Here's How To Start A Career As A Lactation Consultant

There are a lot of medical professionals involved in the process of giving birth. However, one professional that doesn't get enough credit is the one that may become involved once your baby has arrived. That professional is a lactation consultant.

Lactation consultants can not only help you with the technical process of breastfeeding your baby, but they can also make you feel less stressed and anxious about what can be an overwhelming experience as a new mom. Lactation consultants can answer any of your breastfeeding questions, give you tips and tricks to ensure that your baby is getting the nutrients that it needs, and even offer advice on sore nipples and milk supply issues (via Cleveland Clinic).

According to Comparably, the average salary for a lactation consultant in the United States is around $80,000. This salary can get higher or lower depending on your employer and your state. One of the key positives in choosing a career as a lactation consultant is having the freedom to decide whether to work in a medical institution, such as a hospital or birthing center, or to branch out into private practice.

Educational requirements you need to be a lactation consultant

The path toward becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is pretty straightforward. According to NC State University, you must either complete 14 prerequisite health courses or already be certified as a healthcare professional. You must also complete 90 hours of lactation education courses with an additional five hours of coursework focused on lactation-specific communication. further explains that you will need to complete between 300 and 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience in addition to your education courses. If you're already a recognized healthcare professional, you only need to complete 300 hours of supervised lactation practice, whereas those who are new to the medical field will need 1,000 hours of directly supervised clinical experience. Regardless of which path you take toward becoming a lactation consultant, a final exam must be completed and passed in order to be certified by the IBCLC board.

The licenses and certification you need as a lactation consultant

If you've already achieved the necessary licensing and certifications, the doors are open almost anywhere to work as a lactation consultant. One of the many perks of this career is that lactation consultants can choose to work in several different settings.

According to the California State University, Northridge, lactation consultants can work in hospitals, clinics, neonatal care units, human milk banks, private practices, and physicians' offices.

CareerTrend adds that the location where a lactation consultant decides to work will ultimately determine the hours and duties they perform. For example, those working in a hospital setting typically have to work longer shifts, including overnight shifts, and are responsible for teaching new mothers about the breastfeeding process. Those working in private practice or a physician's office usually work a set schedule and work on checking the baby's weight and ensuring they are getting adequate milk. Those working in private practice might also be allowed to work without completing all certifications and licenses. 

Regardless of where you work, providing lactation education and consulting is essential for the community. Becoming a lactation consultant can be a worthy and fulfilling choice for those who wish to explore the career.