Finding the right lactation consultant, breastfeeding support person(s), may be one of the most rewarding tasks on your prenatal to-do list. It can also be confusing if you aren't sure what to look for. Learn about the various types of service providers available and how to find one that suits your needs.
Check local resources and inquire as to what lactation support is available to you in your area. This may be through your obstetrician, pediatrician, local hospitals, Le Leche League, WIC and/or mom-to-mom breastfeeding support groups on social media. Searching online for local lactation services or private practice lactation consultants is also an option.
Lactation experience is very important when deciding whom is best to serve you and your little one, especially when you are experiencing breastfeeding challenges. For instance, is your lactation consultant familiar with caring for newborns in a hospital setting? Does she regularly see infants and children in varying age groups including toddlers? Are you looking for someone that is experienced in the medical environment or someone that is more natural/holistic in her approach to caring for mothers and babies? Are you adopting and want to induce lactation? If so, someone experienced in helping other adoptive mothers would be ideal.
It is important to know there are many different levels of lactation professionals. Understanding the various qualifications will improve your chances of making the best decision for you and your baby. Links provided below for finding service providers do not include all providers, only those who pay to be in directory.
International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) - IBCLC is valued worldwide as the most trusted source in lactation and breastfeeding care. They are healthcare professionals who specialize in management of common to complex breastfeeding challenges including prematurity, slow weight gain, mastitis, and tongue ties just to name a few. IBCLC's are required to take 14 college level Health Science courses, 90 hours of lactation speciﬁc education, and have a minimum of 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice helping breastfeeding mothers and their infants prior to passing a rigorous certiﬁcation exam. IBCLC’s may work in various settings including private practice, doctors’ ofﬁces, and hospitals. In addition to direct breastfeeding assistance, they often provide leadership, advocacy, professional development and research in the lactation field.
Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)- Breastfeeding advocates/professionals that have shown competency in basic lactation support to breastfeeding mothers and children. CLC's complete 45 hours of training usually in a 5-day course and must pass a certification exam. CLC’s often work in similar settings as the IBCLC, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, and WIC ofﬁces.
Lactation Specialists/Educators - advocates of breastfeeding that may teach classes and/or offer support to breastfeeding mothers and their infants/children. Usually does not require additional education/certification.
Le Leche League Leaders- Help mothers learn to breastfeed by encouraging good mothering through breastfeeding and related subjects. LLL leaders help mothers understand the needs of her child and best means of fulfilling those needs. Leaders are required to have personal breastfeeding experience (usually at least 9 months), mothering experience, and organizational experience. Leaders also are given additional education on breastfeeding. They may assist in one-on-one support and/or group support depending on the mother and her infant’s needs.
WIC Peer Counselor - Mothers who are employed by local WIC offices, who have personal experience in breastfeeding and are trained to provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other mothers with whom they share various characteristics, such as language, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
“It Takes A Village”
Often breastfeeding babies present with unique situations that require a multidisciplinary approach. Prematurity, genetic disorders, and/or oral restrictions such as tongue tie are examples that require more resources in addition to breastfeeding support. These additional resources may be obstetricians, pediatricians, doulas, midwives, chiropractors, dentists, and/or speech/occupational therapists just to name a few. It is important that your lactation consultant/counselor be familiar with all potential providers and be able to refer as needed.
Once you have found local lactation support such as IBCLC’s, CLC’s, WIC and LLLL, contact each of them and ask questions regarding their services. What is their experience? Education? Does this person sound like your breastfeeding success is important to her? Does she sound knowledgeable? Passionate? Where are the services provided - Office? Home? Hospital? By “interviewing” your lactation support person(s) you will get answers to your questions prior to service to help you decide who you want helping you and your little one with your breastfeeding support/challenges.
For lactation services along the Mississippi Gulf Coast region,