You are interested in becoming a lactation consultant.... Perhaps you are an RN who has worked in maternity nursing for many years, and you are wondering if there is something more you can do. Perhaps you are a La Leche League Leader. You might be a dietitian, a physician, a midwife, a childbirth educator, or a doula. Perhaps you are a mom that had a great breastfeeding experience, and you are wanting to share that with others. In any case, you are now exploring your options and want to find out just what it takes to embark on the path to this new profession.
Women have been helping other women breastfeed for millennia. Most often, it is in an informal, mother to mother, woman to woman setting. In the mid 1980's, an international exam was developed by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) to certify those who wanted to become lactation professionals. Currently there are thousands of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) around the world working in a variety of settings such as hospitals, WIC clinics, public health, physician's offices, private practice, health clinics, and so on. IBCLCs come from a number of backgrounds - there are those that are health professionals, and those may have a degree in child development, psychology, anthropology, social work, speech, occupational or physical therapy. Still other IBCLCs come to the profession simply because they are committed to breastfeeding and have a strong desire to help other mothers and infants.
A great first step in becoming and IBCLC is to enroll in an education program such as is offered by Lactation Education Consultants (LEC) that is at least 45 clock hours in length. This will give you a solid grounding and preparation in lactation management and how to work as a lactation consultant. LEC offers a Certified Lactation Specialist course (CLS) that covers all topics tested for on the IBLCE exam, is 45 hours in length, and is designed as a stepping stone to becoming a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). There are no pre-requisites to taking the CLS course, and anyone can attend. Successfully completing (by attending all sessions, completing the required out of class work and passing the end of course exam) the CLS course will give you the knowledge base you need to start working with breastfeeding moms and babies in order to obtain the clinical hours you need in order to qualify for the IBLCE exam.