Written by: Nikki G. and Nikki K. from Nikki and Nikki IBCLC.
It’s been on your mind for a while. You had an amazing breastfeeding experience. It wasn’t without its challenges, but you made it work for 2.5 years. You became known in your parenting
circle as “the one that could”. You assumed the role of cheerleader for your friends, family, and co-workers. You felt somewhat qualified to help with the small things since you personally experienced it all: mastitis, low milk supply, slacker boob, and the infamous “itchy-nipple-I-think-it’s-yeast-but-who-knows”.
This narrative sounds familiar. We’ve heard a similar rendition in over 50% of the bios that we’ve read about our colleagues. Lactation consultants are so multi-dimensional and versatile. We come from all corners of the world and represent so many amazing journeys, yet many of our stories began the same. Maybe you were the one with the awful experience who is set on
changing the course for others. Whatever the journey that led you here, now you‘ve fallen in love with lactation and need to know how to tap into this world. We can help.
The lactation profession was founded on peer support. Ask anyone who has survived the IBCLC exam and they will tell you that the work begins and ends with support. Can you help your peers? Can you support another parent in your family or your community? You don’t have to go it alone. There are peer support organizations helping new parents all over the world. Maybe you’ve heard of La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, or Chocolate Milk Cafe? Getting plugged into a local support organization may be the perfect toe into the field. You can get a sense of what you love about it while learning counseling skills and maybe even earning clinical hours for your IBCLC exam prerequisites.
Looking to make lactation support your profession? There are many different lactation support certifications that will allow you to earn an income from helping families. Certified Lactation Counselor, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and Certified Lactation Specialist are just a few options of the certifications that you can turn into extra pocket change or a steady income. If you are looking for a culturally-focused course check out the B.L.A.C.K. Course and Indigenous Lactation Counselor training. The courses are generally around 50 hours long and vary in format (online vs in person). In the end, learners should have a strong command of how to support families through common breast or chestfeeding challenges, and can even teach classes in their community. Some find employment in physicians’ offices or hospitals providing support to new parents, while others open private practices.
The lengthiest and most intense credential to pursue by far is International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). It is the most clinical in nature and involves managing common challenges to complex feeding issues well outside the scope of common. This certification is one that many use for a career in lactation support – either as a stand-alone credential or as a supplement to other related licenses and certifications. The prerequisites to IBCLC can take years to complete, and include 14 post-secondary courses in general sciences and other healthcare-specific topics, 95 hours of lactation education, and hundreds of hours of clinical hours spent supporting families.
No matter your end goal, there is an opportunity in lactation support for you! There will always be parents in need of your help, and ways to jump in to support. We recommend taking your time learning more about the options by getting plugged into the lactation support community around you and online. You’ll be happy to find “your people” as many are in your very same stage of exploration and ready to dip their toes into the waters of lactation support. You’ve got this!