Have you ever wondered why when you’re talking to a midwife or lactation consultant they have so many letters after their name? Letters like IBCLC, CBC and many more? Well, whilst on my own breastfeeding journey, shortly after the birth of my daughter in 2012, I decided to find out just what they all meant.

Prior to the birth of my daughter and my breastfeeding journey I was blissfully unaware of how many women have had to fight to exercise their basic right to feed their child in public. This coupled with my realisation that there were so, so many women who had little-to-no support on their breastfeeding journey is what set the wheels in motion for me to research becoming a breastfeeding counsellor.

When I began my research I realised that there were so many hats you could wear when becoming a “breastfeeding helper.” You see so many letters after people’s names; IBCLC, CBC, CLC, CLE… but what does it all mean?

I knew shortly after starting my research that given where I was at in my life it would not be feasible for me to become an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), which is the highest credential in the breastfeeding field. IBCLCs are healthcare professionals who specialise in the clinical management of breastfeeding and often work in healthcare settings, such as hospitals.

CLCs are certified lactation consultants that have completed a 45-hour course in breastfeeding management and have passed an extensive final exam. Many people will obtain their CL certification as a stepping stone to becoming an IBCLC. CLCs are required to renew their certification every 3 years and often help with situations such as latch issues, offering support to nursing mothers, and supply issues. CLCs are often found working in hospitals, WIC clinics, parenting centers, or they sometimes provide their services via house calls or telephone support.

CLEs are certified lactation educators that have completed a 20-hour training program and must pass their final exam with a grade of 85% or better. CLEs educate families about breastfeeding, offer support to nursing mothers, but do not offer any medical advice. Any medical questions that the mother or family has should be referred to a healthcare professional.

CBCs are certified breastfeeding counsellors that have completed a mentored training program, completed required reading and exercises, complete a final open book exam, and provide a minimum of 30 hours of breastfeeding support.

This is just a sampling of some of the options one would have when choosing their certification in the breastfeeding field. Many certifications are similar, but may have a different acronym tied to them. There are options of being a PC, which is a Peer Counsellor, which you often find in settings such as WIC clinics and the education requirements can vary depending on the accrediting agency. There are LLLI Leaders (La Leche League International Leaders), which are individuals who have been accredited by La Leche League international to offer mother-to-mother support and advice.

I have been a certified breastfeeding counselor (CBC) through Childbirth International for two years and I have never made so much as a penny, depsite offering support, referrals, and recommendations to many women. I did not obtain my certification to make money (not that it wouldn’t be nice – who wouldn’t love to make money doing what they love?), but rather to be support to women on their breastfeeding journey, especially those women who may not have the support of a spouse or other family member.

In my time, I have been able to offer support to a single young mother whose family felt that her choice to breastfeed was “taboo” and that she should feed her baby the “normal way” – with a bottle, a married mother who had already nursed 3 children but was struggling with the nursing relationship with her fourth baby, a mother who feared that she may be experiencing supply issues and wanted to know who she could turn to for medical advice, just to name a few.

Becoming a breastfeeding helper may not be saving the world, but you may certainly save the nursing relationship of a mother and child, or at the very least you may make a huge impact in the lives of your clients. You may not get rich monetarily, but you will certainly feel rich in the blessings of being able to help others in such a magnificent way.

Did you have someone help you when you were learning to breastfeed? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


  • What a great thing to do – to help other mums. I’m all for doing what works best for mum & bub. With my 3 I’ve both breastfed & bottle. I don’t judge others. But having that support and encouragement from someone like this lady would make a huge difference to so many women.

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  • This is beautiful. I loved the help I received on hospital and called the breastfeeding hotline a few times and they were amazing!

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  • Thankyou for sharing your story. I am looking at becoming a CBE or CBC. I am passionate about breastfeeding but I am a firm believer women need to be educated about what breastfeeding entails. How to overcome the challenges etc.

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  • All these issues are encountered by midwives in a hospital setting every day. I have helped so many mums with breastfeeding when I was a practising midwife that I have lost count. You do not have to be a lactation consultant to help mums feed successfully. I could not feed my first bub and was totally puzzled and devastated. They found out the problem when I had bub no 2 . My milk did not come in till day 10 or 11 so I could have started from scratch when I got home from hospital with my first bub! There are so many reasons why milk supply does not come in in the usual 4 days after birth. Drugs given in labour and heavy blood loss to name a couple can slow the process down. MY 2ND, 3RD. AND 4TH BUBS WERE COMPED UNTIL MY MILK CAME IN! So much for nipple confusion! I will leave that discussion for another time. I breast fed my bubs for 12, 14 and 18 months . It got better each time.! lol!!!


    • The midwives that tried to help me were not particularly useful, however the hospital lactation consultant was amazing and very helpful. I guess for straight forward cases the midwife can help, but I had flat nipples and a baby that could not attach at all.

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  • Very interesting and useful article, thanks so much.

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  • I had difficulty breastfeeding and before I left the hospital we had to resort to bottle-fed formula. However, I think any breastfeeding helpers are a godsend to those who need them.

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  • A lot has changed since when my children were born, mums back then relied on the hospital nurses and once you were back home it was visits to the baby health clinic.
    Special help now a days with Lactation is wonderful.

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  • Luckily I didn’t need help and have been breastfeeding for many years. Sure good to get help when you need it !

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  • I did get help and it was good. Better to get help when needed and not struggle.

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  • I’m currently working my way towards being a Lactation Consultant in Melbourne. It certainly is a long process, but a very rewarding job to help mum’s acheive their goals of breastfeeding. All I have left to do is pass the exam and I will be fully certified. I can’t wait!

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  • I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t need help – but this article doesn’t seem to apply to Australia. I have never heard of any of these Lactation consultants here.

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  • What a amazing idea idea

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  • The wonderful counselors from the Australian Breastfeeding Association made a huge difference to me ability to breastfeed my two children – I had lots of different challenges with both of them!

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  • If i had known about this it may have changed my mind about turning to formula feeding.

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  • You have personal experience so you have hands on experience, not just training via courses unlike some who only know what they have been taught in lectures. If the truth be known you probably do a better job than some at the next level up do.

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