The Facts About Lactation Consultant Jobs
The healthcare industry is a suitable and appealing option to many when looking for a career. And for some, their experiences as a parent may inspire them to help others. If helping new mothers to master the art of breastfeeding sounds like a rewarding, meaningful career choice, read on for more information on lactation consultant salaries, education requirements, the years of experience you may need, and other aspects of working in this exciting and growing field!
What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?
Lactation consultants help postpartum parents with breastfeeding (lactation) related issues. These issues include a number of postpartum concerns, challenges, or feeding problems.
A consultant could help a new parent to:
- Better understand proper breastfeeding positions
- Learn about latching
- Use a breast pump more effectively
- Find the right feeding schedule for the baby
- Treat breast engorgement
- Deal with sore or bleeding nipples
- Improve milk supply
- Provide information, advice, and approaches to anything else that interferes with or reduces the parent’s ability to breastfeed their baby.
Lactation consultants may also help pregnant women to learn about breastfeeding and prepare for the experience. This could include one-on-one consultations or group classes, or providing information sessions.
Who Works as a Lactation Consultant?
These dedicated healthcare providers include a wide range of people who come from many different backgrounds. In 2019, the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) surveyed over 300 professionals to learn more about the demographics of professional consultants. The survey data showed that the majority of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) certified providers (IBCLC) are female. A significantly smaller group of consultants were male or identified as non-binary.
The IBCLC consultants that were surveyed ranged in age from under 30 to over 71. Consultants 30 and under were the top age range grouping. This was closely followed by 51 to 60. The overwhelming majority of certified consultants had a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree and associate degree were the second and third most common educational attainment levels.
Where Do These Consultants Work?
You can find lactation consultant jobs in a variety of healthcare settings. Some consultants work in hospitals, midwives practices, pediatric practices, birthing centers, or OB GYN offices. If you don’t absolutely love the idea of working in a medical environment, you could open your own private practice or work directly with patients in their homes.
How Much Money Can a Lactation Consultant Make?
Even though helping new mothers to breastfeed might be something that is near and dear to your heart, you may also need to make a living. This is where the average lactation consultant salary range can come into play.
The specific annual salary for a lactation consultant varies by region, place of employment, and years of experience. Like other careers, the more experienced you are, the more you are likely to make. This means the base salary you can expect as a consultant should grow the longer you stay in the field.
According to data from salary.com, the average lactation consultant salary is $87,977 in the U.S. The bottom 10 percent of lactation consultant jobs pay an average of $69,605 annually. The website further notes that the top-paying jobs average over $108,000 per year.
If you want to know more about the hourly wage of an IBCLC professional, the most USCLA survey participants reported making $35 per hour. The second highest reported hourly pay rate was $45 and the third was $25. The majority of these consultants either worked in hospital settings or private practices. The median country-wide average hourly rate was $34 for both hospital-based and private practice providers (non-RNs). This increased to $43/hour for IBCLC registered nurses.
Not only did the hourly rate vary by provider status, whether the lactation consultant was a registered nurse or not, it also depended on where the practitioner lived. California consultants earned an average of $73.75 per hour working in hospitals. Tennessee and Maryland had the highest average rates for private practice providers—$100/hour. South Dakota, Colorado, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, and Massachusetts also had higher than average pay rates.
Is It Hard to Start a Lactation Consultant Career?
Do you need to have a healthcare-focused background to qualify for most lactation consultant jobs? While a bachelor's degree in a medical or public health field can help, it isn’t the only way to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
You can become an IBCLC if you are a registered nurse or another type of healthcare provider. But you can also become an IBCLC if this is your first career or you’re transitioning from another field. According to the IBLCE, you must meet specific health sciences education prerequisites before sitting for your certification exam. If you’re already a clinical healthcare professional recognized by a government authority or are on the “IBLCE Recognized Health Professions List” (this includes dentists, dieticiens, midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, physicians/medical doctors, or speech pathologists) you can move on to the next step of the certification process. People without a healthcare background can complete their health science education in the 14 subjects the IBLCE describes in its guide.
Along with the completion of health science education courses, IBCLC candidates must also complete a minimum of 95 hours worth of education credits in human lactation and breastfeeding. This must include 5 hours of communication skill coursework. Lactation consultant students may take these pre credential classes through in-person or online programs.
Your IBCLC education won’t end in the classroom. You also need to complete lactation consultant-specific clinical experiences.
- Recognized health professionals can participate in 1,000 hours of supervised practice in an acceptable clinical setting.
- Non-providers can complete 300+ hours of clinical experiences through an accredited lactation academic program.
- A third option allows you to complete 500 hours of directly supervised clinical practice through a mentorship with an IBCLC to meet this hands-on training requirement. After you pass an accepted training program and meet the IBLCE requirements, you can sit for the 175-question credential exam.
What Are the Requirements to Work as a Lactation Consultant?
Not all lactation consultants are IBCLCs. But this credential can help you to get the job you want and possibly a better salary. The USLCA’s data shows that non-IBCLC consultants may earn less than those who are certified. The majority of non-IBCLC USLCA survey participants reported making either under $20 or $21 to $30 per hour. Not only can passing this certification exam give you a credential that employers and patients often look for, it ensures that you have a level of education and clinical training to help breastfeeding mothers navigate the postpartum period.
Do you want to learn more about breastfeeding? Check out our info on early nursing challenges here!
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Erica is an experienced parenting and education writer, with an M.S. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.