How to Become a Lactation Consultant:
The Definitive Guide


One of the most beautiful sights in the world is a new mother feeding her child from her breast.

However, as lovely as that looks, sometimes it can be difficult to get the baby to latch.

This can cause much frustration in a new mom, who is already exhausted and in pain.

That’s where a Lactation Consultant comes in.

A Lactation Consultant is a specialist who helps new mothers learn tips and tricks to get their newborns and even older babies to latch onto the breast to get the precious milk stored inside.

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What is a Lactation Consultant?

A Lactation Consultant is the one that helps mothers and babies form a breastfeeding relationship.

They show mothers how to latch their babies to the nipple, help to position the baby and teach the mother tricks to succeed at breastfeeding.

Sometimes, Lactation Consultants even offer breastfeeding courses to expectant parents and even perform weight checks on the baby to see if they are getting the nutrients they need.

While the job sounds like you’ll be cuddling a lot of babies, there will be long nights on the maternity ward helping frazzled moms with screaming newborns.

It is a tough job at times, but there are so many benefits to helping a new mom learn to nurse her baby.

Duties

A Lactation Consultant has many duties throughout the workday.

Some of these duties include:

  • Advising mothers on childcare topics
  • Assessing patient needs
  • Creating reports
  • Preparing patients for treatment
  • Delivering medications

Most Lactation Consultants work very closely with new mothers in a Maternity ward, while others may work in a doctor’s office or clinic.

This means that the job duties may vary depending on the setting.


Salary

In the United States, the average salary for a Lactation Consultant is around $82,000 a year.

It is possible to make more, but typically those who start out in the career will make less.

Likely, when first beginning as a Lactation Consultant, you will make around $73,000.

With experience, education, and specializations, a Lactation Consultant can make up to nearly $93,000.

Depending on the location of your work and the population of the city you work in, it’s possible to make more or less than average.

Lactation Consultants that work in hospitals in well-populated areas will likely make more than Lactation Consultants who work in small towns.

Average National Salary: $82,000

$73K
$78K
$82K
$87K
$93K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%
*Salary information last updated 2020

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$77,415
Alaska$92,617
Arizona$81,684
Arkansas$76,197
California$92,287
Colorado$82,372
Connecticut$89,395
Delaware$86,751
Florida$78,489
Georgia$79,935
Hawaii$86,685
Idaho$77,978
Illinois$84,851
Indiana$80,720
Iowa$79,067
Kansas$78,406
Kentucky$77,745
Louisiana$79,150
Maine$79,646
Maryland$85,186
Massachusetts$89,891
Michigan$82,686
Minnesota$84,520
Mississippi$71,879
Missouri$78,737
Montana$74,895
Nebraska$75,763
Nevada$84,686
New Hampshire$83,859
New Jersey$91,345
New Mexico$75,515
New York$88,651
North Carolina$78,819
North Dakota$77,580
Ohio$80,670
Oklahoma$77,663
Oregon$82,290
Pennsylvania$82,455
Rhode Island$87,081
South Carolina$77,332
South Dakota$70,723
Tennessee$75,060
Texas$81,130
Utah$78,277
Vermont$79,563
Virginia$82,124
Washington$88,238
West Virginia$73,201
Wisconsin$81,381
Wyoming$73,532

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $92,617

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $92,617
California - $92,287
New Jersey - $91,345
Massachusetts - $89,891
Connecticut - $89,395

How to Become a Lactation Consultant

Step 1Earn a Diploma or GED

It is not required to become a registered nurse in order to begin working as a Lactation Consultant.

However, it is important to make sure that you have the education requirements.

In order to enter into a program to become a Lactation Consultant, you’ll want to make sure you have an education and understanding in:

  • Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Infant and child growth development
  • Psychology
  • Counseling
  • Occupational safety
  • Medical terminology and documentation
  • Nutrition

While this list only covers the basics, it may be necessary to find a program in your area that you meet all the requirements for.

You can do this by contacting your local community college or university.

Step 2Get an Education

The education for a Lactation Consultant is a little different than typical medical careers.

This is because you can either go to school to become a Registered Nurse, and then become a Lactation Consultant, or you can begin a nursing program with the intention of becoming a Lactation Consultant.

Nursing programs can range from one year to four years, with a four-year degree earning a Bachelors’s degree.

In a typical nursing program, a prospective Lactation Consultant will learn about taking care of patients and the medical side of the career.

Usually, nursing programs have classroom times as well as clinics that involve working with real patients under supervision.

Clinical allow a Lactation Consultant to have hands-on training with real patients, while the classroom gives them the knowledge that they need to do the work the right way.

Step 3Gain Lactation Experience

This doesn’t mean you have to start lactating yourself, it means that you’ll want to try and work with new mothers who need help nursing their newborns.

In order to make sure that you are in an approved program you’ll want to contact the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

If you want to get the most out of your experience, you’ll need to work with women who are not pregnant yet to women who have already given birth.

This way you will have a wide range of knowledge about the different parts of pregnancy and conception.

If you plan on taking the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners exam to become a licensed Lactation Consultant, you will need between 300- 1,000 hours of experience with lactation.

It’s possible to get some of that training in while volunteering as a La Leche League team member.

This is a voluntary service that helps women in their homes and through workshops to deal with the struggles of breastfeeding.

You won’t be able to take the IBLCE exam unless you have completed 90 hours of coursework.

The coursework that you can expect in these types of programs can include the history of lactation consulting and different techniques for breastfeeding.

You will also need to ensure that you have finished your program within five years of taking the exam.

Step 4Become Certified and Maintain Certification

After you take the IBLCE exam and pass, you will be considered a certified Lactation Consultant.

In order to keep up to date with your credentials, you must remember to keep your certification up to date.

Lactation Consultants must recertify every five years, to do so you’ll need to take a recertification exam that consists of 75 questions.

After ten years, you will need to take the IBLCE exam again.


Education

Although it is not required to be a registered nurse before becoming a Lactation Consultant, many employers look for employees who are both.

This means that if you are interested in becoming a Lactation Consultant, you will want to enroll in a nursing program.

Every Lactation Consultant has nursing experience because the two roles are so similar.

A typical nursing program can take anywhere from 16 months to four years, depending on if you would like to earn your Bachelors’s degree as well.

It’s possible to enroll in one of these programs that are online, however, you will need to do in-person clinical with an accredited facility.

Once you have graduated from a nursing school, you will want to focus on the maternity ward.

Make sure you are able to get some experience with lactating women, you can do this by interning at a hospital, or you can become part of the La Leche League.

Throughout your clinical with lactating and pregnant women, you will need to enroll in a Lactation Consultant program.

Many of these programs can be found online as well.

These programs will cover the basics, but also information like:

  • Basic life support
  • Medical documentation
  • Medical terminology
  • Ethics
  • Safety and infection control

A Lactation Consultant program can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,000 dollars.

If you plan on doing some type of internship through the program that you are enrolled in, there may be additional steps to take.

For example, several programs require that you complete an application and submit $100 dollars to be used to place you in an internship.

You’ll need to have complete a Lactation Consultant program or be currently enrolled in one in order to be an intern.

You’ll also need to provide a background check, as well as an internship fee of around $1,000.

After you have provided enough experience and get through the Lactation Consultant program, you will want to begin the IBLCE exam.

This will ensure that you are knowledgeable in the field and compliant with the career.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

There aren’t any special certifications or specializations when it comes to being a Lactation Consultant because the job itself is a specialized career.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to be certified, though.

In order to become a Certified Lactation Consultant, you will need to take the IBLCE exam and pass it.

The IBLCE exam stands for the International Board of Lactation Consultants Exam.

Before you can take the exam, you must meet the standard requirements.

These include having knowledge in the standards of health care, lactation specific clinical experience, and adherence to the code of conduct.

To be more specific, these are the requirements to take the IBLCE:

  • Complete courses in 14 subjects include biology, physiology, and anatomy
  • Complete CPR courses
  • Complete at least 90 hours of lactation-specific education
  • 1000 hours of clinical experience

*Current nurses and physicians may be exempt from these requirements

The IBLCE exam is computer-based and typically has around 175 questions.

Exam takers will be given a total of four hours to complete the test.

The exam covers topics such as:

  • Development and nutrition
  • Endocrinology and physiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Clinical skills and techniques

Some of the questions that you can expect on an exam may include:

You are meeting with a woman who is planning to get pregnant. As part of your initial assessment, the woman lists all the medications that she is currently taking. This list reveals that the woman is taking insulin for diabetes and Accutane for acne. What would you recommend to this woman?

You will then be given four answers to choose which is the correct:

Recommend that she speak to her doctor about stopping the insulin and taking another medication.
Recommend that she stop the Accutane before getting pregnant because it leads to birth defects.
Recommend that the woman stop insulin before getting pregnant because it leads to birth defects.
Recommend that she stop the Accutane before getting pregnant because it leads to morning sickness.

It’s possible to take this exam online, but there are physical facilities to take the exam as well.

However, it is all online, and many of the questions have pictures attached.

There are many study guides online to help you through this process, it can be arduous, but it is worth it in the end.

Certification Example:

Lactation Consultant Certification

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

The average training to become a Lactation Consultant can take anywhere from one year to six years.

While it is required to become a nurse before becoming a Lactation Consultant, the actual program for lactation consulting can be anywhere from 12 weeks to a year long.

A Bachelors’s degree in a nursing program will take around four years to achieve.

While the Lactation Consultant program can take much less time, however, you’ll have to have at least a Bachelors’s degree to get into the program.

Once you’ve passed the Lactation Consultant program, you’ll be required to take the IBLCE exam, which can take several months depending on how many hours of clinical experience you have.

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Job Outlook

It looks to be that the career will be growing around twelve percent in the next ten years.

This means that there will continue to be a demand for Lactation Consultants.

There are many health benefits to breastfeeding, and in our health-conscious world, more new mothers are choosing to feed their babies breastmilk.

Due to the rise in breastfeeding, it is typical that many new mothers don’t know how to latch their babies to the breast.

This means that more and more Lactation Consultants are necessary in hospitals and clinics in order to be of service to new mothers in frustrating situations.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%

61,196
2018
68,626
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 7,430 jobs.

Lactation Consultant: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Lactation Consultant?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

The overall job satisfaction for Lactation Consultants is very positive.

Having the opportunity to help women and their babies make Lactation Consultants feel good about the work that they do.

Within this job field, there are many opportunities and ways to increase wages.

It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the location of a job matters as well, many Lactation Consultants who work in private clinics are more satisfied with their jobs than ones that work in hospitals.

This happens because of the stress of the hospital environment, where Lactation Consultants have a harder time building a relationship with the women.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

The average salary for a Lactation Consultant in the United States is around $82,000 a year.

When first starting out in this career, people usually make around $73,000.

With experience, education, and additional skills, a Lactation Consultant can expect to make around $92,000 a year.

Depending on where you work, the population of the city and surrounding areas, as well as certifications and knowledge, a Lactation Consultant can make more or less than average as well.

Take a look at your local hospitals or clinics to see what the typical range for a Lactation Consultant is in your area.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The job growth outlook for a Lactation Consultant looks to be incredible.

It seems that the job will be growing around twelve percent in the next ten years.

More mothers are nursing their babies, but this means that there are many who have latching issues.

A Lactation Consultant can help bridge the gap between mothers and their babies, by showing them helpful techniques to breastfeed.

The more women that are turning toward breastfeeding, the better the job outlook for Lactation Consultants.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 4+ Years

It takes a little while to become a Lactation Consultant, however, the career is very lucrative.

Typically, when working to become a Lactation Consultant, students apply to a Bachelors’s degree or nursing program.

These programs can take anywhere from two to four years.

The timing depends on the type of program, and whether it’s through a university or private sector.

Once you finish your Bachelor’s degree, you can then start training to become a Lactation Consultant.

This training can take anywhere from 6 months to a year, depending on how much work you put into the program.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

In order to be a successful Lactation Consultant, one must remember that this is a very important and impactful moment in a women’s life, as well as her babies.

This means that you’ll need certain skills in order to work in this career.

Some of these skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Accuracy
  • Communication skills
  • Patience
  • Ability to motivate others
  • Listening skills
  • Diversity training
  • Attention to detail
  • Professional conduct

Breastfeeding can be a difficult ride for many new mothers, so being able to keep calm and help a mother learn how to nurse her baby is essential for this career.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of a Lactation Consultant?

The average salary for a Lactation Consultant as of 2019 is around $82,000 a year.

If you are just starting your career as a Lactation Consultant, you can expect to make a little less at around $73,000 a year.

When you work your way up in the career, you can end up making around $93,000 a year.

All of this also depends on where you work, how much experience you’ve gained over the years, and any specializations you may have.

Q. How long does it take to become a Lactation Consultant?

Due to the fact that you must become a nurse before entering a Lactation Consultant program, it can take a little longer than other careers.

Typically, a nursing program takes anywhere from one year to four years, with a four-year degree earning a Bachelors’s in the end.

Also, once you complete your degree, you will need to enroll in a Lactation Consultant program.

This can take anywhere from 12 weeks to another year.

Program durations vary, especially depending on whether you decide to enroll in an online program or an on-campus program.

On-campus programs usually take a little longer because online programs are a bit more self-paced.

This career can take anywhere from 2 years to 6 years to complete education.

Q. What does a Lactation Consultant do?

A Lactation Consultant has an important job to mend the bridge between new mothers and newborn babies.

This can be done by helping mothers learn the techniques and tricks to getting their newborns to nurse.

Lactation Consultants help mothers learn to latch, weigh the babies to ensure they are growing, and provide information and standard medical care to pregnant and new mothers.

Q. What is the demand for Lactation Consultants?

The world is becoming more health-conscious, and many Millenials are having children.

This means that there has been a rise in breastfeeding over the last decade.

This trend will continue to grow in the next ten years, which means there will be an even higher demand for Lactation Consultants in the future.

The outlook for a Lactation Consultant is very positive and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Lactation Consultant?

A nursing program can cost anywhere from $10,000-$40,000 to complete.

A Lactation Consultant program can cost anywhere from $600-$1,000 or more to complete.

Add on the required exam fee, and this can cost you another $1,000 or more.

Altogether, it will take nearly $50,000 to become a Lactation Consultant.

Don’t let that worry you, as a Lactation Consultant is a great career where you will find much satisfaction!


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