What does a lactation consultant's job entail?
A lactation consultant helps mothers with the critical job of feeding her baby. Breast-feeding may be natural, but it is not always easy. We are active listeners and provide hands-on support to help mothers reach their own personal goals for breast-feeding. We work in hospitals, clinics and other sites. Some lactation consultants will even go to a mothers home. Lactation consultants work as advocates and liaisons between the mother and health care provider. They also run breast-feeding classes and support groups, and develop and implement standards of care and guidelines for assisting breast-feeding mothers. They educate nurses and other health care professionals on breast-feeding issues. Some lactation consultants are also involved in advocacy programs to encourage the community and workplaces as a whole to support breast-feeding mothers.
What kind of schooling or training did you go through?
I graduated from Catonsville Community College Nursing School in 1988. I received my [lactation certification] in 1995. The rules have changed in the last 20 years for becoming an [international board-certified lactation consultant]. I had special courses I had to take and a certain number of hours of hands-on training with a lactation specialist. You have to sit for the [international board-certified lactation consultant] exam every 10 years, and also every five years obtain 75 continuing-education recognition points from conferences and workshops or online education. I would like to add that you do not have to have your RN to become a lactation consultant.
What inspired you to pursue this career?
This career is not what I originally had in mind. But once I started helping the mothers with breast-feeding, I found out I had a knack for it, and I truly love doing it.
What do you like best about your job?
Seeing the mother and child bond for the first time and helping them realize that, yes, they can do it. When a mom can look at her baby and know that he/she is growing and developing so well because of her breast milk, it is a beautiful thing. I also love the connection we develop with the mothers in our support group.
What are the challenges?
Some mothers lack the confidence and support from their families, and stop breast-feeding earlier than they may have wanted to. Some new mothers may receive incorrect information from health professionals who may not know enough about breast-feeding.
According to CareerBuilder, the national average salary for a lactation consultant is $79,141.