What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?
Lactation consultants are specially trained to help new mothers breastfeed their newborn and to recommend solutions for women who are having difficulties breastfeeding their baby. They educate mothers on the importance of breastfeeding as well as give them informed advice on positioning and using a breast pump. Common problems mothers encounter during breastfeeding that a lactation consultant might address include: latching troubles, pain during nursing and not producing enough milk. A lactation consultant may recommend certain products or clothing specially designed for nursing mothers. While lactation consultants work in hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices, many are self-employed. Lactation consultants may also work in public health, educating pregnant women on the importance of breastfeeding. Some even provide support for women struggling with post-partum depression and bonding issues to bond with their child through breastfeeding. Lactation consultants who work in hospitals may design and initiate breastfeeding programs for the neonatal department, and lead continuing education classes for health care professionals.
How Can I Become a Lactation Consultant?
The first step toward becoming a lactation consultant is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to take elective courses in neonatal nursing or to specialize in neonatal nursing. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining experience as a staff nurse (good areas are labor & delivery nursing and neonatal nursing) and accumulating significant clinical experience working with mothers and nursing babies, you can proceed to become board certified as a lactation consultant through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Lactation Consultant?
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. However, because lactation consulting is a relatively new area of nursing, it may be difficult to find positions in the field. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a labor & delivery nurse is $49,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. Online compensation site Payscale.com put the salary range between $40,004 and $65,609. A number of factors can affect your salary, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.