Career Definition of a Lactation Consultant
Lactation consultants work with new and expectant mothers. Before a woman gives birth they will help her understand the breastfeeding process. Lactation consultants may also evaluate expectant mothers to determine if there are reasons to suspect there will be problems with breastfeeding their infant. They may be specifically responsible for working with women with high risk factors to help them be able to successfully breastfeed. Their objective is to provide guidance so that women can effectively breastfeed their babies.
Lactation consultants also provide information about a number of issues related to feeding infants. They may address things such as physical deformities that affect the infant's ability to nurse effectively. They may also teach women how to use breast pumps and other devices. Some may work as a nurse as well, while others may have supplemental tasks such as selling breastfeeding-related products; however, their primary responsibility centers on providing instruction about breastfeeding and supporting women who are having difficulty breastfeeding by teaching specific strategies that may enable them to successfully breastfeed.
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree and certification|
|Job Skills||Communication skills, interpersonal skills, compassion, ability to teach others, telephone consultation skills|
|Median Salary (2020)*||$83,370|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)**||12% (registered nurses)|
Sources: *Salary.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lactation consultants are required to have industry certification, such as the certification provided by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). In order to be qualified to pursue this certification it is common to already be a healthcare professional, and a degree is required for most of the approved positions, such as being an occupational therapist or a dietician. It is also possible to prepare for IBLCE certification by completing courses in health sciences without earning a degree but employers typically require lactation consultants to be registered nurses, which means that qualified lactation consultants have typically completed postsecondary studies in nursing and obtained a nursing license. In some cases, lactation consultants must be qualified to work as nurse practitioners, which means that they are required to have a master's degree. Others may be able to pursue certification by completing a nursing diploma as long as they fulfill the life sciences training requirements.
Lactation consultants must be compassionate. They may be involved with working with clients who have a child with a health condition or may have experienced complications that impede their ability to breastfeed, and lactation consultants need to be sensitive to the specific issues their clients are experiencing. They need to be able to teach others. Since providing information is essential in their work they need strong communication skills. They may work with clients in person and over the phone and need to be capable of providing effective support over the phone when required.
Career Outlook and Salary
A median annual income for lactation consultants is available from Salary.com. As of 2020 they reported lactation consultants earned $83,370. Lactation consultants can be included in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listing for registered nurses. From 2018 to 2028, a 12% job growth rate is expected for registered nurses, which is more than double the average job growth rate for all occupations during that time frame.
If a career as a lactation consultant sounds appealing you may also be interested in a medical career that involves pre-natal care or delivering babies. Learn more about a number of different career options through the links listed here: