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Offbeat careers: Lactation consultant

Nursing and nurturing

Choosing a potential career or profession is considered as one of the toughest decisions in a person''s life. A bright career is the dream of every individual and so it is a very crucial step in one''s life.

Nursing and nurturing


Preeti Gangan

Choosing a potential career or profession is considered as one of the toughest decisions in a person's life. A bright career is the dream of every individual and so it is a very crucial step in one's life. But at times, there are a few career options that are less talked about which results in lesser awareness on the related career option. One such career choice in the nursing field is of a 'Lactation Consultant'.

For new lactating or expecting mothers, their first point of contact for breastfeeding related problems or queries is rather their mother, mother-in-laws, elderly in family or friends. They either switch to a gynaecologist or a paediatrician who are not the right go-to persons for such problems. Here is when a Lactation Consultant comes to the aid of new mothers who counsels and clears all doubts related to nursing babies, breastfeeding or child/maternal health.

A Lactation Consultant is a medical professional who helps a lactating mother with respect to problems related to breastfeeding. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a specialist in the field of lactation. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLE) is the ONLY certifying body which is able to award this credential. Lactation Consultants is a help to new mothers who breastfeed their newborns and find solutions for those having difficulty - like new products or clothing specially designed for new mothers. As a Lactation Consultant, one can work for a hospital or clinic, or self-independently. A Lactation Consultant can also become an advocate for breastfeeding in public health, design breastfeeding programs for hospital neonatal departments, and lead continuing education classes for healthcare professionals.

Role & responsibilities

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 per cent between 2008 and 2018.The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent and those who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as lactation consulting, are often highly sought-after.

Post-delivery, Lactation Consultant is expected to help new mothers with her first nursing session and gradually needs to conduct various antenatal sessions with the expectant mother to make her understand proper breastfeeding positions, feeding patterns and other nursing aspects

Academic qualification required

For people who aspire to become a Lactation Consultant, there are plentiful opportunities abroad to enable people pursue it as a career. However, Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) does conduct a programme for a few months to train women to become lactation counsellors.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Those wanting to become International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) must meet the preparation requirements set by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). To become eligible to take the IBLCE certification exam, prospective IBCLCs must meet standards for health sciences education, lactation education, and lactation clinical experiences. Once these standards are met, one can take the certification exam. The IBCLC certification is valid for five years, and one can become recertified by completing continuing education. IBCLCs must also retake the certification exam every 10 years. However, Lactation consultant certificate programmes take about one year to complete.

Estimated remuneration

Lactation consultants are high-end salaried professionals. Lactation consultants who are self-employed can build a successful private practice and attract more clients by gaining referrals from former clients and other health care professionals in the community.

Those who are lactation consultants in addition to doctors or nurses can advance their careers with further education and training, moving into leadership positions in their hospital or practice.

The writer is a qualified doctor and member of the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants), Mumbai, MedelaIndia Lactation Consultant Club

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