Lactation Consultant Certification
By an allied health world contributing writer
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What is the “gold standard” of certification in the lactation consultant field?
There are a variety of different credentials available for lactation professionals. International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is considered the “gold standard” certification in this field as it is the highest level of certification available anywhere in the world. Obtaining this certification involves fulfilling necessary criteria to qualify to sit for and pass an exam. This exam is offered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and takes approximately six hours to complete. Currently, there are not state- specific requirements for IBCLCs and they are allowed to practice anywhere in the world.
Different “pathways” to become IBCLC certified. The first pathway, which is the most common, may require candidates to have on-the-job experience as health care providers who work in a field that helps mothers or children, or as breastfeeding support counselors who work for an organization that requires them to meet a certain set of criteria. This criteria includes completing a structured lactation consultant training program geared toward comprehensive education in breastfeeding management, abiding by defined ethical standards for conduct, and completing continuing education requirements.
The second pathway may require candidates to have graduated from an accredited program in human lactation and breastfeeding. This program must be at least one year in length and include clinical assignments in addition to the required clinical portion.
The third pathway may require candidates to complete an approved lactation education plan to be supervised by at least one IBCLC who has recertified at least once. This plan must be approved by IBLCE prior to the candidate beginning their clinical component. The second and third pathways are not approved in all countries but are accepted in North America.
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Other available certifications
Besides the “gold standard” certification (IBCLC), there are other less formal certifications available. Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC), Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), and Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) are other options. Some of these certifications can be received after taking a one week course and passing a test administered at the end. However, only IBCLCs are considered “registered lactation consultants,” since they are registered with the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Typically these other types of lactation consultants are supervised by a registered lactation consultant in case they encounter anything outside the normal course of breastfeeding.
What is the accrediting body lactation consultants are certified by?
Lactation consultants are board certified by The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE); the other certifications (such as CBC, CLE, and CLC) are not regulated by any governing body. Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC) is the official “title” of a consultant who has passed the IBCLE exam.
What type of continuing education credits are required for lactation consultants?
IBCLC practitioners are required to become recertified through the IBLCE every five years. To become recertified they can either pass the exam again, or they can submit their earned continuing education recognition points (CERPs). At least 75 CERPs must be accumulated by the five year point in order to become recertified without retaking the test. Ten years after passing the IBLEC exam, consultants are required to retake the exam.
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Do IBCLC certified professions adhere to a Code of Ethics?
Once individuals receive their IBCLC they are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics that mandates they purchase liability insurance, maintain confidentiality according to HIPAA codes, and follow the provisions of the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes. The International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes mandates an IBCLC cannot offer formula to clients because it would insinuate they were endorsing a certain brand of formula.
They are also not allowed to endorse any particular product, such as a specific brand of pump or bottle, to avoid conflict of interest. If a lactation consultant suggests something to a client, they typically provide them with three choices and let them chose so they are not accused of endorsing anything.
In addition to these mandates, IBCLC certified consultants must maintain contact with their clients until their situation is resolved and report to the mother’s and baby’s healthcare provider as needed.