What Does a Lactation Educator Do?

A lactation educator or lactation counselor works with mothers to teach them about the best ways to breastfeed their babies. It is not necessary to be a medical professional to work as a lactation educator. Instead, they may come from any background but are passionate about assisting women who want to breastfeed their children. Because this is an entry-level position, practitioners almost always work in situations where medical assistance is not required during breastfeeding. Lactation educators may work with pregnant and lactating women in a classroom setting, in a commercial setting, or through a women’s and children’s agency or medical facility.

Lactation educators are frequently employed the federally funded program Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in the United States. Their job is to educate and support women who are participating in the program in order to promote breastfeeding. They might hold group breastfeeding classes for women before and after they give birth. WIC and their lactation educators promote breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life as part of their nutritional program. Another duty of a lactation educator is to support women encouraging them to discuss their desire to breastfeed with their doctor.

Lactation educators are employed many companies that sell breast pumps and clothing for nursing mothers. Some lactation educators also run their own businesses, selling or renting breast pumps and educating working mothers who want to continue nursing their babies after they return to work. Lactation educators are mostly employed part-time, whether through an agency, a private practice, or a medical center. As a result, they are usually paid the hour rather than the salary.

Different levels of lactation education providers use different terminology. The least amount of coursework is required to become a lactation specialist. Those already working in the health-care field who work with women and newborns frequently take this course to expand their knowledge base. Lactation educator, lactation educator counselor, and lactation counselor all refer to the same level of education, with terminology varying depending on the university or program that offers the coursework. Lactation counselors are lactation specialists with the highest level of education and clinical experience.

The requirements for becoming a lactation educator differ depending on the student’s educational background and the program in question. Most lactation educators complete the basic lactation education coursework and then go on to pursue certification as a lactation consultant. Consultants are typically required to take college courses in human anatomy and physiology, child development, and other areas in addition to lactation education coursework. Lactation consultants and educators must also complete clinical hours under the supervision of a health care professional.