What is an IBCLC?

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated July 10, 2017.


There are many types of breastfeeding helpers around – some with more skill and training than others.  Anyone can use the title “Lactation Consultant” – even if they have no training in lactation!  So, how can you tell them apart?  How can you know what type of support you need?

An IBCLC Lactation Consultant

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the professional level of qualification in breastfeeding support. They are the only breastfeeding counselors who are professionally licensed in the field of lactation.  IBCLC’s must document over 1000 clinical hours helping mothers with breastfeeding support, take 90 hours of lactation-specific coursework, and either come from a medical background or complete all university-level requirements for admittance to medical school.  Once these criteria are met they can apply to take the board exam in lactation.  If they pass, an international, independent licensing board, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, confers the professional IBCLC license.

IBCLCs must document 75 continuing education recertification hours every five years and every ten years they must re-sit the board licensing exam itself.  IBCLCs have the most rigorous process of maintaining licensure of any medical professional as no other medical worker must re-sit the board exam in order to maintain licensing.  IBCLCs have a Code of Ethics and a Professional Scope of Practice ensuring they provide safe, competent, and evidence-based care to all breastfeeding mothers. You can see why an IBCLC has in-depth expertise in breastfeeding!

Other types of Lactation Counselors

1. Doctors, Nurses, Midwives, Health Care Providers
They receive little to no breastfeeding training and coursework while in school.  Their range of expertise with lactation may come from seeing moms breastfeed, having breastfed themselves, or having a limited amount of training outside of university as career professionals (continuing education hours, etc.).  Unless they have specifically sought out additional training in the area of lactation, they will not have professional credentials for breastfeeding support.

2. Breastfeeding Counselors
They are trained and accredited by private organizations such as La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA.  They are moms who have breastfed their own babies for at least a year and have undertaken a comprehensive part-time training which lasts from 6 months to a year or more (depending on how much time they have to devote to the educational modules).  They are volunteers who may run a local breastfeeding support group, teach a basic breastfeeding class, or help mothers one-on-one either in person or on the phone.

Where do IBCLCs work?

Some IBCLCs work in a hospital or medical office setting, some do research or policy work, some offer professional training or work in government offices, and some work in private practice.

As an IBCLC in private practice I can offer home visits with plenty of time to support your situation and work through evidence-based strategies specific for you and your baby.  I can also provide prenatal breastfeeding support – both individually or in a group setting – to help you prepare to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.

Where can I find an IBCLC in my area?

You can search here to find an IBCLC in your area.  If you are in the Upstate of South Carolina or Northeast Georgia, I would be happy to work with you in person.  Alternatively, I provide lactation consultations via Skype and FaceTime with mothers around the world.  You can learn more about my lactation services here.

When you need qualified breastfeeding support, look for the “IBCLC” certification to be sure that you have the best lactation support available.