Long before there were Lactation Consultants, there were moms and babies. Women breastfed their babies, assisted by their mothers, aunts, cousins and neighbors, all of whom had breastfed their own babies.
As formula became more popular in the 1940’s to the 1970’s new mothers found themselves surrounded by an entire generation who lacked breastfeeding experience and the ability to support them. Mother-to-mother support organizations, such as La Leche League, sprang up to meet this need.
What is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)?
In 1985 with support from La Leche League, an organization was born to formally recognize the training, expertise and research based practice of those assisting breastfeeding women. This organization was called International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Today over 31,000 professionals worldwide have earned the title of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Training needed to be an IBCLC
IBCLC’s can come from a variety of backgrounds but there are strict standards they must meet and maintain.
To become an IBCLC, a candidate must complete:
- 14 health care science courses.
- 300 – 1000 hours of experience working with breastfeeding moms and babies. (Amount of hours depends on their professional background).
- 90 hours of formal education specific to breastfeeding (5 additional hours of education focused on communication skills required for those writing in 2021).
- A 4 hour international exam, offered twice a year, in 21 languages and in more than 50 countries!
The training doesn’t end with initial certification. An IBCLC must continue their education by:
- Attending 75 hours of breastfeeding education within a 5 year period
- Working with moms and babies for a minimum of 250 hours to recertify at 5 years (starting in 2021)
- Rewriting the qualifying exam every 10 years (option in 2022, for continuing education and self assessment in lieu of exam).
How an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant help you
Before your baby is born, an IBCLC can teach you some basics about breastfeeding to help you get a strong start, avoiding some of the most common problems women experience in early breastfeeding. Our online prenatal breastfeeding class, Simply Breastfeeding from Day One is based on the questions we’ve been asked by over 30,000 families. We can help you to feel confident about breastfeeding as you welcome your new little one into the world. Register here.
Once your baby arrives, an IBCLC can answer your questions, giving suggestions and guidance for any problems you encounter such as latching a sleepy baby, healing sore nipples or finding a more comfortable position for feeding.
As your breastfeeding journey continues, you may have questions about breastfeeding and returning to work or managing issues with milk supply. An IBCLC can supply you with information, based on the latest research.
How to find an IBCLC
At the present time, there is no one directory that lists all International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Some are employed in a hospital or community setting. Others are in private practice. Ask your physician, nurse, midwife or La Leche League leader for a recommendation. They often will know of one in your area.
You could also try one of the following resources (although their directories not all inclusive):
It is our sincere hope that you will be surrounded by other breastfeeding moms to support you in your own breastfeeding journey, with access to an IBCLC when needed.