The choices in lactation professionals providing breastfeeding support can be confusing. When looking for breastfeeding help, it is advised to select a professional who has completed lactation-specific training and who is certified by a governing body or organization. This ensures that the professional has the proven knowledge necessary to support you most effectively. Also, as new research is continually entering the profession, you should choose a professional who’s governing body requires continuing education to maintain their credential.
- IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
The gold-standard in lactation care and considered the top credential of the field. IBCLCs are the only lactation professionals who have passed the rigorous requirements set forth by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE); the exam is the only National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) recognized examination for lactation practitioners.Before even applying to take the exam, IBCLC hopefuls must complete higher education in biology, human anatomy, human physiology, infant and child growth and development, nutrition, psychology (or counseling or communication skills), introduction to research, and sociology (or cultural sensitivity or cultural anthropology). Hopefuls must also demonstrate education in basic life support (CPR), medical terminology, medical documentation, occupational safety, ethics, and infection control. In addition, IBLCE requires 90 hours of lactation specific education and supervised lactation contact hours commensurate with academic background and experience.Additionally, IBCLCs are required to re-certify at 5 years through continuing education (at least 75 hours) and every 10 years by re-examination.Most IBCLCs join the International Lactation Consultants Association (ILCA) and the United States Lactation Consultants Association (USLCA), which are the recognized professional organizations in the lactation field.
The scope of practice for an IBCLC allows them to perform comprehensivematernal, child and feeding assessments related to lactation, and to develop and implement individualized feeding plans in consultation with the mother, using evidence-based research.It should be noted that ethically speaking, only an IBCLC can call oneself a lactation consultant.