How I Became a Lactation Consultant

People often ask me how to become a lactation consultant, and how I became one.

Here is the story about that:

My first schooling as a lactation consultant came with the birth of my first baby. I had some questions about breastfeeding and called my local La Leche League group. That was the first and biggest step. This phone call changed the course of my life as I became involved with that group as librarian and read everything that was available.

In 1978, I started working as a public health nurse in a Ulster County in upstate New York. Part of that work was to see all the new mothers and babies in my two assigned townships. That is where I began direct counseling.

My interest in breastfeeding became a passion. I started going to workshops offered by Health Education Associates, Karin Cadwell and Edith Tibbetts. I was introduced to a more formal world of breastfeeding research and lactation management through them, and was also encouraged by them, particularly Karin, as to keep exploring good ideas.

In 1986, I finally took the invitation offered by a friend and went to work at Booth Maternity Hospital, switching my area of clinical practice from medical-surgical nursing to maternity. There, I became known as a person knowledgeable about breastfeeding. (That only meant that I read a lot and could quote some evidence to base my practice.) I started spending more time working with breastfeeding, as well as continuing to attend workshops. I started a correspondence course with Breastfeeding Support Consultants, to prepare me to become a board-certified lactation consultant.

This home study course took a long time. I found it difficult to sustain the time and energy required to complete the course, although I did learn a lot and got through about 2/3 of it. After a year or so, I realized that I didn’t have to finish the course to be a lactation consultant, that I could still help mothers and do a good job with as a nurse, with my Masters’, and the education I had gathered from my reading, work, and conference attendance. I started calling myself a lactation consultant and working more and more in the field, and going to meetings of my local lactation consultant affiliate, PRO-LC.

At Booth, I started to learn about teaching childbirth education and related classes for adults. I began teaching there in 1988. I took some volunteer jobs within PRO-LC, and made connections within the network of childbirth educators and breastfeeding helpers. I became a volunteer Medical Liaison for the local nursing mothers’ groups, and that led to my becoming involved in teaching the Nursing Mother’s Advisory Council counselor training course.

That led to being invited to work at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health for a 3-month project in 1992, where I wrote the Breastfeeding Promotion Policy, set up a task force, wrote a directory (the first Philadelphia Breastfeeding Resource Guide), and developed a workplan.

I also started teaching childbirth preparation classes for many different agencies, including a local hospital organization. At one point, I was teaching over 300 classes a year. After Booth was closed (January 27, 1989, a victim of corporate medicine), I taught childbirth education classes at several hospitals, some clinics, a community agency, a local birth center, and privately.

During this time, my second daughter was born. I stayed home for about a year, then started teaching again.

I never did take any certifying examinations, either for lactation consulting or for childbirth education until 1996, when I had to be certified to teach in the local hospitals.

My requirements for taking the IBLCE exam were filled by my clinical hours as a nurse taking care of mothers and babies, by teaching, and by work in my private practice. I had continued to take every workshop that came my way, and started going to conferences about 1985. My first conference in the field of Maternal-Child Health was the MCN conference in Baltimore.

There are many different pathways to being a lactation consultant. In a way, it was probably easier for me than it is now because I started when the profession was a baby, and there was less structure in place.

I suggest the website www.iblce.org to learn more about the process of becoming certified.

Call Nikki today at 215.635.6477 to learn more or schedule a session.

Contact Nikki!