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What is an International Board Certified LactationConsultant® (IBCLC®)?


An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a health care professional that specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. An IBCLC is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc. under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Although there are many organizations offering various breastfeeding certifications, according to the Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, “International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are the only health care professionals certified in lactation care.  They have specific clinical expertise and training in the clinical management of complex problems with lactation.” 

There is no higher standard than the IBCLC for breastfeeding care. The IBCLC is required to have dramatically more experience in helping mothers and babies breastfeed, far more lactation specific education, and undergo a far more rigorous lactation related exam than anyone else who would seek to help mothers and babies breastfeed. Although currently, *anyone* can use the term "lactation consultant" or "LC," you are able to check out the lactation specialist you hire for breastfeeding help on the IBCLE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) registry to verify that you are actually hiring an IBCLC. You can search by last name or by certification number. My certification number is L-20826 and I am apparently the only "Bodin" who is an IBCLC, so I am easy to search and find either way!

Here is a brief synopsis comparing the training of the most common breastfeeding helpers that mothers are most likely to run into:

 

Prior practical experience with mothers and babies before credentialing:

Educational requirements:

Continuing education requirements:

IBCLC:

From 2500-500 hours supervised experience helping breastfeeding women with their babies, depending on pathway and year certified

pre 2012: 45 hrs of lactation specific education, college degree and course work in various, specific studies if the degree didn't cover them, such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology. After 2012: 90 hrs of lactation specific education, 14 college classes in health education, CPR. All years since 1985: Passing of rigorous exam after practical experience and educational requirements are met, which typically months are spent intensely preparing for.

An IBCLC is required to recertify every 5 years with 75 hours of related education and every 10 years by exam.

La Leche League Leader:

Must have nursed own baby for at least a year (9 months before starting accreditation process), been actively involved in her local LLL breastfeeding support group, and do role play as part of the accreditation process, which typically takes about a year.

Completion of Breastfeeding Resource Guide, reading breastfeeding related books, childbirth related books, and parenting related books. Communication skills are worked on. Because LLL is a philosophy based organization, part of the process involves the applicant exploring their personal history of breastfeeding and how it relates to LLL philosophy. The applicant is guided through the process by both a sponsoring Leader and someone from the Leader Accreditation Department and is only accredited when all parties feel the applicant is ready.

No proof of continuing education required, though LLLI lists an active Leader's responsibility as "Keeping up-to-date on breastfeeding information."

CLC:

No experience necessary. Students do some role-play with other students during the 4-day class.

Four-day class which enables them to pass an exam on the 5th day (45 hrs total, including exam time.)

A CLC is required to have 18 hrs of related education every three years.

WIC Peer Councelor:

Peer Councilors are typically required to have nursed their own babies for 6 months. No other prior experience with mothers and babies is necessary.

Even within the same state, each county may train Peer Councilors differently. There are a number of education programs that are used as training by WIC Peer Councilors, typically ranging from 20-45 hours long.

States usually have some budget set aside to provide for continuing education for Peer Councilors.


"Lactation Consultant: What Does That Mean?" by Renee Beebe, IBCLC, of The Second 9 Months in Seattle.

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