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. If accepted, you will pay the $50 education fee to become a Breastfeeding Counselor candidate. If both recommendations arrive promptly, the time from application to candidacy will likely be four to six weeks.

Breastfeeding Counselor candidates complete a comprehensive education course 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. The course was developed and is taught by experienced Breastfeeding Counselors, many of whom are also IBCLCs.

The course is offered online, using a Moodle teaching platform. It covers all areas of basic breastfeeding management, counseling skills, and an orientation to Breastfeeding USA. Candidates communicate regularly with course teachers and other candidates, but they work at their own pace. One activity —a counseling skills role-play—requires real-time voice communications.

Active candidates are expected to complete at least one lesson (typically one textbook chapter plus some brief online activities) per month. Candidates have the option to go on hold if they cannot make minimum progress; while on hold they must keep their membership and education fees current.

The average time to complete the comprehensive course is about 9 months, but motivated candidates who can devote regular time to study often complete it in 4 months or less. Candidates who are not accredited within one year will be required to renew the $50 education fee to remain active.

The course uses the standard lactation textbook, Counseling the Nursing Mother: A Lactation Consultant’s Guide by Lauwers and Swisher. Candidates have access to a full-text online version of this textbook at no extra cost. Candidates may purchase their own hard copy of the textbook (5th edition, ISBN 978-0763780524) if they desire. A limited number of loaner copies is available from Breastfeeding USA with payment of a $75 security deposit.

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
      • Must be renewed annually to remain a BC applicant, BC candidate, or active BC.
    • Education fee: $50
      • Due upon acceptance of your application; required to become a BC candidate and start training.
      • Must be renewed annually if your candidacy lasts more than a year.
      • Financial assistance is available in cases of financial hardship.
    • Required textbook: access to online version included in education fee.
      • Counseling the Nursing Mother, 5th edition, by Judith Lauwers and Anna Swisher. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2010. ISBN: 9780763780524.
      • Candidates may purchase a hard copy if they prefer that format; the book is widely available through online booksellers for ~$80 new.
      • 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.

      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) recognizes Breastfeeding USA as a mother support counselor organization. Breastfeeding USA Counselors can obtain the lactation care experience required to be eligible for the IBCLC exam through Pathway 1 by volunteering in support of our mission.

      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
      • Use Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers (by Nancy Mohrbacher; Hale Pub., 2010; ISBN: 9780984503902) as a primary helping resource. Breastfeeding USA provides all active BCs full-text online access to Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple (BAMS) at no additional cost to the BC.

      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.


      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


Genevieve Colvin, IBCLC

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.  She also served for 5 years as the legislative policy advocate for BreastfeedLA and has has worked on several large public health grants implementing the Affordable Care Act.

Her Board term is (2013-2016).


Carol Delaney
South Windsor, Connecticut

Carol is serving her second term on the Board and has been Breastfeeding USA's Treasurer since October 2012.

She is a founding Breastfeeding Counselor of the Connecticut Chapter which opened in January 2012. The Chapter is currently staffed by fifteen Breastfeeding Counselors providing monthly meetings in 6 locations around the state. She has been a volunteer helping mothers breastfeed for 29 years. Carol and her husband, Peter, have been married for 38 years. In addition to five adult children, they have one grandson whose mother is also a CT Chapter Breastfeeding Counselor.

Her Board terms are (2012-2015) and (2015-2018).


Ali Kulenkamp
Indianpolis, Indiana

Alison became a Breastfeeding USA Counselor in February 2012 and has been volunteering her time in mother-to-mother support for over five years. Volunteering with breastfeeding families comes naturally to Ali—growing up, she heard her mother giving support to moms in need, and learned from a young age that a 2 A.M. phone call meant that someone needed urgent support!

In addition to fulfilling her duties on the Board of Directors, Ali has been responsible for the Breastfeeding USA Social Media accounts since 2012. Along with her team of devoted volunteers, she is responsible for the growth and development of Facebook and Twitter. She helps manage a 2000+ mother sized local Facebook group as well.

Ali received her B.S. from Indiana University-Bloomington and has a degree in English and Secondary Education. Alison currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband and two children, Eli and Fiona. She enjoys reading young-adult fiction and singing.

Her Board term is (2013-2016).


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 with two grown children.

Her Board terms are (2010-2013) and (2013-2016).


Rachelle Lesteshen
Columbus, OH

Rachelle is a Breastfeeding USA Counselor and a mom of two girls. She is the Chapter leader for the Clintonville Breastfeeding Support Group in Columbus, Ohio and also runs the Facebook page and blog, Unlatched. Rachelle is passionate about breastfeeding advocacy and the World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. In her “spare” time, she is working toward becoming an IBCLC. Her other passions include cars, music, and science.

Her Board term is (2014-2017).


Rebecca N. Ruhlen, PhD, IBCLC
Davidson, NC

Rebecca is a sociocultural anthropologist (PhD 2007, U Washington) with research and teaching specialties in East Asia, social movements, gender, motherhood, and breastfeeding. She has done volunteer mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and advocacy since 2006, earned the IBCLC credential in 2010, and became a Breastfeeding USA Counselor in 2011. Rebecca helped develop our Breastfeeding Counselor application and training systems and is a course tutor in the comprehensive education course. She now chairs our education committee.

Rebecca is a visiting assistant professor at Davidson College. Locally, she helps run the Lake Norman chapter of Breastfeeding USA and is active in her local Quaker Meeting. Rebecca has been married since 1995 and has a grown stepson, a soccer/piano-playing teenage son, a skittish dog, and a former Shanghai alley cat named Calvin.

Her Board term is (2014-2017).


Toi Lowe
Flint Michigan

Toi received her Bachelor's of Science in Electrical Engineer from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan and soon will have a Master's of Science in Health and Human Performance from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She became passionate about breastfeeding in 2007 and got heavily involved in online mother-to-mother support. She was previously a WIC Peer Counselor and also served on the USDA National Advisory Council on Maternal, Infant, and Fetal Nutrition. Toi is employed as a Resident Engineer in the Automotive Industry. She is married with four children and has started a Breastfeeding USA Chapter in Genesee County.

Her Board term is (2015-2018).


Cynthia L. Sears, MS, CHES, CLEC

Cynthia is completing a doctoral program in health behavior at the University of Florida, has a passionate love of learning, and is dedicated to the rigorous application of the scientific process that is part of doing research. Her research interests focus on use of education technology, digital worlds, and mHealth/eHealth as channels to disseminate health education, with specific focus on breastfeeding education for Millennial mothers. She has co-authored manuscripts in the area of eHealth and African American health, has served as a manuscript reviewer for the Journal of Human Lactation, and is also working as a graduate research assistant as part of her Fellowship.

In addition to her doctoral program curriculum and research, she is currently serving a 2 year term on the board of directors for the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition (2015-2017), which has developed her capacity to work with the strengths that each individual brings to the table. As co­-chair of the social media committee for the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition she also helps admin the Facebook and Twitter pages for the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition. She helps admin the breastfeeding support group on Facebook.

Cynthia became a Breastfeeding USA Counselor in January 2015 and helped to co-found the North Central Florida Chapter of Breastfeeding USA. In this capacity she maintains and posts most of the posts for the Breastfeeding USA ­ North Central Florida Chapter Facebook page. She is mother to two boys, a grown step-son, and a dog named Bazooka. She hopes to somehow squeeze clinical hours in, here and there, to eventually sit for the IBLCE exam.

Her Board term is (2015-2018).

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