What is a Lactation Consultant?
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC): are allied health care providers certified by an international body. The certification program is based on guidelines developed by the U.S. National Commission for certifying agencies. They are the only lactation professionals to be reimbursed by some insurance companies and to be recognized by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in her Call to Action of January 2011.
( See http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/factsheet.html)
IBCLCs have a broad educational foundation, have obtained hours of clinical practice, have earned 90 hours of education in related courses, carry malpractice insurance, and have passed an examination administered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). IBCLCs must meet continuing education requirements to uphold the certification; every 10 years they must retake the examination administered by the IBLCE. The IBLCE monitors practitioner safety and ethics via a disciplinary process. IBCLCs work in hospitals, physician offices, WIC Offices, and in private practice..
IBCLCs are the only lactation professional able to obtain a National Provider Identification number; this makes insurance reimbursement easier.
Currently, anyone can legally call himself or herself a lactation consultant (LC), whether they’ve taken a 2-day breastfeeding training course or spent years gathering education and clinical experience and passing an international examination. The best way to learn about the education and experience of the practitioner is to ask the person about their background before engaging their services.
IBCLCs do not have state licensure. The United States Lactation Consultant Association (www.uslca.org) is working for its members to be licensed. Licensure will make it easy to understand the type of breastfeeding helper you need.
IBCLCs are best when you and your baby are having persistent or on-going troubles with infant weight gain, a premature infant, multiple infants, babies with congenital abnormalities or syndromes, low milk production, persistent nipple pain and damage, and medical situations.
Professional Breastfeeding Supporter: the professional breastfeeding supporter is not Internationally Board Certified and fully supports breastfeeding in her professional position. There are many types of professional breastfeeding supporters who have received education and training and passed a certifying examination. Examples are La Leche League Leaders (LLL), Certified lactation counselors (CLC), certified breastfeeding counselors (CBC), certified breastfeeding educators (CBE), and certified lactation educators (CLE). The CLE, a credentialed lactation educator, is not trained to offer any clinical guidance. Certifying agencies may or may not require continuing education to maintain certification, and may or may not have any disciplinary mechanism in place to ensure practitioner safety and ethical conduct.
Professional breastfeeding helpers are helpful for most common situations: sore nipples, engorgement, mastitis, and the normal breastfeeding relationship. They do not carry malpractice insurance unless they already have a license in some other field.
Insurance companies do not reimburse for CBE, CBC, CLE, and CLC services. Professional breastfeeding supporters work in the community in their own practices, in physician offices, and in WIC offices.
Community Breastfeeding Supporter: The community supporter, always a woman who has nursed a baby, works with nursing mothers in her community. This mother-to-mother support (practical advice and encouragement) is valuable for every single nursing mother. This work is volunteer, may be done by telephone, and there is no fee for service. Volunteers are trained by their organization to provide encouragement, non-medical advice and referrals.
In the Philadelphia region, the local groups are the Ambler Nursing Mothers, La Leche League, the Nursing Mothers’ Advisory Council, the Nursing Mothers Alliance, the Family Breastfeeding Association, the Nursing Mothers Inc, and the North Penn Nursing Mothers.
WIC offers breastfeeding support; the level of training received by WIC breastfeeding counselors and staff varies from one WIC agency to another.
A hallmark of the local nursing mothers groups is the monthly meeting, usually held in the home of a member where mothers and babies gather together to chat, to learn, to receive advice and encouragement, and to have fun with other mothers and babies. Long-term friendships and play dates start with these meetings. Find the company of other mothers when you have a new baby!
(For more details see <http://www.phila.gov/health/pdfs/2011_Breastfeeding_Handbook.pdf)
Healthcare professionals: Childbirth educators, doulas, midwives, nurses, nutritionists, dietitians, occupational therapists, and physicians may offer breastfeeding advice to their clients, with or without formal lactation management training.
Many people that you encounter will have opinions and suggestions about breastfeeding and there are a variety of certifications and credentials that make choosing a breastfeeding helper difficult. We, of the Pennsylvania Resource Organization of Lactation Consultants hope that this list of definitions is useful to you.
For even more information see