Need a breastfeeding professional? The complete list of who’s who
Do you need breastfeeding help? Do you know who to turn to if you have questions or concerns? What is a breastfeeding professional and where do you find them? I can help you!!
You will get a lot of breastfeeding information. You might get info from your OB, midwife, public health nurse, WIC staff, your friends, your mom, or your grandma. Sometimes, random strangers who notice you are pregnant feel the need to give you unsolicited advice at Target. It seems like anyone and everyone wants to tell you their breastfeeding experience and give all kinds of pointers, often with some horror stories thrown in. Do you feel overwhelmed yet?
Plus, one person says one thing and then you hear the exact opposite advice from someone else. Who to believe??? Your OB? Your baby’s pediatrician? Your midwife? Should you take their advice? Are they a breastfeeding expert? Maybe, maybe not.
If you are breastfeeding and everything is going hunky dory, then yea! You can probably totally make do with the information that you have received along the way.
But, if you have further questions or are you are struggling, then you may need to seek out help from a breastfeeding professional, a person who has made it their mission to help breastfeeding women. Who would that be, you ask?
The Breastfeeding Professionals (and acronyms galore!)
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
The crème de la crème (ha!) of the lactation world. IBCLC’s are healthcare professionals that are trained in clinical lactation. To become an IBCLC, a candidate must take a minimum of 90 hours of lactation education, and be a medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, dietitian, dentist, or occupational therapist. If a candidate is not a medical professional, they must complete courses in 14 different health subjects including classes on anatomy physiology, human nutrition, and infant growth and development in order to qualify to become an IBCLC. Next, a candidate needs to have completed between 300 -1000 supervised clinical hours related to lactation. Finally, after meeting all of the requirements, a candidate must pass a certification exam. IBCLC’s must renew their certification every five years.
IBCLC’s are breastfeeding experts. IBCLC’s are who your OB or pediatrician should be referring you to (if they are not an IBCLC themselves!) if you have complicated breastfeeding issues or concerns. IBCLC’s have more training than ANYBODY else in lactation.
Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS)
A CLS has taken 45 hours of rigorous human lactation coursework including all aspects of information covered on the IBCLC exam. After completing the coursework, a CLS candidate must pass a certification test to be considered a CLS. The CLS course is often a stepping stone to becoming an IBCLC. This course is mainly taken by healthcare professionals who work in a clinical setting with breastfeeding women and their babies.
Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)
A CLC is a professional who has completed 45 hours of coursework based on the World Health Organization and the United Nations Child Defense Fund’s breastfeeding counseling training course. A CLC must also prove competency in lactation counseling in a clinical setting and pass a certification exam.
Certified Lactation Educator (CLE)
A CLE is a non-clinician breastfeeding educator who can teach private or public breastfeeding classes and can offer advocacy and breastfeeding support. A CLE must complete 20 hours of breastfeeding education, demonstrate competency, and pass a certification exam. CLE is a popular certification for those in non-clinical support roles, such as doulas, La Leche League leaders, childbirth educators, or lactation educators.
Which breastfeeding professional do you need?
CLS’s and CLC’s are very similar in education and training, with CLS’s focusing a bit more on the clinical aspect of lactation and CLC’s with the counseling aspect. A CLE has a bit less training and their focus is more on breastfeeding education rather than clinical practice.
Most of the time, a CLS, CLC, or CLE can provide you with any routine breastfeeding help. They can assist moms and babies with breastfeeding positioning and latch, milk supply management, education about pumping and hand expression, weening, etc. If a problem or concern arises that falls outside of their scope of practice, then they will refer to an IBCLC.
IBCLC’s will provide guidance and help with many of the more challenging and unique breastfeeding concerns such as working with breastfeeding premature babies, babies who are ill, babies with congenital defects, jaundice, or excess weight loss. Examples of how IBCLC’s can help women is with the management of breastfeeding after a breast reduction or augmentation, mastitis, or breast anomalies.
How do you find an IBCLC, CLS, CLC, or CLE? Any of the following resources should be able to refer you to a breastfeeding professional.
- Your healthcare provider
- Your baby’s pediatrician
- The birthplace at your local hospital
- Your local La Leche League chapter (find one here)
- Your local health department
- Your local WIC office (find it here)
- You can find a list of IBCLC’s here.
If you give birth in a Baby-Friendly Hospital, all nurses in the birthplace unit are required to have at least 15 hours of breastfeeding education and 5 hours of supervised clinical training. Additionally, all doctors, advanced practice registered nurse, physician assistants, and midwives who practice on the birthplace must have at least three hours of breastfeeding education. See a list of Baby-Friendly Hospitals here.
Take advantage of any help you can get with breastfeeding before you leave the hospital!
La Leche League
The La Leche League is an organization whose mission is to “help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother (llli.org).” La Leche League has local chapters in cities and towns around the world. La Leche League leaders may or may not have lactation certifications. Regardless, leaders can provide you with breastfeeding resources. La Leche League meetings are also a great place for breastfeeding mothers to feel supported and to meet other breastfeeding mothers.
If you are looking for evidence-based breastfeeding information on any topic, check out my favorite online resource for all things breastfeeding, kellymom.com.
I hope this information provides some clarity on who to turn to if you need breastfeeding help, support, education, or advice. I want you to succeed at your breastfeeding goals, whatever they are! There are so many people who want to help and support new moms if you know where to look for them!
If you want to read about my personal breastfeeding story, you can check it out here.
For more breastfeeding tips, check out this post.
I would love to hear from you! Feel free to email or comment and I will get back to you soon!