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What Is a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant?

Doula, midwife, nurse-midwife, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner—there are a lot of healthcare professionals besides a doctor who can help you with your pregnancy and delivery. Each provider offers a unique type of support or service, and each job requires a different level of education and qualifications. Depending on your needs, you might be working with several different practitioners at the same time.

There are also multiple specialists who help manage breastfeeding and lactation concerns, and it’s common to see breastfeeding counselors and lactation specialists advertising their services. Although the title of “lactation consultant” is reserved for IBCLCs, the title is not currently regulated. This means that anyone can call themselves a lactation consultant, even if they have limited clinical experience or are not board-certified.

Some of the other lactation credentials you may see while searching for a lactation provider are Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS), Certified Lactation Educator (CLE), Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC), or Lactation Educator Counselor (LEC), or La Leche League Leader (LLLL). With so many titles and acronyms, how do you know which to choose? 

If you need support on your breastfeeding journey, selecting an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC, will ensure you are working with someone with rigorous training at the highest levels of evidence-based healthcare. So, what sets IBCLCs apart?

What is an IBCLC?

The IBCLC certification is issued by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). This designation is the only standardized, internationally recognized certification in the clinical management of breastfeeding. 

As an important part of a new parent’s healthcare team, IBCLCs are focused entirely on helping families successfully navigate breastfeeding throughout their entire infant feeding journey from prenatal to weaning. They work in clinical settings (hospitals and doctors’ offices) and the community (public health education outreach, clients’ homes, etc.) and are subject to strict standards of practice and ethical guidelines. At Nest Collaborative, our IBCLCs offer their services exclusively from the comfort of your own home through virtual video visits.

Why should we get help from an IBCLC?

Using IBCLCs has been proven to improve breastfeeding rates and lower healthcare costs. That’s because IBCLCs are deeply experienced and knowledgeable healthcare professionals who bring years of training to each appointment. 

As the most highly trained lactation specialists in healthcare, IBCLCs have to complete:

  • A minimum of 14 undergraduate health sciences courses at an accredited college or university
  • 90+ hours of lactation-specific education
  • Up to 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical experience

Once the prerequisites are completed, candidates must sit for a comprehensive examination to demonstrate that they have the experience and expertise to manage a variety of complex breastfeeding concerns and family situations. To ensure practitioners stay on top of current research and evidence-based best practices, IBCLCs must submit 75 hours of continuing education credits every five years.

Thanks to this rigorous training and certification process, the IBCLC credential is considered to be the gold standard, making IBCLCs the top experts in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation. IBCLCs are skilled at collaborating with other providers as valuable members of your healthcare team. Not only can they answer your lactation questions, but most importantly, they excel at helping you define and meet your own breastfeeding goals.

What can an IBCLC help us with?

IBCLCs have a wide scope of expertise across five main areas:

  • Prenatal planning for breastfeeding
  • Lactation education and advocacy
  • General breastfeeding support
  • Pumping
  • Complex breastfeeding situations (premature infants, food allergies, maternal health issues, etc.)

Because breastfeeding is both emotionally demanding and medically complex, meeting challenges effectively requires both sensitivity and clinical expertise. IBCLCs have both.

Prenatal planning for breastfeeding

You don’t wait until your baby is born to buy diapers or research introducing your baby to solids, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that you can work with an IBCLC while you’re still pregnant. But for a number of reasons, many new parents don’t seek help with breastfeeding until they’re sleep-deprived, frazzled, and struggling with a new baby who won’t eat.

Researchers have proven that breastfeeding lasts longer and is more successful among individuals who have received in-depth prenatal education. An IBCLC can help prenatal parents:

  • Learn the basics of how to breastfeed their baby, including latch, positioning, milk supply, and what to look for when breastfeeding.
  • Develop knowledge and skills for troubleshooting common breastfeeding issues.
  • Address concerns with breast anatomy and medical history that might impact breastfeeding. 
  • Develop a preliminary plan for returning to work or balancing breastfeeding with other demands of motherhood, such as managing other children.
  • Purchase the right supplies, if needed. (bras, breastfeeding covers, support pillows, etc.)
  • Select an appropriate breast pump for their unique needs and find the correct pump flange fit. 

While practical preparation is important, one of the most important reasons to work with an IBCLC before your baby is born is that they can guide you in examining how you feel about breastfeeding and help you establish realistic, achievable goals that work for your unique situation.

Lactation education and advocacy

It’s natural for things we don’t understand to cause anxiety, and one of the best ways to manage that anxiety is to learn. IBCLCs are committed to delivering scientifically accurate, easy-to-understand information about how breastfeeding works for you and your baby as well as why it’s important. 

For new parents concerned about the support they’ll receive from their partner, family, or workplace, enlisting an IBCLC who can provide education and advocacy can help make your breastfeeding plan a reality.

General breastfeeding support

Even though it’s a “natural” process, breastfeeding can be complicated. As a result, there are common themes in  breastfeeding support that make up the bulk of an IBCLC’s work. 

Common breastfeeding concerns that an IBCLC can consult on include (but are certainly not limited to!):

  • Learning your baby’s hunger cues
  • Latching issues (when a baby doesn’t attach to the breast correctly)
  • Engorgement
  • Breastfeeding ergonomics
  • Biting
  • Nursing strikes
  • Too much or too little milk supply
  • Flat or inverted nipples
  • Cracked or sore nipples
  • Bottle or flow preference  
  • Clogged milk ducts
  • Mastitis, thrush, or other infections
  • Establishing a feeding and sleeping routine
  • Galactogogues (foods, supplements, or medications to increase milk supply) 
  • Weaning

Having a calm, experienced voice in your corner if these issues arise will help you keep your sanity and your breastfeeding plan on track. Even when breastfeeding is going well, a little reassurance goes a long way!


Pumping can be a great way to express your breastmilk to feed to your baby. An IBCLC can give you the tips and tricks for pain-free pumping that supports your supply and schedule even if you’re away from your baby.

This is especially important when it’s time to go back to work. Working with an IBCLC can provide the knowledge you need to confidently:

  • Select the pump that meets your needs/budget and flanges that fit your body
  • Advocate with your employer for the space and time you need for pumping at work
  • Safely store pumped milk for later use
  • Properly clean and maintain pump parts
  • Adjust your schedule as your baby grows

One quick reminder: pumping should never hurt. If you find pumping painful, seek help immediately.

Complex breastfeeding situations

Everyone can benefit from the know-how of an IBCLC. But for parents with certain extenuating circumstances, expert guidance can be the difference between frustrated defeat and determined progress. 

If you or your baby are experiencing any of the following issues, adding an IBCLC to your healthcare team will give you both the best chance of success:

  • Prematurity
  • NICU stays
  • Cleft lip/palate
  • Oral tethering issues (tongue, lip, or buccal ties)
  • Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)
  • Infant reflux and food allergies/intolerances
  • Feeding multiples (twins/triplets, tandem feeding with an older child/infant, etc.)
  • Maternal health conditions that require medication

Why should we work with the IBCLCs at Nest Collaborative?

At Nest Collaborative, we’re committed to providing breastfeeding support to all parents anytime, anywhere. 

Our unique telehealth model allows us to work with you on solving common lactation concerns on your own schedule and in the comfort of your own home. We accept ALL commercial insurance & Medicaid plans. As soon as you submit your private insurance or medicaid information to us, our services will be available to you with no out-of-pocket costs or copay. If you are currently uninsured, our discounted rates of $139/visit can make it possible for you to still receive the expert assistance you need to help you succeed.

With appointments available every day of the year (including holidays!) and same-day appointments often a possibility, Nest Collaborative is proud to have IBCLCs that can offer consultations in 10 languages.

No matter where you are in your breastfeeding journey, we want to help. Contact us today and let’s work together to meet your breastfeeding goals.

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