There are numerous online programs that train individuals as lactation, or breastfeeding, consultants and qualify them to obtain the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) credential. To become an IBCLC, candidates must meet specific educational and experiential standards. They must be educated in one of the board's recognized health professions, such as nursing, or have prerequisite education in 14 health science subjects.
Students should make sure any program they are considering is sanctioned by the Accreditation and Approval Review Committee on Education in Human Lactation and Breastfeeding. This is the only group that accredits programs that prepare lactation consultants for the IBCLC exam. Candidates for certification must pass a comprehensive exam that covers a broad range of topics related to lactation.
IBCLCs must complete at least 90 hours of education in areas specified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) in human breastfeeding. There are also extensive clinical experience requirements that must be completed in person, meaning the program cannot be completed entirely online. The online courses cover topics relating to lactation, including anatomy, social issues and the mechanics of breastfeeding.
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Pre-Certification Programs for Lactation Consultants
Online lactation consultant educational programs require students to complete in-person components in clinical settings. Students must adhere to assignment deadlines, but the length of each course and time allowed vary by program. Courses typically involve reading and online discussions, and students generally submit essays and assessments via the Internet.
Common Courses in a Lactation Consultant Pre-Certification Program
The coursework in online lactation consultant programs teaches students to recognize and solve breastfeeding problems. Students learn about the anatomy of the breast, the process of lactation and social issues surrounding breastfeeding.
Anatomy and Physiology for Lactation Consultants
In this course, students learn the makeup of a woman's breast, including how it develops over her lifetime and how lactation is regulated. Students also explore factors that can influence breast milk production.
The breastfeeding initiation course teaches students to provide guidance to mothers, both prenatally and during the first week after a baby's birth. Encouraging mothers to choose breastfeeding and helping them and their babies learn to breastfeed are focuses of this course.
Specialized approaches for preterm and other high-risk babies are the focus of this course. Students learn about the positive effects of breast milk in babies with developmental issues. They also learn to teach mothers to initiate lactation through the use of pumps and to help mothers who have lost an infant.
Career Information for Graduates
Those who complete online lactation consultant courses and the IBCLC certification process can work independently or as part of a maternity care team at a hospital or pediatric center. Depending on where a lactation consultant worked, the middle 50% earned between $68,049 and $85,682 annually in 2016, according to Salary.com. Additionally, Payscale.com reported that most certified lactation consultants earned between $15.00 and $44.00 hourly as of November 2016.
Continuing Education Information
In addition to the IBCLC, lactation consultants can earn certification through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP). The IBCLE requires lactation consultants to recertify every five years; certified lactation consultants must earn continuing education credits during the interim to qualify for recertification.
Individuals interested in becoming lactation consultants must complete a specific amount of education and clinical requirements to obtain the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) credential. Some of this training can be completed through programs that include online coursework and an on-site clinical component.