What is an Lactation Consultant? Is it simply someone who offer consultations about breastfeeding? Someone who you see at a hospital breastfeeding clinic? Perhaps someone who comes to your home to assist you if you are having breastfeeding challenges? A doula who helps you recognise a good latch after your birth? Well yes, all of these people could call themselves lactation consultants, because there is no strict definition of lactation consultant. In fact a nurse with very little to no breastfeeding education can receive the title of LC by the hospital administration, then work in the hospital's breastfeeding clinic and give out all the uneducated advise she wants to desperate mothers.
There are different levels of lactation education someone can receive, for example Doulas Of North America will not certify a doula with less than 4 hours of breastfeeding education, that said, DONA discourages a doula from also than calling herself an LC, unless she chooses further lactation education and distinguishes her doula credentials from her LC credentials. So just because you have a doula does not mean that they have more than 4 hours breastfeeding education. That said, I know doulas who have taken multiple breastfeeding workshops and are capable of assisting mothers with many breastfeeding challenges.
La Leche League leaders offer breastfeeding support. A LLL leader refers to the support she offers as "mother to mother" rather than a consultation. Most leaders will even meet you at your home. LLL leaders are passionate about breastfeeding, have breastfed, take 6-12 month training course that covers parenting philosophies as well as human lactation. LLL leaders also have a network that allows easy access to IBCLCs for consultation.
In order to be an IBCLC your must pass a gruelling lactation exam, have at least 300 hours lactation specific clinical hours as well as at least 45 hours of lactation education (recommended 90-160 hours) as well as taken courses in:
Infant and Child Growth and Development
Psychology or Counseling or Communication Skills
Introduction to Research
Sociology or Cultural Sensitivity or Cultural Anthropology.
So my advise to moms who are experiencing breastfeeding challenges, ASK your LC "What formal lactation education do you have?"
If everything seems to be going ok and you just want someone there to support you, help you recognise a good latch and offer breastfeeding support contacts then a 4 hour course will usually suffice. Also when you are able to get out and about La Leche League meetings are an excellent source for breastfeeding and parenting info.
If your nipples are cracked and sore and you need some one on one help with latch correction an 18-20hr breastfeeding course covers the basic challenges of breastfeeding as does the LLL training series.
If you have a baby that will not latch, sore nipples when the latch is "good", continuous weight loss despite fixing the latch, trying to wean from formula supplementation to exclusive breastfeeding, a LLL leader may still be able to help you while consulting a IBCLC in her network, and one that can't will refer you directly to an IBCLC.
Do not be fooled by a name tag that says LC, ask questions about their education and whether or not they will refer you to an IBCLC if your breastfeeding situation does not improve.