As you read through the posts on the Forums, you'll often see the suggestion to talk to an LLL Leader or Lactation Consultant. LCs and LLL Leaders might seem interchangeable at first, but they have very different training and experience and fulfill different roles.
- are mothers who have breastfed their own babies
- are unpaid volunteers
- have received training in the normal course of breastfeeding and common breastfeeding problems
- are accredited by La Leche League International
- support and promote LLL's philosophy of mothering through breastfeeding
- provide free phone counseling from their homes
- hold free support group meetings, meet-ups, and/or breastfeeding cafés
- may or may not be able to do home visits, depending on their personal circumstances
- can be found via the LLLI Group Index or Group Locations Map (not all Groups appear on the map).
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC)
- are paid professionals
- have an educational or professional background in a health-related field
- have completed 90 hours of coursework in human lactation and breastfeeding
- have at least 500 hours of clinical experience and training in breastfeeding management
- are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)
- must recertify every 5 years
- are employed in a variety of health care settings, such as hospitals, pediatricians' offices, clinics, and private practice
- may or may not include home visits as one of their services
- can be found through the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA).
Some LLL Leaders are also IBCLCs, but most are not. Some IBCLCs are or have been LLL Leaders. If you know that an LLL Leader is also an IBCLC, make sure it's clear which role she's acting in when you talk with her.
Not all lactation consultants are IBCLCs. You can check if an LC is credentialed through the IBLCE registries:
IBCLC Registry for the Americas
IBCLC Registry for Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa
IBCLC Registry for Australia, Asia Pacific, and Africa
There are also other certifications from a variety of organizations:
Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC) have completed a 45 hour course in lactation and are certified by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP). This is often an additional certification acquired by nurses, midwives, childbirth educators, peer counselors, or other professionals who work with mothers and babies.
Certified Lactation Educators (CLE) are trained and certified by the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) to provide breastfeeding education and counseling to mothers and teach breastfeeding classes. This is another certification that doulas, childbirth educators, nurses, WIC employees, etc. may have.
Certified Lactation Specialists (CLS) have taken a 5 day course from Lactation Education Consultants (LEC) designed to provide part of the education requirement for becoming an IBCLC. CLSs may be working on the coursework and clinical hours needed to sit for the IBCLE exam.
I'm sure that's not all of them! If you do work with a lactation consultant or lactation specialist, be sure to ask about her credentials so you have some idea of how much training and experience she has.