The Three Pillars Supporting Our Profession

We here at ILCA® regularly answer questions about whose role it is to provide support for our profession of lactation consulting, for our credential known as the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®, and for the education that gives us what we need to provide evidence-based care.

Like many professions, lactation consultants are supported by three “pillars,” each with its own dedicated organization providing services and benefits to practitioners.

Generally speaking, the three pillars are support for the profession, development of the certification examination and oversight of the certification program , and standards for education. We hope this post clarifies the three pillars and the three independent organizations that support each pillar.


Pillar of support for the IBCLC credential: International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)

Answers questions like “How do I become an IBCLC?” and “How do I maintain my certification?”

Established in 1985, IBLCE “establishes the highest standards in lactation and breastfeeding care worldwide and certifies individuals who meet these standards.” The organization is responsible for developing, administering, and maintaining the IBCLC certification program. This means that IBLCE defines eligibility and recertification requirements develops  a psychometrically sound professional examination, and maintains an ethics & disciplinary process for stakeholders, including the public. As the certification board, IBLCE confers the IBCLC credential.

Practically speaking, IBLCE is the standards keeper for the IBCLC. It determines what makes someone an IBCLC. IBCLE decides what is essential knowledge and then they test candidates to see if they know it.

Learn more about IBLCE’s work here.


Pillar of support for standards in education: Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC):

Answers questions like “Is this coursework for becoming an IBCLC meeting my needs?”

LEAARC “establishes standards and recognizes quality in lactation education worldwide.” The organization is responsible for reviewing and recognizing didactic (instructional) and clinical courses as well as recommending to the Commission on Accreditation of
Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) the accreditation of lactation programs in postsecondary institutions.
This means that they make sure the programs and courses to guide candidates into the profession meet LEAARC and CAAHEP standards and that graduates are able to provide a similar level of care to families.

Practically speaking, LEAARC makes sure you are getting what you need from lactation courses and programs. When someone decides to pursue becoming an IBCLC and enrolls in course work, if the course they have chosen is recognized by LEAARC, they can be assured that they will receive an education designed to comprehensively meet their educational needs.

Learn more about LEAARC’s work here.


Pillar of support for the profession: International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA):

Answers questions like: “How can I get the knowledge and tools I need to do my job better?” and “How can I increase my involvement in supporting breastfeeding families around the world?”

ILCA seeks “to advance the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant profession worldwide through leadership, advocacy, professional development, and research.” The organization is responsible for making sure that, when breastfeeding is being discussed around the world, IBCLCs are at the table. This means that we are working hard to make sure IBCLCs have the tools and community they need to support families.

Practically speaking, ILCA is a member organization that provides education, tools, and a premier lactation journal to its members, helping them to keep up-to-date with the latest information they need. ILCA also champions the IBCLC and lactation professionals at important conversations around the world, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), UNICEF, World Health Organization, and the Global Breastfeeding Collective, a partnership of more than 20 prominent international agencies calling on donors, policy makers, and civil society to increase investment in breastfeeding worldwide.

Learn more about our work at ILCA here.

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