illustration of a IBCLC supporting a parent and child
Author: TLN

What is an IBCLC? 

You’ll see us use the acronym IBCLC a lot — but what does it mean? IBCLC stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. The highest accredited healthcare professionals specializing in lactation, IBCLCs are there to give you the personalized, expert care you deserve. At The Lactation Network, we work exclusively with IBCLCs to deliver the gold standard in care.   

The World Health Organization reports that “mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices.”  Whether lactation comes easily for you or not, having a strong support system is key to meeting your feeding goals. Thankfully, no one is better prepared to offer you expert, personalized lactation care than your IBCLC. Read on to learn exactly what IBCLCs do, how they help parents, and how you can find an IBCLC today. 

What do different lactation consultant certifications mean?

Certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, IBCLCs can work in many different healthcare settings, from hospitals to private practices. While lactation educators can offer education and support, only IBCLCs have completed the rigorous training required to become internationally recognized lactation experts. IBCLC certification programs require 2-5+ years, and candidates must complete 90 hours of lactation-specific education and 300-1,000 hands-on hours of clinical training. And to maintain their accreditation, IBCLCs must earn their recertification every five years.  

In comparison, Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) and Certified Lactation Educators (CLEs) complete 45 hours of education and one online or in-person class. CLCs also need to complete 18+ hours of continuing education every three years. 

What does an IBCLC do?

As a new parent, you can expect an IBCLC to assist you with all your lactation needs, from helping you design a workday pumping schedule and storage plan to finding the best breastfeeding position for you. IBCLCs may work in a variety of settings, providing care in home, hospitals, birth centers, and via virtual visits. 

IBCLCs can also assist you with common lactation challenges, like low milk supply, breastfeeding pain, and conditions like mastitis and plugged ducts. If your baby is struggling to latch or isn’t gaining weight properly, your IBCLC can determine how to improve feeding sessions, fine tune feeding plans for babies who are premature, and even provide a referral to another healthcare professional if your condition needs further attention. 

“A lactation consultant is invaluable,” says Caitlin McNeily, TLN’s VP of Consultant Relations. “They’re basically your breastfeeding fairy godmother, personal cheerleader, and new-parent support team all in one.”

Can I meet with an IBCLC before my due date?

Yes! We encourage expecting parents to request an IBCLC consultation before their baby arrives. During a prenatal lactation consultation, your IBCLC can set you up for feeding success. They may complete a breast assessment, show you the best breastfeeding positions for your body, help you choose a breast pump, and prepare you for your baby’s arrival

Who needs an IBCLC? 

Everyone — or at least, everyone with a baby to feed. While feeding your baby is natural, it’s certainly not easy. An IBCLC understands that and will provide you with evidence-based education and lactation support to help you meet your feeding goals. If you are currently pregnant or have a baby, request an insurance-covered IBCLC consultation today and get the care you deserve. 

*Illustrations by Jesse Zhang 

Get the care you deserve

We’re here for you, every step of the way. We work with your insurance to provide in-home, in-office, or telehealth visits with an IBCLC.