By Ali Weatherford

Having a baby and learning to breastfeed are life-changing experiences. Many people move through this experience and realize they want to start a new career. Many of those people decide they want a new career working with expectant and new families. This was definitely the case for me and so many of my co-workers and colleagues. We want to share our experiences with others. We want to provide support, because now we know how valuable that kind of support was, or would have been, for us.

Some other people are born with, or eventually develop, a calling to work with expectant and new families even when they haven’t had the experience themselves! Either way, a person can be very good at it, and it can be such a fulfilling career path.

There are a lot of people out there including lawmakers, social scientists, and health care professionals, who believe that supporting the health of new families is the key to social change. When we start by supporting new families, kids may grow up to be happier, healthier, more stable, and more ready to be happy and productive members of society as adults. Then, of course, they can go on to make great starts with their own families.

This is Crucial Work!

There are a lot of options when we are thinking about working with expectant and new families. We may want to go into social work, counseling, nursing, medicine, doula work, education, or maybe lactation!

The field of lactation consulting is growing and thriving. With so much compelling research being published about the benefits of human milk for human babies, more people are deciding to breastfeed. However, in today’s society with more distant families and less connected communities, we don’t often get the support we need to be successful. Lactation professionals are more important than ever because they fill this gap.

Our lawmakers and insurance companies also recognize the importance of breastfeeding and are working to support it by creating legislation that allows working people to continue breastfeeding, making breastfeeding supplies more accessible and affordable, and by covering the costs of lactation support and education in most cases.

Lactation Professional Roles

A lactation professional might be:

  • A peer counselor/educator: This person may be a volunteer or get paid to offer general education in breastfeeding and provide individual support for someone’s breastfeeding goals by giving general information, encouraging them, and offering referrals for support when they need more. These helpers generally do not have formal training, but have at least 6 months of personal experience with breastfeeding and are given some on-site training with their organization to support other parents.
  • A Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC): These professionals take an accredited 45-hour course to help prepare them to pass an exam. They are then ready to provide support to breastfeeding families usually through community programs like WIC, hospitals, and health departments.
  • A Certified Lactation Educator (CLE): These professionals have completed a 20-hour training course about breastfeeding and have passed an exam so that they can teach classes and offer individual support.
  • A Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS): These professionals have taken a 5-day course in lactation and receive a certification to begin working with families. They are often starting on the path to becoming an IBCLC. They can offer direct breastfeeding support and refer to an IBCLC when a family needs support outside of their scope of practice.
  • An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC): These people have received the highest level of training in lactation consulting. They must complete over 90 hours of college-level health science courses and continuing education classes and 300+ hours of hands-on clinical experience in an approved setting with mentorship before they qualify to take an exam to become board certified. They must stay up-to-date with continuing education to maintain their certification and must pass the examination again every 10 years. They are the ONLY lactation consultants that can be a Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC). In addition to the services provided by the other professionals, they are also healthcare professionals and can offer assistance with the clinical management of breastfeeding. They are the only lactation consultants whose services qualify for insurance reimbursement. The other lactation professionals can answer breastfeeding questions and offer great support with encouragement and tips for basics like good latch and positioning, but they would refer to an IBCLC for anything beyond that.

At Breastfeeding Success, We Offer an Innovative Internship Path

Breastfeeding Success is made up of a team of IBCLCs with many years of experience who are focused on providing evidence-based care at the highest standard of breastfeeding medicine. We Offer an Innovative Internship Path to a Career as an IBCLC called the Lactation Internship Program. This program is designed to help a lactation consultant, educator, or peer counselor receive paid on-the-job training and education under the supervision of our team as they work towards their requirements to become an IBCLC. They will have the opportunity to fulfill the clinical hours and some of the education requirements for an IBCLC while getting paid to work in their chosen field!

They will work in the hospital setting with patients, help with responsibilities in our outpatient clinics, learn about the donor milk program, assist with logistical duties related to patient care such as charting and tracking statistics, participate in inventory and care of equipment such as pumps, scales, etc., and participate in staff education and development.

This internship program is designed to remove barriers to entry into the lactation field by giving people a place and a team to get the training they need, and by allowing them to earn income while doing it! Most people who enter the program pass the board examination and become certified within 6-12 months of beginning. Taking other paths to complete the clinical hours for an IBCLC usually takes much longer.

Learn more about the Breastfeeding Success Lactation Internship Program and see if it’s right for you.

Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.