastfed her baby for at least 9 months, offers practical information and encouragement through monthly meetings, and is expected to keep up-to-date with current breastfeeding research.

Who Should Use Peer Educators?

Any parent can utilize peer educators for education on the basics of breastfeeding but more importantly they can be an amazing resource to make new mom connections and friendships during their groups/classes.