Navigating the different lactation support roles - Evidence Based Babies
breast feeding
Breastfeeding and lactation consultant

Navigating the different lactation support roles

Breastfeeding is a natural thing for humans to do, it’s not only for optimal nutrition, but also a fantastic way for bonding between a mother and child, but just like walking, it’s usually a learned skill for most. It’s not always effortless and sometimes challenges may arise, and that’s where breastfeeding support comes in.

We will look at the three main types of lactation support roles, the type of training they receive, and which one will be best for you and your circumstances.

La Leche League Leader

A La Leche League Leader (LLLL) is a volunteer who has at least 12 months of personal breastfeeding experience. They receive training from the organization they volunteer with. La Leche League International, which is an international organization that has helped with mother-to-mother support in breastfeeding for over 60 years.

La Leche League leaders often organize local support groups, meetings, and offer guidance to breastfeeding mothers within their community.

They provide valuable mother-to-mother support by sharing their personal experiences, knowledge, and resources. They offer emotional encouragement, practical tips, and evidence-based information about breastfeeding.

Lactation Counselor

A lactation counselor has completed more specialized training in breastfeeding support and counseling. These counselors typically work in their community or in private practices. They possess a comprehensive understanding of basic breastfeeding techniques, infant feeding behavior, and common challenges that mothers may encounter.

Lactation counselors play a vital role in educating parents and in normalizing breastfeeding to the general public. They can also assist mothers with various aspects of breastfeeding and basic breastfeeding difficulties including positioning and latch, engorgement, pumping, introducing solids and so forth. Lactation counselors’ education touches down on all general topics of breastfeeding. They usually complete a 20-90 lactation course.

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is considered the gold standard in lactation support. An IBCLC is a healthcare professional who has completed a whole range of education (14 fields to be exact) including but not limited to; early childhood development, child nutrition, anatomy, physiology, biology, sociology, universal safety, first aid and so forth. They also have to complete a 90-hour lactation specific course on top of the other education requirements. They also receive extensive clinical training with anywhere between 300-1000+ practical hours depending on the pathway they choose and then have to write a rigorous 4-hour examination administered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

They possess a deep understanding of everything lactation including infant feeding, mother and infant anatomy, human milk composition and all complications that can arise.

IBCLCs work in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, private practices, public health organizations and private practices. They provide comprehensive lactation support, which includes assessing and managing complex breastfeeding issues such as low milk supply, oral ties, nipple trauma and infant weight gain concerns. IBCLC’S also collaborate with other healthcare professionals to address medical conditions that may affect breastfeeding, such as maternal and infant health issues.

Which supporter would be best for you

Breastfeeding is a unique and personal journey for each mother and child. Having the right support system in place can make a significant difference in overcoming challenges and ensuring a successful breastfeeding experience. La Leche League Leaders, lactation counselors, and IBCLC’S all play essential roles in providing assistance, education, and support to breastfeeding mothers.

La Leche League Leaders offer peer support and guidance through personal experiences and training and are an excellent option for emotional support and education, while lactation counselors provide professional counseling and assistance which makes them a fantastic option for education and support, while IBCLC’S bring a higher level of expertise and clinical knowledge to address complex breastfeeding issues which makes them the best option for not only education and support but especially more complex issues too.

Please remember that you are allowed to ask a lactation supporter proof of their credentials to ensure that you receive the best possible support.

By understanding the differences between these different lactation support roles, you can seek the appropriate support that aligns with your individual needs. 

Additional information and resources:

La Leche League International

International Board of lactation consultant examiners (IBLCE)


Please take note that all of the information provided on this website is for educational purposes only.

We take every effort to ensure that we stay up to date with the latest research and that we only provide you with the best possible evidence based information available.

Online information will never be a substitute for individual support by a qualified healthcare professional.

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