You know those letters after a doula's name that don't necessarily have to do with being a doula? Often those are credentials from different (but related) organizations and may indicate a specialty in a number of birthy areas: childbirth education, massage and bodywork, breastfeeding support, placenta encapsulation, nursing, etc.
There are many credentials that revolve around lactation, which can often be confusing when an already-exhausted family is searching for the right kind of support. Each of the below certifications qualifies one to offer a certain level of breastfeeding support, however, the IBCLC is the only credential that is qualified to provide clinical assessments and address the full scope of lactation challenges.
The following list lays out what each certification means, how one certifies, and the scope of practice associated with each.
IBCLC - International Board Certified Lactation Consultant - This is a clinical credential that requires 1000+ hours of required study, education and training culminating in a once per year international exam given by IBLCE. IBCLCs must recertify every 5 years, and every 10 must retake the exam. These clinicians work in hospitals, birth centers, out of their homes, and in private practices. They perform complete evaluations and assessments of both mother and infant and create individual plans of care, working hands on with all breastfeeding challenges as well as more complex health issues.
RLC - Registered Lactation Consultant - This credential is used in conjunction with IBCLC within the United States.
CLE - Certified Lactation Educator - CLEs have completed a 20-hour course on breastfeeding support and completed approximately 25 additional hours of out-of-class coursework which culminates in a certificate of completion from CAPPA. CLEs are trained to teach breastfeeding classes and answer basic breastfeeding questions, however, they must refer out to IBCLC for more complex cases and are not trained for hands on consults.
CLC - Certified Lactation Counselor - CLCs have completed a 45 hour course of education, culminating in a certificate of completion, sometimes after completing an end-of-course exam, from The Center for Breastfeeding. They are trained to counsel on normal breastfeeding situations and troubleshoot minor challenges, however, they must refer out to an IBCLC for more complex cases and are not trained for hands-on consults.
CLS - Certified Lactation Specialist - Similar to CLC, CLSs certify through Lactation Education Consultants by attending a 45-hour course and completing an end-of-course exam. They are trained to educate, support, and counsel mothers on normal breastfeeding situations, however, are not qualified to perform hands-on consults or administer clinical plans of care.
BEC - Breastfeeding Educator Certification - Those who hold a BEC have completed an intensive course of study with Birth Arts International. Prospective BECs complete a lengthy in-classroom or self-study course on the science of lactation, anatomy and physiology, pedagogy, sociology, medical terminology, and counseling. They must also complete 600 hours of supervised lactation support in varying clinical settings in their communities. The BEC certification is community-specific and qualifies students to teach, support, and educate the public on breastfeeding and related issues and policies.
BC - Breastfeeding Counselor - A relatively new organization, Breastfeeding USA certifies mothers to lead free, highly accessible support groups for breastfeeding mothers. They answer questions regarding normal breastfeeding situations, offer tips for troubleshooting challenges, and refer out to IBCLC support when indicated.
LLLL - La Leche League Leader - La Leche League International is the oldest breastfeeding support organization in the country, now offering support groups all over the world. LLL leaders receive a multitude of training in normal breastfeeding situations, offering tips for troubleshooting challenges, and know when to refer out to IBCLC support. Offers mom to mom support in a casual and accessible environment. Many IBCLCs started as LLL Leaders.
WIC Certified Breastfeeding Peer Counselor - WIC CBPCs are employed by state WIC offices and provide support to breastfeeding mothers who qualify for WIC at no additional cost. While the requirements vary state by state, WIC Peer Counselors are mothers who have breastfed themselves and have completed comprehensive study in breastfeeding management, counseling, cultural diversity, and education.