How To Find A Lactation Consultant Who Supports You

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Need to find someone able to help you with breastfeeding issues? Was your last lactation consultant unhelpful? Before you give up on finding good breastfeeding support, read this post! You’ll learn how to find a good lactation consultant who can help.

Not very long ago, in the mid 20th century, breastfeeding was not promoted like it is today. In 1971, only 25% of US babies received any human milk (source). 

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

When formula feeding became the norm in the 20th century, no one bothered to really study lactation. As a field, lactation science is relatively new, and we are still learning a lot about breastfeeding and human milk.

We now know that a lot of lactation advice from the past (e.g. “You need to toughen up your nipples to avoid nipple pain”) is not supported by research. Unfortunately, a lot of this outdated advice still floats around, and bad breastfeeding advice has been hard to eradicate.

How to find a lactation consultant who supports you

Today, lactation support is still not widespread, and it has not been standardized like other healthcare fields (although we are hopeful that this is changing). Technically, anyone can call themselves a “lactation consultant” or “breastfeeding counselor” since the terms aren’t regulated.

Training & experience is important!

As a result, it can be difficult to know what kind of training a “lactation consultant” has, or if their advice is up-to-date. Not all “lactation consultants” are created equal! Sometimes lactation consultants who have the same credentials differ widely in their ability to support a breastfeeding parent.

While ALL lactation consultants and peer supporters play an important role in helping breastfeeding parents and their babies, some have more training, knowledge, and experience than others. Some might also have more expertise in certain areas compared to others. 

Since parents with more complicated breastfeeding issues require support from providers with more advanced training, it’s important to understand what kind of training your lactation consultant has. And it’s critical to find a lactation consultant in your area who comes highly recommended. 

Breastfeeding parent meeting with a lactation consultant virtually
Virtual lactation care (a.k.a. telehealth) can be a great option for some breastfeeding families! If you can’t or don’t feel comfortable meeting in person, ask if your lactation consultant offers virtual visits.

How To Find A LACTATION CONSULTANT EQUIPPED TO SUPPORT YOU

If you’re not sure where to go for breastfeeding support, start by asking your pediatrician if he or she has a list of recommended lactation consultants or support groups. Or, ask for a referral in a local parenting group you trust.

Keep in mind that most pediatricians do NOT have adequate lactation training (even the AAP acknowledges this), and those who do often aren’t able to work with you as extensively as a lactation consultant in private practice can. This is why I don’t usually recommend obtaining breastfeeding help from your run-of-the-mill pediatrician. You can also search the lactation consultant registry at ILCA.org.

Keep in mind that sometimes private practice lactation consultants (who can often meet with you in the comfort of your own home) can give you more one-on-one attention than lactation consultants based in hospitals. 

Lactation consultant with a demonstration tool

Interviewing Your Lactation Consultant

When you find a lactation consultant in your area, make sure the person comes highly recommended, and don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion from another lactation consultant if needed. Lactation consultants are kind of like therapists: Not every therapist is going to be right fit for every breastfeeding parent and baby. To find a lactation consultant who is a good fit, you can ask questions during the initial phone call or email. You might ask things like:

  • What is your philosophy of care?
  • Do you have a lot of experience working with ___ (e.g. twins, tied babies, dairy sensitive babies, parents with certain medical conditions, trans parents or LGBTQ families, etc.)
  • What are your thoughts on the use of formula?
  • What are your thoughts on the use of pacifiers?
  • How long is a consultation with you?  A follow-up visit?
  • What does each visit include?
  • Will we be meeting in my home or at your office?
  • Do you offer follow up support or a support group?
  • How much do initial and follow up visits cost?  Are you in-network with any insurance providers? Can you provide me with a superbill so I can request reimbursement from my insurance?
  • Have you received a Covid-19 vaccine and/or will you be willing to wear a mask when we meet?
  • Do you have any testimonials or references you can share with me?

Lastly, be sure to consider your lactation consultant’s credentials and training. Here is how their knowledge and training might differ:

PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT

IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (This is what I am!)

Scope of practice: IBCLCs are considered the “gold standard” of lactation care. They provide professional, evidence-based, clinical lactation management in addition to educating families and the public about lactation. IBCLCs can assist with all kinds of breastfeeding troubles, including complex issues (e.g. tongue ties, cleft palate/lip, medically fragile or premature babies, etc.).

Scope of practice: IBCLCs are considered the “gold standard” of lactation care. They provide professional, evidence-based, clinical lactation management in addition to educating families and the public about lactation. IBCLCs can assist with all kinds of breastfeeding troubles, including complex issues (e.g. tongue ties, cleft palate/lip, medically fragile or premature babies, etc.).

Academic Prerequisites Required to be an IBCLC: Must be a recognized healthcare professional (e.g. medical doctor, physician assistant, nurse, registered dietician, etc.) or satisfactorily complete the requisite collegiate level coursework in health sciences.

Training Required: 

  • Minimum of 14 college-level health sciences courses
  • Minimum of 90 clock hours of lactation specific training plus 5 hours of communication training
  • 300-1000+ documented hours of clinical experience working directly with breastfeeding parents and babies 
  • Successful completion of a board certification exam administered by an independent board of examiners

CERTIFIED SUPPORT

Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC®), Certified Lactation Education Counselor (CLEC), Certified Lactation Educator (CLE®), Certified Clinical Lactationist (CCL™), Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC), Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS™), Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS) (and so on)

Scope of practice: Certified counselors/educators provide support, guidance and education to breastfeeding parents and babies experiencing common breastfeeding issues. Many are highly experienced. They are generally not considered clinicians, do not provide advanced hands-on support, nor do they provide clinical lactation assessments or develop treatment plans based on these assessments. 

Academic Prerequisites Required: None. 

Training Required: 

  • This level of lactation care is one of the most variable. For example, the CLE® credential requires just 20 hours of lactation specific training, whereas the CCL™ credential requires 90 hours. Most training programs at this level are about 45 hours.
  • No hands-on training usually required
  • May or may not require passing a certifying exam

PEER SUPPORT

La Leche League Leader (LLL), Breastfeeding USA Counselor (BC), Baby Café Breastfeeding Counselor, WIC Peer Counselor, etc.

Scope of Practice: Peer counselors are usually volunteers that provide (free of charge) basic support, guidance and education to breastfeeding parents and babies experiencing common breastfeeding issues, such as nipple pain. 

Academic Prerequisites Required: None

Training Required: Generally none. Some organizations require counselors to go through a breastfeeding education training before become accredited.

Breastfeeding support organizations
These are some organizations that may be able to offer free support in your area.

Remember…

All of these breastfeeding support providers play an important role helping breastfeeding parents and their babies. Sometimes a person’s credentials don’t tell the full story: In some situations, a really excellent CLC or peer supporter might prove more helpful than an IBCLC whose counseling style or philosophy of care isn’t a good fit for you.

Good lactation care can make all the difference.

The lactation consultants I met with as a new mom in the hospital were helpful, but they were limited in the amount of time they could spend helping me. The lactation consultant I met with in private practice, on the other hand, pretty much single-handedly saved my breastfeeding relationship! I would not have been able to meet my breastfeeding goals without her advice. 

Good breastfeeding support is important. If you aren’t having luck finding lactation care in your area, please feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to help you! 

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our digital library of helpful resources that quickly teach how to avoid common breastfeeding problems and give you the peace of mind and confidence you need to meet your breastfeeding goals.

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