Navigating the Complex Landscape of Lactation Support

So, you’ve had your baby and you want nothing more than to breastfeed successfully, and let me guess, you probably didn’t realize just how confusing it can be! It’s okay if the road seems tougher than you initially thought, it’s not always easy. Remember, you’re not alone; your efforts and the love you’re pouring into this journey, no matter how seemingly small, are connecting you to countless others who have faced the exact same challenges and triumphs.

The truth is we were never meant to do this alone. You deserve reliable support as you navigate this journey. But how can you find a lactation consultant to guide and care for you and your little one? Most parents don’t have the slightest idea about just how diverse the world of lactation support is. In the US alone there are at least 18 different organizations offering lactation education certifications. But trust me, despite how overwhelming this can all seem at first, having the right person by your side can make all the difference.

Why It Matters: The Complex Landscape of Lactation Credentials

Each certification organization differs significantly in its number of required lactation education hours, requirements for clinical hours and levels of personal experience. Terms like “counselor,” “specialist,” “educator,” and “consultant” are often used interchangeably, causing considerable confusion among families.

As you look through our lactation directory for the right person to work with, it’s important that you understand what credentials mean what and the level of care you should expect to receive. Keep in mind that the individual level of expertise is also influenced by any additional training and experience an individual has. A brand new IBCLC who only has experience working with newborns may not be as well prepared to support a parent with a 3 month old refusing to latch than a private practice IBCLC who has specialized training in this subject and many years of experience.

Before I break down credentials recognized in the U.S. where I practice, I must preface that each country has their own certification programs and laws governing them. To find the most accurate information possible for your country of residence, I encourage you to research this topic for yourself. The only globally recognized certification is that of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants; the highest level of lactation education an individual from any part of the world can obtain.

Breaking Down the Credentials: From IBCLC to Peer Supporter

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) – the Gold Standard


  • 14 college health science courses
  • 90 hours of lactation-specific education
  • 5 hours of communication-focused education
  • 300-1000 hours of clinical hours
  • Must pass the board-certified exam
  • Must recertify every 5 years
Lactation Counselor (ALC, ANLC, BC, CBS, CLC, CLS, CB)


  • 40+ hours of lactation-specific education
  • May need to pass a short exam
  • No requirement for a diploma or courses
  • No clinical hours required
Breastfeeding Educator (BEC, CBE, CLE, CLEC, LEC)


  • 20+ hours of lactation education
  • No requirement for a diploma or courses
  • No clinical hours required
Peer Supporter (BCBC, BC USA, HC One, LLL, Rose CT, WIC BFPC)


  • Personal experience
  • 18 or more hours of education
  • No clinical hours required

Finding the right lactation expert is easy with our lactation directory

Our Global Lactation Directory empowers you to choose the right support based on your unique needs. Whether you’re looking for support groups connection with other parents, or you need an IBCLC expert to support and help you induce lactation or navigate oral restrictions, you will find what you need here and much more. Included are just a few examples:

Diverse Expertise:
  • IBCLCs offer clinical expertise
  • Lactation Counselors provide knowledgeable guidance
  • Breastfeeding Educators focus on education and support
  • Peer Supporters offer firsthand experience and understanding
Filter Your Support and Services by:
  • Location
  • Provider Type
  • Ethnicity
  • Language Spoken
  • Inclusivity
  • Specialty
  • Visits type
  • Insurance coverage and more
Read Reviews:
  • Learn from others’ experiences
  • Make informed decisions about your chosen professional
  • Share reviews, help others with their decision making and thank those who support you on your journey

Conclusion: Your Breastfeeding Journey, Your Informed Choices

Understanding the different subsets of lactation credentials allows you to make the informed choices necessary to ensuring that the support you receive aligns with your unique values and needs. It is my sincere hope that here you will find diversity of expertise regardless of location or background, and embark on your breastfeeding journey with confidence and excitement.

Looking for the right lactation consultant near you? Explore our lactation directory now!


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