Do you want to become a lactation consultant? I get asked quite frequently from mothers who I have helped overcome breastfeeding challenges to random people who find my website , “How do I do what you do?” I first give them the descriptions and the differences of each lactation specialist out there as we are not all equal. Lactation Specialist range anywhere in education from self-proclaimed to several years of study and clinical experience. People are very surprised that to be a lactation professional (IBCLC) is more than just teaching other mothers proper latch techniques and the health benefits of breastfeeding.
I have already addressed the differences of each credential in a previous blog post so I will continue to explain how to achieve the golden standard in lactation practice that is the title of IBCLC; International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. This is not the easiest to achieve yet we all had to start somewhere and that is becoming a Certified Lactation Educator, Wic Peer Counselor, Certified Breastfeeding Counselor or a Le Leche League Leader. These are the typical starting grounds and gets you in the door and the means to achieving your complete goal.
Your level of experience and education will determine which route to take toward getting additional college education, specific lactation consultant programs and/or the amount of clinical hours needed. There are three routes explained in more detail on www.ibcle.org. The college training for a non-medical licensed individual will need 12 credit hours in lactation specific college courses in nutrition, physiology, anatomy and physiology, etc. Your back ground will also determine whether you obtain 500 to 1,000 supervised hours within a job specific role or with a mentor IBCLC.
Getting your clinical hours happens to be the most challenging step. Depending on where you live and your current job location, this can be a perfect fit or a nightmare. When I was going to school to be able to sit for the International Board Exam, I was already employed by several hospitals. I had access to a main mentor and an additional 10 more. I was very fortunate and was in the right place at the right time. Personally, going the mentor route will give you the most preparation and knowledge as you can learn how others do it and do it well. Most people interested in becoming an IBCLC do not have this option. Other ways to get in those important clinical hours is to become a Le Leche League leader, a WIC Peer Counselor and other various breastfeeding clinic locations that are willing to have an intern. I personally believe that if you really want to have a rewarding career helping new mothers with breastfeeding challenges, do not let anything get in the way of your success. Something will open up somewhere, somehow in order for you to achieve the necessary steps if you put the work into it to become the expert in breastfeeding management.