Hi mamas! I’m Kristin Gourley, IBCLC. I’m a mom to 5 and lactation consultant with Lactation Link. I’m here today to talk about what makes an IBCLC different from other lactation professionals. I hope this answers questions you have had about IBCLCs.
What is an IBCLC?
Now that you’re pregnant, you may be focused on making informed choices for your birth– which is so important! Once that baby arrives, though, you’ll be mostly focused on feeding that sweet little one! You may be wondering who you can trust when it comes to breastfeeding support. There is breastfeeding advice out there in so many places– everywhere from your mom and sister to your nosy neighbor to online forums and social media. It can be hard to know what information and people you can depend on! So you can feel super comfortable preparing to breastfeed and meeting your breastfeeding goals, you should definitely have an IBCLC on your team! That’s a long acronym, so to get started, let’s go over that and some other professional lactation-related acronyms:
- IBCLC: International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
- LLL: La Leche League (a mother-to-mother volunteer breastfeeding support organization)
- RN: Registered Nurse (sometimes the lactation specialist at the hospital is a nurse with no other lactation training or credential)
- CLC: Certified Lactation Counselor (Helpful in assisting with normal course of breastfeeding issues)
- CLE: Certified Lactation Educator (Someone who is trained in teaching breastfeeding topics to others)
- CLEC: Certified Lactation Educator Counselor (Very similar to a CLC; trained in the normal course of breastfeeding)
There are three IBCLCs and one CLEC (who is on track to become an IBCLC soon!) with Lactation Link right now, so we are overflowing with breastfeeding support and knowledge!
In most U.S. states (Rhode Island and Georgia excluded), the term “Lactation Consultant” is not regulated and does not require a license (1). This means that someone can call themselves a lactation consultant, even if they aren’t an IBCLC. It also means that you’ll sometimes read on social media something like, “Make sure you see a real IBCLC!” So what makes an IBCLC so special?
To become an IBCLC, one must pass seven college-level health science classes, six other health science classes like CPR and medical terminology, 90 hours of lactation-specific education, and complete 1000 hours of hands-on clinical experience with breastfeeding mothers and babies. That’s alot of boobie talk! After all that is completed, the candidate qualifies to sit for the IBLCE exam. This is a 4-hour, 175-question exam. After completing the requirements and passing the exam, one becomes an IBCLC! It is then required to re-certify every 5 years with continuing education credits and/or re-taking the exam (2). There is no other lactation education or support credential that requires so much preparation and knowledge!
To briefly compare training, a CLC and CLEC are the nearest to an IBCLC in requirements to qualify. To earn either certification, one must take a 45-hour lactation education course and an exam on that material. No clinical experience component or other health education is necessary (3, 4). The clinical experience backgrounds that IBCLCs have is a staggering difference between other breastfeeding certifications and is the gold standard for assessing and managing breastfeeding issues. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who has seen hundreds of moms and babies with many different issues be the one who helps you?
This is why you might notice that on Lactation Link’s website & instagram page, we proudly refer to ourselves as IBCLCs instead of just saying lactation consultants. A lot of time, work, effort, studying, and passion went into earning the IBCLC credential and we are proud that we’ve obtained the highest certification available for breastfeeding support and can better serve moms like you!
Lactation Link’s IBCLCs offer e-consults, in-person consults, online video classes, and in-person classes. Each of us qualified to become an IBCLC with different backgrounds (including RN experience; doula and birth experience; Women, Infants, and Children counseling; La Leche League community support, and many different classes and conferences full of education). This amazing spectrum of knowledge makes us fully qualified to offer these services to moms who want the best information out there so they can succeed in meeting their goals.
In fact, research proves this to be true! One research summary found that after reviewing all available studies regarding the outcomes of using IBCLCs, mothers who had higher breastfeeding initiation rates, a longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding, a longer duration of any breastfeeding, higher breastfeeding rates for all infant age groups, AND better maternal and infant health outcomes as compared to those who didn’t seek out IBCLC support (5).
- Do you need to be a nurse to be an IBCLC? No. Some IBCLCs are also Registered Nurses or Registered Dieticians but there are other pathways to becoming IBCLC.
- Are all lactation nurses in the hospital IBCLCs? Some are, some aren’t. Some of the ‘lactation specialists’ rounding for the hospital don’t have any extra credential or training other than their experience in the hospital. This varies a lot by hospital and region. One of the reasons we offer hospital visits at Lactation Link is so you have the opportunity to get all the support you need and want after birth, no matter how much education, knowledge, or time the hospital lactation nurse has.
- How long does it take to become an IBCLC? This varies a lot, but it generally takes 2-5 years to complete all the qualifications. Other breastfeeding credentials generally take anywhere from 1 week to 6 months to complete.
Now that you know that an IBCLC is the gold standard in breastfeeding support, how can you get in touch with one? Our video classes are a great place to start. They are so comprehensive and reasonably priced, the cost savings is huge. First, you have to consider that, on average, formula can cost $3000 over the course of baby’s first year. We can also help with in-person or online consultations. You can actually use your Health Savings Account card to book in-person and e-consults with us! Some moms have even had success in having the cost of the breastfeeding classes or their consults reimbursed by their insurance companies (we can provide an itemized receipt for you to submit for possible (not guaranteed) reimbursement).
Hopefully, you’re feeling a little more comfortable about navigating the waters of breastfeeding support when you’re looking for help with your breastfeeding questions. We help moms all over the world, so if you need some help don’t hesitate to schedule an e-consult or in-person consult with us! Also, remember that not all breastfeeding courses are developed and peer-reviewed by IBCLCs, so if you’re looking for breastfeeding education to prepare yourself for your new baby or heading back to work, you can feel confident that our on-demand video classes are full of research-based information! You can start learning in your first trimester and always refer back to the info because the classes don’t expire!
Want to work with Lactation Link?
We are looking for IBCLCs to join our team around the country! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Have you signed up for our free email breastfeeding course?
I think you’ll find it really helpful. Click the image below for more info.
Thanks for stopping by,
Kristin Gourley, IBCLC
- Herbert, D. (2016, April 29). Georgia achieves licensure. Retrieved from https://uslca.org/georgia-achieves-licensure
- “Preparing for IBCLC Certification.” IBLCE. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017. <http://iblce.org/certify/preparing-for-ibclc-certification/>.
- Baker, G. (n.d.) Lactation educator counselor. Retrieved from http://breastfeeding-education.com/home/clec-2/
- “Lactation Counselor Training Course.” Healthy Children Project. N.p., (2017). Web 23 Feb. 2017. <http://www.healthychildren.cc/clc.htm>
- Patel, S., & Patel, S. (2015). The effectiveness of lactation consultants and lactation counselors on breastfeeding outcomes. Journal of human lactation 32(3), pp. 530-41.