People

Breastfeeding Counselors

Breastfeeding Counselors are experienced breastfeeding mothers accredited following completion of a comprehensive breastfeeding education program. They provide information and support to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, in both one-on-one and group situations. Lactation experts with specialized resources are available to assist with unusual breastfeeding situations. The first Breastfeeding Counselors were accredited in May 2011; training of new Breastfeeding Counselors is now ongoing.

Read more about ways to get involved.

Read about becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor.

Find a Breastfeeding Counselor near you.

Becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor

1. Breastfeeding Counselors: Who they are and what they do.

Breastfeeding Counselors (BCs) are accredited representatives of Breastfeeding USA who participate in mission-related activities in their communities, online, and with the national organization. A mother who has breastfed her baby for at least one year and fulfills the other Personal Experience Requirements can become a BC by successfully completing the application and education program.

Breastfeeding Counselors understand the significant role that mother-to-mother support plays in women’s overall success and satisfaction with breastfeeding. Accordingly, their primary function is to offer evidence-based breastfeeding information and support to women through in-person meetings, by phone, or online as representatives of Breastfeeding USA. Other examples of mission-based services include providing administrative support to volunteers, participating in advocacy activities, and translating materials into other languages.

Breastfeeding Counselors are valued stakeholders in the organization with the rights and privileges of voting members. These include nominating and voting directly for board members, attendance at board meetings, and inclusion in the annual meeting where they may vote on issues that directly affect them. Breastfeeding USA provides liability insurance to cover BCs while they are pursuing the organization’s mission.

If you are interested in helping breastfeeding mothers in your community as a Breastfeeding USA Counselor, please read this entire page closely to learn more.

2. What to do before applying to become a Breastfeeding Counselor.

  1. Read the Personal Experience Requirements to ensure that you are eligible to become a BC. Also read these key organizational documents to learn about our goals, policies, and structure:
  2. If you are not yet a member, join Breastfeeding USA by purchasing a $25 regular membership. All BC applicants, BC candidates, and active BCs must be current members.
  3. Download the Application Form so you can prepare your answers offline; this will simplify the process of later submitting your application online. You do not send us the downloadable form; it is merely for your own use in completing the online application and as a personal record of your application.
  4. Arrange for at least two recommendations from people who know you well in person (not only online) and who are not related to you. The most useful recommendations will explain, in detail and with specific examples, how you reflect the Personal Experience Requirements, especially parts IV and V (experience with the biological norm for breastfeeding and effective/respectful communication). We are more interested in hearing from people who know you well as a mother and a friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc. than from those who know you primarily as a breastfeeding supporter.

    You are welcome to arrange for one or more supplemental recommendations from an online friend, a relative, a client, etc. if they can speak specifically to how you meet the Personal Experience Requirements or to your background in providing breastfeeding information and support.

    After you have permission from your recommenders to list them in your application, and when you are ready to submit your online application, send each of them the recommendation form, which includes directions for how to complete and submit the form. Your recommenders must email us their recommendations directly; we cannot accept them from you. We acknowledge each recommendation as it arrives, by replying to the recommender.

  5. Read the rest of the information on this page before submitting your application online.

3. From application to accreditation.

After you submit your application online, we will email you to acknowledge receipt of your application. Please reply to that message, and if it doesn't arrive within four days, contact us (select “Breastfeeding Counselor Applications” from the drop-down menu) to inquire.

Once we have at least two recommendations, a volunteer will contact you to schedule the required phone interview.

Following the phone interview, the Applications Review workgroup will decide whether to accept your application and, if accepted, whether to track you into the comprehensive course or the placement test (explained below).

If accepted, your next step will be to pay the $20 education fee; after that, you will be a Breastfeeding Counselor candidate. If both recommendations arrive promptly, the time from application to candidacy will likely be about four weeks.

Training tracks: Breastfeeding USA offers BC candidates two routes to accreditation. Both are designed to prepare candidates to deliver our mission of providing evidence-based breastfeeding information and support and promoting breastfeeding as the biological and cultural norm. Both are developed and taught by experienced Breastfeeding Counselors, many of whom are also IBCLCs.

The comprehensive course is for candidates who are new to breastfeeding counseling or whose score on the placement test (described below) does not qualify them for the accelerated program. The course is offered online; candidates mostly work at their own pace, but some activities require real-time voice communications. We expect the average time to complete the comprehensive course to be about six months.

The comprehensive course covers all areas of basic breastfeeding management, counseling skills, and an orientation to Breastfeeding USA. Candidates will communicate regularly with course teachers and other candidates, but they work at their own pace to make reasonable progress through the course. The textbook Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultant’s Guide (5th edition, ISBN 978-0763780524) by Lauwers and Swisher is required for this program.

BC candidates who are trained and experienced breastfeeding counselors may qualify to take the placement test, an online, open-book/internet, self-paced exam that includes multiple-choice questions and one essay question. It covers a wide variety of subject areas related to breastfeeding and human lactation, including basic breastfeeding management, anatomy and physiology of the breast, advocacy, and counseling skills. Those who pass the test are enrolled in the accelerated course, while those who do not may enroll in the comprehensive course.

The accelerated course is designed to refresh a candidate's counseling skills and includes an orientation to Breastfeeding USA. It involves completing an online counseling refresher module which includes online readings, videos, and activities. Candidates in this track join comprehensive course candidates for a small-group real-time counseling skills assignment. We expect the average time to complete the placement test and accelerated course to be about two months.

Candidates in either track who are not accredited within one year will need to renew the $20 education fee to remain active.

4. Additional info about becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor.

The cost of becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor:

  • Breastfeeding USA annual membership: $25
    • Required to submit an application, and must be renewed annually to remain a BC applicant, BC candidate, or active BC.
  • Education fee: $20
    • Due upon acceptance of your application; required to become a BC candidate and start training.
    • If your candidacy lasts more than a year, you must renew your education fee to remain a BC candidate.
    • The education fee may be waived in case of financial hardship; please inquire upon application.
  • Required textbook for comprehensive course: ~$75
    • Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition, by Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010. ISBN: 9780763780524.
    • A limited number of loaner copies is available to BC candidates; please inquire upon application. Borrowing a book requires a $75 security deposit, which is refunded when the book is returned in good condition.
    • There is no required textbook for candidates in the placement test/accelerated course track; Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers (by Nancy Mohrbacher; Hale Pub., 2010; ISBN: 9780984503902) is recommended.

We welcome donations to help us waive education fees and purchase loaner copies of the textbook. Please donate online or contact us for details.

If your goal is a career in lactation:
Breastfeeding USA accredits BCs to support the organization's mission; the credential is not designed to be used in professional lactation or other health care services. Accreditation as a Breastfeeding Counselor is for the purpose of volunteering for Breastfeeding USA and supporting its mission of providing evidence-based information and support in a mother-to-mother model.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) defines criteria it uses to recognize breastfeeding support counselor organizations. Breastfeeding USA meets that criteria. Therefore Breastfeeding Counselor volunteer hours, through in-person contact with mothers in group settings, or email and telephone counseling, are eligible contact hours for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam. We encourage BCs who are interested in a lactation career to document their hours spent helping mothers.

Requirements for remaining a BC once accredited:
Accredited BCs must:

  • Renew their Breastfeeding USA membership each year
  • Actively work for the mission of Breastfeeding USA
  • Stay in communication with the organization by joining required email discussion groups, reading posted messages regularly, and reliably responding to all communications from the organization
  • Report their BC activities online each month
  • Complete minimal continuing education within three years after accreditation

5. Submitting your application.

After you have read all the preceding information about becoming a BC, prepared your answers offline, and arranged for at least two recommendations to be sent to us:

  • Log in to your Breastfeeding USA account
  • Navigate to Becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor
  • On the right of this page, click on “To Apply Submit your Breastfeeding Counselor application”
  • Follow the instructions to submit your application

Please be advised that you cannot save a partially-completed application online and return to it later, and once you submit your application, you cannot view it or make changes online.

After you submit your application online, we will email you to acknowledge receipt of your application. Please reply to that message, and if it doesn't arrive within four days, contact us (select “Breastfeeding Counselor Applications” from the drop-down menu) to inquire.

Questions?

Please contact us (select “Breastfeeding Counselor Applications” from the drop-down menu) with your questions and comments. Thank you for taking the time to read this information and learn more about becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor.

Board of Directors

President

Patty Jacobs
Alameda, California

Patty is the past Project and Event Coordinator for an independent business association, where her responsibilities included marketing, bookkeeping, membership, website maintenance, events, and publicity. Patty was a breastfeeding counselor, accredited by La Leche League International, for 22 years, helping mothers in her community and holding administrative positions in volunteer accreditation, Leader support and events. Patty was the contributing editor of mother’s stories for New Beginnings Magazine for five years. She is a former member of the board of directors of La Leche League of Northern California and Hawaii. Patty is pursuing continuing education in nonprofit organizations and received a certificate in Non-Profit Management from California State University, East Bay. She has held the position of Treasurer in Breastfeeding USA and is active on the Social Networking, Education, Website, Publication, and Finance Committees. Patty and her husband John have been married for 35 years, and they have two grown daughters who were both breastfed. Her board term is through 2014.

Treasurer

Carol Delaney
South Windsor, Connecticut

Carol is a founding Breastfeeding Counselor of the Central Connecticut Chapter which opened in January, 2012. The Chapter is currently staffed by four Breastfeeding Counselors. A devoted advocate and educator, Carol has continually led breastfeeding support and information meetings for 27 years, including 25 years as an accredited La Leche League (LLL) Leader. As Coordinator of Leader Accreditation at LLL, Carol served two 5 year terms (10 years apart) on the LLL of Connecticut Board of Directors and 23 years in the Leader Accreditation Department working at local, regional, and national levels. Her essay, "Lactation Obfuscation," was published in the 1999 book, I Killed June Cleaver. She and her husband, Peter, have been married for 35 years. Among their five adult children they have one grandson, a regular guest at Carol’s Central Connecticut Chapter meetings. Carol joined the Breastfeeding USA Board of Directors in September 2012. Her term continues through 2015.

Director

Genevieve Colvin, IBCLC
California

Genevieve is an expert on Breasfeeding legislation in California and advocate on the national level. She is an IBCLC and has provided mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding mothers since 2007. 

Genevieve has served as a Director for two non-profit organizations and has extensive organizational experience. She was an associate music supervisor for more than 20 major motion pictures, overseeing multi-million dollar budgets with extensive contract negations with high profile celebrities. Currently she serves as the legislative policy advocate for BreastfeedLA (Breastfeeding coalition of Los Angeles) and has been working on several large public health grants to help with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

 

Director

Sharon Knorr, BSMT (ASCP), IBCLC
Loveland, Colorado

Sharon grew up in the Buffalo area and received a BS in Medical Technology from SUNY Buffalo. After graduation, she moved to Hawaii, then to Illinois, and finally settled in central New York. In 1987, Sharon became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and was a founding member of the Rochester Regional Breastfeeding Network, where she has served on the Board of Directors and as President. As a lactation consultant, she taught breastfeeding classes and worked on the post-partum floor of a Rochester hospital. She is also a private practice lactation consultant. In addition to her professional lactation career, Sharon spent many years as a volunteer supporting breastfeeding in both counseling and administrative roles. She is an experienced speaker and writer. Sharon served on the steering committee for the formation of the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA). She is presently employed as the chemistry section chief for a local hospital laboratory. She is married and her two grown children live out of state.

Director

Carol Kelley
Taylors, South Carolina

Carol majored in anthropology, with a minor in history, at the University of Georgia. She also studied biology at Furman University, including research on perinatal transmission of HIV. Carol’s five girls were all breastfed, establishing the basis for more than 27 years of volunteer work counseling breastfeeding mothers and facilitating peer-to-peer support as a La Leche League Leader. From 1996 to 1998, Carol served on the board of directors of ProJustice Carolina (a local social justice organization), as co-chair of the education committee. There she helped write the organization's bylaws. She also served as secretary on the board of the local ACLU chapter. Carol’s eldest three daughters are now married, and she recently became a grandmother. Carol is active on the Breastfeeding USA Education Committee.

Director

Ali Kulenkamp
Indianpolis, Indiana

Ali is a Breastfeeding USA Counselor, and lives in Indianapolis. She is a former educator (middle school English!) She's the mom of two- Eli is 4.5, and Fiona is 2.5 (not yet weaned.)

Ali is the Social Media Manager for Breastfeeding USA and along with the other team members is responsible for the growth and development of Facebook and Twitter. She helps manage a 1500+ mother sized local Facebook group as well.

Ali writes, "As a child, my mother was a very active La Leche League Leader. I heard her answering 2 am phone calls, knew she visited countless moms, and heard her speaking gently and in a reassuring tone giving the support new mothers needed (even if it was time for dinner, or time to leave for an appointment.) She made time for the moms who needed her. I think that hearing her, almost all of my life (you would be surprised how many support groups I’ve attended...) helped me understand that moms need each other. After my first child was born, I became a La Leche League Leader, but when I learned about Breastfeeding USA, I knew the mission was a good fit for me."

Currently, Ali is on the planning and organizing committee for Team We’ve Got Your Back, Babe! which is the collaborative effort with the Best for Babes Foundation, putting her organizational and people skills to the test.

Director

Jennifer Olynyk, DC
Tolland, Connecticut

Jennifer grew up in Southwest Ontario, where her extended family still resides, obtained her BSC from University of Waterloo in Biochemisty and moved to Connecticut where she earned her Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine degree from University of Bridgeport. She is the mother of two very active boys and practices part time, focusing on whole family care starting from birth onward. She is a founding member of the Central Connecticut Chapter of Breastfeeding USA and prior to that was on the Board of Directors for La Leche League of Connecticut and volunteered providing information for healthcare providers and other professionals about breastfeeding. Her passions include supporting new mothers, her children, her dogs and outdoor time. Jennifer is currently active in Education, Course Writing and Applications Committees.

Director

Lisa Wilkins, M.Ed., IBCLC, RLC
Fairview Park, Ohio

Lisa is a mother of three young children, ages two, five, and seven. She and her husband both work from home and homeschool their children together. Prior to the birth of their first child, Lisa was a teacher and personal care attendant to children and young adults with severe physical and sensory disabilities for over ten years. With BS and Master of Education degrees from The Ohio State University, she worked in two large urban school districts as well as with Medicaid clients and their families, focusing in the areas of adaptive/assistive technology and daily living skills. Her experience with motor and sensory disabilities has been instrumental in her ability to assist mothers of infants with similar difficulties. She became an IBCLC in 2011 and owns a small lactation practice and natural family living company. Lisa has six years of volunteer experience helping mothers via La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA, as well as several years service with local breastfeeding coalitions and advocacy groups. She also volunteers with other mother to mother support groups related to natural living, childbirth, and parenting.

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