An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the highest level credential for health care professionals who specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding. IBCLCs are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc. (IBLCE), under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies. An IBCLC practice is guided by the  Scope of Practice for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants .  An IBCLC is a professional member of the healthcare team. IBCLCs may also be nurses, midwives, dietitians, physicians, and experienced volunteer breastfeeding counselors.

Lactation Consultant Credentials — Who's Who  

Where are IBCLCs?

IBCLCs work in a wide variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, pediatric offices, public health clinics, and (like Diana) private practice. Those in private practice may offer their services in their office or at your home.  I provide home visit and phone/video consultations.

How are IBCLCs different from CLCs?

A Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) is a lower credential than IBCLC, appropriate for helping breastfeeding parents with simple problems. To obtain the CLC credential, a candidate only has to take a 4.5-day course and a test. The coursework is important, but it’s only “book learning,” and it only covers less than one week of material. They are not required to have graduated from high school or have any clinical experience with breastfeeding families. Their 2014-2015 training manual specifically states that, “CLCs are Certified Lactation Counselors, not ‘Consultants.’ ” The credential expires after three years and requires only 18 continuing education hours for renewal. CLCs are never required to retake the test. In contrast, the IBCLC certification requires several university-level health science and human lactation courses and hundreds of supervised clinical experience hours before being allowed to apply to take a rigorous, high-level board exam similar to the level of exam required to become a registered nurse (RN). To ensure that their knowledge remains up-to-date, IBCLCs must recertify every five years with proof of 75 hours of continuing education (70 hours in lactation and 5 in ethics) and retake the exam every ten years. With this high credentialing standard, an IBCLC is qualified to address all levels of breastfeeding problems and challenges from simple to complex.

USLCA CLC vs. IBCLC Fact and Fiction

How do Lactation Consultants Become Internationally Board Certified?

In order to be eligible for certification, candidates must meet defined eligibility requirements in education and experience. They must document supervised clinical experience hours. They must then demonstrate breastfeeding knowledge and management skills from pre-conception through early childhood by taking a comprehensive examination. Five years later, they must demonstrate continued competence to practice by either completion of continuing education requirements or passing the examination again. Ten years after their initial certification, they are required to recertify by passing the examination. IBCLCs are expected to maintain and enhance knowledge and skills through ongoing continuing education.

When can an IBCLC Help You?

An IBCLC is qualified to help you at any time in your breastfeeding experience, beginning in pregnancy or even before you become pregnant, through early breastfeeding, introduction of solids, and weaning.

How can an IBCLC Help You?

If you’re having any difficulties or concerns with breastfeeding, a private practice IBCLC is your best resource for answers and help. They can help determine the underlying problem and develop a plan with you to address it so that you can reach your breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be.

What Happens During an In-Person Private Practice Lactation Consultation?

A consultation with a private practice IBCLC typically lasts 1.5-2 hours. At the beginning of the consultation, the private practice lactation consultant will ask you to sign a consent form giving permission to work with you and your baby. Then I’ll ask questions about your physical history, including anything that may have an effect on breastfeeding. With your permission, they’ll assess your breasts and your baby’s mouth and sucking abilities. They may weigh the baby before breastfeeding on a highly sensitive electronic scale so that they can take another weight after breastfeeding to assess how much milk your baby transferred. If needed, they will help you with latching and positioning. They will provide tools and tips throughout the consultation to help you breastfeed more easily and answer any questions or concerns that you have. They will determine the probable reasons for the difficulties you’ve experienced and work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you reach your breastfeeding goals (not theirs), taking into consideration your lifestyle, limitations, and preferences. A private practice lactation consultant’s services don’t stop after the consultation. They will be available to work with you and answer your questions and concerns until you no longer need their services.

How are IBCLCs Paid?

Like all healthcare professionals, lactation consultants in private practice charge a fee for their services. Payment by cash, check, or credit card is usually accepted at the conclusion of the consultation for fees not covered by insurance. If you don’t have insurance, a receipt for the service will be provided that includes the diagnostic codes required by insurance companies for insurance reimbursement. Finally, your lactation consultant will usually prepare a report for your and your doctor(s)’ records. Their fee may be covered by insurance or eligible for insurance reimbursement (they’ll usually provide forms and information on how to file for it), and is often eligible for health care (flex) spending accounts. For fees not covered by insurance, they will require payment at the time of service, either by cash, check, or credit card. 

You’re charging me what to help me feed my baby?! I can’t afford that! 

Breaking Down the Price of IBCLC Home Visits (What You’re Really Paying For)

Reviewed by Diana West, IBCLC 

June 15, 2021