How to Find a Lactation Consultant or Lactation Counselor?

Pregnancy and Postpartum Care for Everyone

The terms "lactation consultant" and "lactation counselor" refer to two distinct roles within the field of breastfeeding support, though their functions may sometimes overlap. Here are the key differences between them:

  1. Education and Training:
    • Lactation Consultant: Lactation consultants typically undergo extensive education and clinical training. They often hold certifications such as the International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), which requires specific coursework, clinical experience, and passing a rigorous exam.
    • Lactation Counselor: Lactation counselors receive training to provide basic breastfeeding support. The training is usually less comprehensive than that of lactation consultants and may not involve clinical experience. They may have certifications like Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) or Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC).
  2. Scope of Practice:
    • Lactation Consultant: Lactation consultants are trained to address a wide range of complex breastfeeding issues and are qualified to work with mothers and infants facing various challenges, such as latch problems, tongue tie, and more serious medical conditions.
    • Lactation Counselor: Lactation counselors primarily provide education, guidance, and support for routine breastfeeding challenges, like basic latch assistance, positioning, and breastfeeding education. They are not typically trained to handle complex medical or breastfeeding problems.
  3. Clinical Expertise:
    • Lactation Consultant: Lactation consultants have a deeper understanding of the anatomy and physiology of breastfeeding, and they are equipped to assess, diagnose, and develop care plans for breastfeeding difficulties.
    • Lactation Counselor: Lactation counselors offer general advice and guidance for common breastfeeding issues but may refer clients to lactation consultants or healthcare professionals for more specialized care.
  4. Setting:
    • Lactation Consultant: Lactation consultants can work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, private practices, and community clinics. They are often part of a healthcare team.
    • Lactation Counselor: Lactation counselors may work in community health programs, WIC clinics, or as part of breastfeeding support groups.

In summary, lactation consultants have more extensive training, clinical expertise, and a broader scope of practice compared to lactation counselors. They are typically the go-to professionals for addressing complex and medical breastfeeding challenges. Lactation counselors, on the other hand, focus on providing basic education and support for routine breastfeeding issues and are a valuable resource for general breastfeeding guidance. The choice between the two depends on the specific needs of the breastfeeding mother and baby.

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