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LC, CLE, CLC and IBCLC: What's the Difference?




What’s the difference?

Breastfeeding Support Credentials and what they mean

Lactation is an unregulated industry. Only four states require a license to practice lactation consulting professionally: Rhode Island, Oregon, Georgia, and New Mexico. Many hospitals don’t have certified lactation providers, and if they are certified they aren’t the highest level of certification.


In the world of breastfeeding support it can be very difficult to understand all of the letters being thrown around. It is an alphabet soup that needs some clarification.


The term Lactation Consultant (LC) is used often to refer to anyone that helps people with breastfeeding. LC is a label that does not require any specific breastfeeding certification. Actually, many facilities that have “Lactation Consultants” are actually Registered Nurses (RNs) with some experience helping with breastfeeding so they are given this label. They may or may not have had any specific lactation education.


Certified Lactation Educators (CLE) are people that have taken a 20 hour lactation education course and been certified through Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA). They are certified to educate about breastfeeding including breastfeeding counseling and teaching breastfeeding classes. CLEs educate and to help direct you to an IBCLC when more help is needed, they are not certified to assess breastfeeding concerns and needs.


Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC) have taken a 45 hour lactation specific class and are certified through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP). The label CLC “identifies a professional in lactation counseling who has demonstrated the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitudes to provide clinical breastfeeding counseling and management support to families who are thinking about breastfeeding or who have questions or problems during the course of breastfeeding/lactation.” (https://www.alpp.org/certifications/certifications-clc)


International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the title given to healthcare professionals who have taken 90 hours of lactation specific education, completed at least 500 clinical hours, passed a certification test, and been certified through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). IBCLC is the Gold Standard when it comes to a lactation professional.


It is safe to say that not all “Lactation Consultants” are equal in knowledge, ability, or experience. Do your research, contact the hospital where you will be delivering and ask them about their LCs and what certifications they have. Ask them what hours they are available. And be prepared to contact a local IBCLC if breastfeeding problems arise that the LCs in the hospital may not be able to help you with.


As is with a streaming service, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+, there are different levels of service that you can get with the different levels of certification as a Lactation Consultant.