The term lactation consultant loosely refers to anyone who is working in the field of lactation, either as a volunteer or as a professional, but only the letters IBCLC after an individual’s name identifies that person with a recognized standard of independently measured competency in lactation.
A certified lactation consultant has met the strict criteria to apply for and passed, the examination set by the International Board of Lactation Consultants Examiners (IBLCE). “The IBLCE mission statement is to certify, by means of an internationally recognised examination, individuals who demonstrate their competence to practice as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, providing quality care to babies and mothers world-wide” (ICLA 1995).
Re-certification, every 5 years, is mandated by the IBLCE thus ensuring continuing competence and up-to-date information. Only successful candidates may use the title ‘International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’, and they adhere to a Code of Ethics and work according to Professional Standards of Practice.
Lactation consultants may be mothers who have trained as breastfeeding counsellors and served extensively as a counsellor or midwives/doctors who also have extensive experience supporting mothers - both must have undertaken extensive further study, in the field of lactation, and use this knowledge along with their own aquired skills.
Many IBCLC’s are employed in the field of clinical lactation, work in hospitals, providing training to others i.e. midwives and other supporters and breastfeeding preparation classes. They may also run support groups and or offer private practice to support mothers (sometimes for a fee, so always check)
If you need help in hospital, ask for their Infant Feeding Coordinator and then check they are an IBCLC (or well on the way) once in the community, check titles and remember anyone who is qualified will have the appropriate badge/certificate to show you - if in doubt ASK!