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Breastfeeding Counselor Training and Certification

About Breastfeeding Counselor Training

Many parents experience breastfeeding problems in the early days after having a baby. Breastfeeding (Lactation) Counselors have the opportunity to make a real difference to the families they work with. Breastfeeding counselor training will enable you to assist clients to overcome breastfeeding difficulties, building a close relationship with those you are working with, and knowing that with your support, you can help a parent and baby gain the benefits of breastfeeding. Whether you want to become a Breastfeeding Counselor on its own or take your first step towards the IBCLC certification, this ANCC accredited course will provide you with the knowledge, tools, and skills to achieve your goals!

Being a Breastfeeding Counselor brings you into a family at a time when they may be struggling. Whether you’re helping a new parent learn how to latch her baby on, or working intensively someone who’s trying to overcome mastitis, your role will be a crucial one. At CBI we make sure you have a thorough grounding in all these areas and more. You’ll also have support and guidance from your trainer, and from our network of breastfeeding counselors around the world.

Much of your work as a Breastfeeding Counselor will be listening to the clients you work with and truly supporting them. As a student you’ll develop strong communication skills, learning the important skills of reflective practice and effective and active listening. During this online training program, you will develop strong skills in using the counseling process to help clients feel supported and heard. You’ll also cover all the business aspects – how to build your client base, paperwork, forms and legal issues, advertising and promoting your business.

Join our Facebook group to learn more about options for Breastfeeding Counselor training and certification: Becoming a Lactation Consultant 

Certification: Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC)

Duration: 10-15 months

Time Limit: None

Delivery: Online

Cost: From $905 or 5 payments of $191

Refunds: Full refund within 2 days, less administration fee ($50)

Prerequisites: None

IBCLC: Provides the 90 hours required for IBCLC

One Payment: US$945 (printed manuals + online access)

Green Option: US$905 (online only – no shipping)

Five Installments: US$199 per month (printed manuals + online access) or US$191 per month (online only)

Payment plans (5 installments) include an administration fee of $10 per month.

If you choose the payment plan and the printed manual option, you will have immediate access to the course manuals on the student website and your paper manuals will be sent to you when the final payment is made.

  • Reflective Practice Assignment
  • Physiology exams (online, open book)
  • 30 hours of breastfeeding support
  • Case studies
  • Breastfeeding Support Services Survey
  • Book reviews for 3 books
  • Module evaluations

BFC, IBCLC, LC, CBC, CLC… Confused about the differences?

One of the most common questions we are asked about CBI’s Breastfeeding Counselor course is the difference between a Breastfeeding Counselor and a Lactation Consultant. First a bit of an explanation on the different acronyms.

CBC=Certified Breastfeeding Counselor
BFC=Breastfeeding Counselor
CLC=Certified Lactation Counselor (or consultant depending on the organization)
LC=Lactation Counselor (or consultant)
CLE=Certified Lactation Educator
IBCLC=International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Other breastfeeding specialists may be called a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter or a Lactation Specialist.

Part of the confusion comes from the differences between training and certification.

Training is the learning that you do in a course. The organization offering the training decides on the length of the course and the topics to be covered. Because there is no recognized standard for lactation specialist training, each course is very different. Training may also be “on the job” training like an apprenticeship.

Certification is a set of requirements used to determine when an individual has achieved a certain level of knowledge and skills. CBI offers both education in the knowledge and skills we believe are important in the role of a Breastfeeding Counselor and certification once all the requirements have been met.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a recognition of education and experience. The IBCLC designation is awarded by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). The IBLCE does not provide training of any kind. They review the experience and education of an individual to determine whether it meets their standards and run an exam to assess knowledge. The education or training taken must be through another organization, be specific to lactation, and at least 90 hours in length. Childbirth International’s Breastfeeding Certification program meets these requirements and can be used for the lactation education component determined by the IBLCE (in Pathway 1 and Pathway 3). The IBLCE does not recommend or review training programs.

A breastfeeding counselor is an individual who has taken a training program specializing in supporting breastfeeding parents. The course length varies from one program to the next. The CBI Breastfeeding Counselor course provides 130 hours of education and this can be used for the education requirement for IBCLC. Basically, a CBI breastfeeding counselor has the same number of hours of lactation specific education as an IBCLC. The education covers communication skills, counseling skills and knowledge of physiology in relation to lactation. In order to certify with CBI, you will:

  • Support breastfeeding clients for a total of 30 hours
  • Carry out a survey of local lactation services
  • Complete a reflective assignment
  • Respond to breastfeeding case studies
  • Read three books
  • Successfully complete an open book exam (119 multiple choice questions)

The content of a breastfeeding course differs from one training organization to the next. Some courses will provide 90 hours or more, while others will provide 45 hours or less.

Generally, the fundamental differences between a breastfeeding counselor and a lactation consultant relate to their experience and the amount of health science education they have completed. In order to apply to become an IBCLC, an individual must have:

  • 90 hours of lactation specific education (e.g., CBI’s Breastfeeding Counselor course if doing pathway 1 or pathway 3) within the five years prior to completing the exam
  • 300-1000 hours clinical hours supporting lactation (hours differ depending on the pathway chosen)
  • Completion of one academic semester in eight health science courses at an accredited higher education institution (unless a nurse, midwife, doctor etc.)
  • Completion of six continuing education health science courses (medical terminology, basic life support, medical documentation, occupational safety, professional ethics, infection control)
  • Successful completion of the exam (closed book) with 175 multiple choice questions
Scope of Practice

Both a CBI Certified Breastfeeding Counselor and an IBCLC can:

  • support a breastfeeding parent
  • run breastfeeding classes and support groups
  • provide education on lactation
  • work in hospitals, clinics or private practice
  • evaluate the breastfeeding dyad to help a client understand whether the baby is effectively transferring milk from the breast
  • explore the options available to a client if they are experiencing breastfeeding problems
  • explain the symptoms for a range of breastfeeding problems (because of the more extensive experience an IBCLC may have, they may be able to understand and explain a wider range of problems than a CBC)
  • together with the client, develop a feeding plan
  • provide a client with referrals for medical diagnosis or treatment

Neither a Breastfeeding Counselor or a Lactation Consultant can:

  • give medical advice
  • give a medical diagnosis
  • prescribe medication
  • carry out treatment

The fundamental differences between the two roles are the completion of health science courses and the number of hours that each have supported breastfeeding clients for.

Other lactation specialists may be educated in supporting uncomplicated breastfeeding relationships, such as offering education on healthy practices that support breastfeeding.

Can I prepare treatment or care plans if I am a CBI Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC?

Preparing a treatment or care plan is a nursing task. If you have a separate qualification as a nurse, midwife or doctor, preparation of a treatment plan would fall under that scope of practice. You can work with a client to explore their options and support the client in making choices or developing a feeding plan. This is not the same as a treatment or care plan where an individual is providing or recommending treatment. This can be confusing. It is really about what information you are providing, and how you are providing it. For example, it would be within the scope of both a Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC, to say:

You mentioned that you have some nipple pain. I noticed that the baby has some white patches in its mouth and a little diaper rash. In some cases, these can be symptoms of thrush. You could go and see the doctor and ask them to take a look. If they diagnose thrush, they can explain the treatment options. You might want to ask them about medication for thrush, and also dietary changes that can be helpful in eliminating thrush. I can give you a list of doctors that are supportive and knowledgeable about breastfeeding if you like?

It would be inappropriate for either a Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC to say:

The nipple pain and white patches in your baby’s mouth seem to be thrush. This could be treated with gentian violet and dietary changes where you eliminate sugar from your diet for a while.

Is a Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC part of the medical team in a hospital?

That would depend on the requirements stipulated by the hospital themselves. There is no legal reason why a hospital might not employ a Breastfeeding Counselor who has not completed the IBCLC requirements. Both a Breastfeeding Counselor and an IBCLC could be part of the team within the hospital supporting breastfeeding parents. But neither of them would be medical professionals (unless they are medically trained in another role such as a nurse).

Does a Breastfeeding Counselor or an IBCLC have to follow ethics standards?

That depends on the organization they trained or are accredited by. CBI has its own standards that require a Breastfeeding Counselor trained with us to behave ethically. The IBLCE has a code of ethics they require all IBCLC’s to adhere to. Breastfeeding Counselors and IBCLCs do not have to adhere to medical ethics boards since they are not medical professionals. If they were employed by a hospital they may have ethical standards required of them by their employer.

IBCLC pathways – compare the pathways (PDF)

Five Payments

US$ 199

per month for 5 monthsPay over five easy monthly installments with online access immediately and your paper manuals will be sent to you when the final payment is made. Monthly payments include an admin fee of $10.

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One PaymentMost Popular

US$ 945

Single PaymentPay one single payment and receive your paper manuals as well as online access through the student website.

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Green Option

US$ 905

one paymentBe gentle on the environment! Complete your course online and save money and trees! The Green Option is also available in monthly installments for $191 per month for 5 months.

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Course Syllabus

No other breastfeeding counselor course makes it as easy to complete your certification, while covering such a depth of topics. In addition to the counseling skills required as a Breastfeeding Counselor , we also focus on strengthening your knowledge base of the physiology of lactation, developing communication skills, and provide a strong foundation in preparation for the IBCLC exam.

During your training you’ll cover four main topic areas:

  • Communication Skills
  • Physiology of Lactation
  • Being a Breastfeeding Counselor
  • Building Your Business

Take a look at the topics below that are covered in your Breastfeeding Counselor training. If you prefer to read it later, you can download the syllabus.

Communication Skills

Enhancing your communication skills enables you to build strong relationships with clients and caregivers alike. Many of you will work in challenging environments. During the course, you’ll explore these challenges and develop skills in building relationships with caregivers, without compromising your professionalism or your client’s wishes.

At the heart of every CBI training and certification program is reflective practice. But what exactly is “reflective practice”?

At its simplest, reflective practice is looking at what you’ve done, or didn’t do, and reflecting on it. In relation to CBI training, though, it’s so much more. Reflective practice is about examining choices and decisions, considering them from different perspectives, thinking about alternatives, learning from them, and then applying that learning to your work. It demonstrates best practice in continuing education, increases confidence and professionalism. It’s an incredibly valuable skill that you can pass on to your clients and help them to assimilate their experiences.

All CBI training programs have an ongoing reflective practice focus. In every assignment you submit, this will be evaluated by your trainer, providing you with feedback on this aspect and help you to see your own growth in this area. You’ll be encouraged to reflect on the language you use, your participation in discussions and how you approach every aspect of your work.

At the end of this module, you’ll write a reflective essay that will be reviewed by your trainer who’ll provide feedback and assessment.

Topics in this module

  • effective communication
  • language and communication
  • active listening skills
  • reflective practice and debriefing
  • diversity & cultural humility
  • evidence-based care and informed choice
  • grief and loss
  • professional practice
  • perspective and recognition

Being a Breastfeeding Counselor

Develop your hands-on skills as a Breastfeeding Counselor, enabling you to provide the best care possible. You’ll learn how to use the counseling process to really hear clients and guide them through finding solutions to their breastfeeding problems. You’ll examine the social and cultural influences on breastfeeding, and explore the formula industry and its impact on breastfeeding rates across the world. During this module, you’ll provide reviews on three books, a survey, evaluations of the support hours you’ve provided, and answer a series of case study questions. These will all be reviewed and assessed by your trainer. This module has been mapped to the IBCLC Exam Blueprint.

Topics in this module

  • recognizing perspectives on birth and parenting
  • the role of a breastfeeding counselor
  • using the counseling process
  • counseling tools
  • teaching breastfeeding classes
  • the social and cultural context of breastfeeding
  • the formula industry and the WHO code
  • parenting and breastfeeding
  • working towards IBCLC certification
  • working as a breastfeeding counselor

Physiology of Lactation

Gain a thorough understanding of the anatomy and physiology of lactation. All student materials are focused on evidence-based care. Evidence-based means medical care that is based on sound research. The opinions and thoughts of experts on breastfeeding are referred to throughout your student manuals – it’s important to hear the views of others in the field to build your own knowledge base. At the end of this module, you’ll complete the online, open-book tests to assess your learning. You’ll also submit a reflective evaluation of this module which will be reviewed and assessed by your trainer. This module has been mapped to the IBCLC Exam Blueprint.

Topics in this module

  • physiology of lactation
  • breast and infant anatomy
  • infant growth and development
  • positioning and latching
  • early weeks of breastfeeding
  • breastfeeding problems
  • health problems in the baby
  • illness in the mother
  • breastfeeding a premature baby
  • breastfeeding in special circumstances
  • medications and toxins
  • moving beyond breastfeeding
  • equipment and supplies

Building Your Business

The Building Your Business module provides you with everything you need to know about starting up, or growing, your business. We take away the daunting aspects of running a business and help you to find strategies to get started. With this in mind, our easy step-by-step process will soon have you on track with a business plan (that you understand!) and all the documentation you need for success.

This is an optional module and does not include any assignments. However, some students prefer to have more guidance. For this reason, we offer three different mentorship options that you can choose from.

Topics in this module

  • becoming a birth and parenting professional
  • determine your personal and business goals
  • learn marketing strategies such as segmentation, targeting, and positioning
  • develop a customer profile
  • analyze your competitors
  • determine your unique selling point
  • identify ways to broaden your products and services
  • develop your brand
  • learn the basics of website design
  • develop a social media strategy
  • determine your advertising approach
  • learn how to carry out financial analysis and avoid debt
  • understand the different options for a legal business structure
  • time management and ways to deal with work stresses

I enjoyed that I could work at my own pace and go back to recover information as needed. I enjoyed the challenge of this course. There is so much to know about breastfeeding and I really appreciate that the manual covered so much information.
I really enjoyed the hands on of helping other women learn and also enjoyed learning from them. The thanks from a mother who has finally gotten her baby to latch on and nurse is incredibly gratifying.
I feel like at the end of this course, particularly after working on the case studies, I understand so much more that the word 'counselor' in the title of breastfeeding counselor is incredibly important. We are not there only to educate mothers about the technical elements of breastfeeding (although that is part of what we do). We are there also to listen and help mothers to find their own breastfeeding path. This is so much more than a physical act; breastfeeding is emotional, and it’s important to support and validate those emotions.

Stefanie, WA, USA

All the trainers I had contact with, and especially my own trainer, spoke with such kindness and genuine caring towards the progress and growth of my course. I've studied at my own pace in the past with different colleges, but with Childbirth International trainers never did I once feel unsupported or ignored.

Carla, WA, Australia

I loved getting a new view on breastfeeding. As a medical doctor, unfortunately the teaching about breastfeeding is very sparse and students are not taught to teach breastfeeding to patients. This often leads to a vicious cycle of the doctor prescribing antibiotics for mastitis without taking care of the underlying issue. I feel having completed this course will hopefully give me a niche market of clients that want the medical view as well as the breastfeeding counselling. I am so happy I have broadened my horizon with this course and deepended my knowledge about breastfeeding in general. During training I have already managed to make a difference to some women and their babies and it was very rewarding. It feels very good to have an impact on the start a mother and baby get to their breastfeeding experience, since the first few weeks are most crucial. This training will give my career the turn I was hoping for and let me work closely with mothers and babies.

Sharon, London, UK (Doctor)

I enjoyed how much it pushed me. Learning about breastfeeding is absolutely amazing. I'm not sure I will ever be satiated with what I currently know, but always be seeking to gain more insight. The case studies really pushed me, from having a book knowledge, to applying it to real life situations. They were hard, but so helpful in understanding how to dialogue with women in various breastfeeding situations.

Amy, Singapore

Throughout my training, I have learned how to listen better, be more compassionate, and follow a mom's cues in supporting her and how she wants to feed her baby. As important as the informational part of this course is, the communications portion has been VITAL. That goes for all of my courses! But especially in breastfeeding, as it can be such a sensitive area, I learned that my approach really sets the tone in how a mom feels about breastfeeding. And how she feels about it truly is a determining factor in whether or not she decides to continue on or seek alternative feeding methods.

Emilie, Kansas, USA

© Lorado / iStockphoto

Questions About Breastfeeding Counselor Training

Is this course accredited or recognized?

Yes!! Childbirth International Training is accredited with distinction as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. We are the only doula training organization to have been accredited with distinction by the ANCC. Your final certificate will show the continuing education hours and can be used for any organization that recognizes ANCC continuing nurse education hours. Read more about our accreditation.

Do you have discounts or scholarships available??

We do not offer scholarships at this point in time. We do, however, have a number of discounts. Existing students and graduates receive a 15% discount on all subsequent courses that they purchase. If you purchase more than one course together, a discount of 15-25% is available. We offer group discounts for friends or work colleagues who register for the same course together. Our Green option allows you to reduce the cost of training by working online. In addition, we have payment plans available to enable you to pay for your course over five months.

Do I have to have breastfed to be a Breastfeeding Counselor?

Not at all! Your training will provide you with the knowledge you need to support breastfeeding parents. We have students who have never given birth, or who chose not, or were unable to, breastfeed.

After I have finished the course, can I become an IBCLC?

You can use CBI’s Breastfeeding Counselor course for the 90 hours of lactation specific education required for IBCLC certification – many of our students have done just that! You will still need to meet the other requirements as stipulated by the IBLCE. You can read more about IBCLC requirements on the IBLCE website.

Will I be able to find a job working in a hospital or clinic?

That will depend on the requirements that the hospital or clinic determine. Many of our graduates have gone on to work in healthcare settings. Sometimes an organization will require the IBCLC designation, while others will be looking for an individual who has completed a set amount of lactation specific education.

How much can I earn as a Breastfeeding Counselor?

That will depend on how you decide to establish your business and the clients that you work with. Generally, a Breastfeeding Counselor charges by the hour and may charge anything from $25-$100 per hour. Sometimes they might offer packages of a fixed number of visits.

Can I provide documentation of clients I supported before I started the course?

The client support that you provide (30 hours in total) must have taken place after you started your training with CBI. You can use hours on telephone and email support (up to four hours), as well as facilitating breastfeeding support groups or running childbirth classes (up to six hours).

Do I have to recertify or pay membership fees?

We don’t require you to pay membership and recertification fees in order to stay certified. We provide training – and we’re really good at it! Similar to a university program, you deserve to have your hard work acknowledged for life! We’re not going to charge you every three years to prove that you still have the knowledge and skills that you built. We also will not charge you to continue to belong to CBI – your membership is lifelong.

If you need to show recertification in order to belong to a local organization you can do so – you just submit the required documents for proof, we will review them and reissue your certification – showing it is a recertification. And we’ll do this for a minimum fee that just covers our costs.