Becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor FAQ

We have compiled frequently asked questions, in the hopes that you find the answers you're looking for. If you don't see the question or answer here, please write to [email protected] if you are an Applicant or considering applying to become a BC. Or, write to [email protected] if you are already a BC Candidate and enrolled into our education course.

General Information

Am I eligible to be a Breastfeeding Counselor?

Before Applying

Application Process

Education

General Information


Q. What kinds of breastfeeding support do accredited Breastfeeding USA Counselors provide?

A. Breastfeeding USA Counselors (BCs) may offer breastfeeding support in a variety of
ways. BCs may form a new Community Chapter or join an existing Chapter. They may offer in-person or online Chapter meetings. They may offer support via phone, email, text, or one-on-one visits. BCs may also teach breastfeeding classes. There are also many opportunities to help at the national level, including social networking, fundraising, writing articles, publicity and education.

Q. What is the financial obligation for being a Breastfeeding Counselor?

A.The course currently costs $125, which includes online access to the textbook, “Counseling
the Nursing Mother” (6th Edition). In addition, there is an annual membership fee of $35, which must be kept current during the application and candidacy periods, as well as while serving as a BC.

Q. I want to apply but don’t have the money right now. Do you have scholarships?

A. All applicants must become Breastfeeding USA members before applying to the
Breastfeeding Counselor program. The current membership fee is $35. If you have difficulty paying this fee, please reach out to [email protected] for payment plan options. Once accepted into the program, a payment plan for the education fee can be arranged with Application Support. Scholarships may also be available.

Q. How soon can I start volunteering on behalf of Breastfeeding USA?

A. We have several volunteer positions available that do not require you to be a BC; however, you may not counsel mothers as a BC or claim to be a “BC-in-training” prior to completing the entire course.

Q: How do I get hours towards becoming an IBCLC?

A. We are not responsible for providing current/accurate information about requirements to become an IBCLC, which can change, and therefore the best resource to learn more about the process is through ibcle.org The purpose and mission of Breastfeeding USA is to prepare BCs to provide evidence-based peer support within their communities, not to prepare individuals to become IBCLCs, although some BCs may choose to pursue that path.

Q: Does your training course provide the 90 hours of lactation specific education required by IBLCE?

A: While Breastfeeding USA can provide clinical experience towards IBCLC, we cannot provide the education hours, due to the structure and purpose of our training. Our training course is intended to train volunteers to serve our organization. It is not intended to serve as an independent education program. Our course is not a LEAARC accredited education program, but rather a training specific to serving in the role of BC. In addition, we have no way to officially calculate the hours candidates spend on our training, as that isn't a necessary component of evaluation for our purposes.

Q: I am looking for lactation education to use in other breastfeeding support roles. Will your training be a good fit for me?

A: Please be aware that our course is not intended as general breastfeeding education. It is a training program specifically intended to accredit Breastfeeding Counselors who serve our organization in a volunteer capacity. You can certainly use the knowledge gained from the course in your outside work, but all Breastfeeding Counselors are expected to serve the organization directly.

Am I eligible to be a Breastfeeding Counselor?


Q: What other volunteer opportunities are available, if I decide not to become a Breastfeeding Counselor?

A: Breastfeeding USA welcomes volunteers who do not wish to become BCs. Potential volunteers can contact their local BCs to see how they can help with their local Chapter. To help at the national level, contact Volunteer Support ([email protected]) for additional information.

Q. I currently work with mothers and babies in another capacity (e.g., as a doula, photographer, IBCLC). Can I still become a Breastfeeding Counselor (BC)?

A. Absolutely! We do require that there be no conflict-of-interest between your
business and volunteer roles. We are always available to answer specific questions about your situation, but in general, it is important to ensure that you do not benefit financially from your role as a BC. You should not refer families who contact you as a BC to your business, or a business that you work for If you own a baby retail store, you should not host Breastfeeding USA meetings in your store. If you have a website that generates income through ads or affiliate links, you should not list yourself as a BC on your site.

Q: My baby is under 12 months, but I am planning to continue nursing. May I apply now to get the process started?

A: We do require that all applicants have nursed at least one child for at least 12 months before the date they apply. You would need to wait until after your child’s first birthday to apply. In the meantime, you could connect with your nearest chapter, and see if there is a meeting you could attend.

Q. My baby self- weaned before a year. Can I still apply?

A: Breastfeeding USA requires applicants to have nursed at least one baby at the breast for a full year. Please see our Statement on Breastfeeding https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/statement-breastfeeding) for further information on the biological norm for human mothers and babies.

Q. My baby weaned from the breast before a year, but still drank breastmilk in a cup or bottle until his/her first birthday. Can I still apply?

A. Breastfeeding USA values breastfeeding directly from the breast as the biological norm. We require applicants to have breastfed baby directly for a minimum of one full year. We do allow for medical waivers which are granted on a case-by-case basis.

Q. I exclusively pumped breastmilk for my baby for the first year. Can I still apply?

A. Breastfeeding USA respects and supports mothers who exclusively pump for their babies for a variety of reasons; however, at this time, they are not eligible to become Breastfeeding Counselors without an approved medical waiver (contact Applicant Support to apply for a waiver).

Q. I already run a Facebook support group. How will that work after I am accredited?

A. You will have the opportunity to convert your group into a Breastfeeding USA Chapter group, or it may remain as a privately run group. If you chose to maintain an independent group, you may not refer to yourself as a Breastfeeding USA Counselor in that group nor provide support under the name of Breastfeeding USA.

Q: I currently work with a breastfeeding support group. If I become a counselor, can my group become a Breastfeeding USA group?

A. You may change your group to a Breastfeeding USA by following your current group’s policies and procedures in shutting down the group meetings. Once you have officially shut down the existing group, you may open a new Breastfeeding USA Chapter by following Breastfeeding USA’s policies and procedures.

Q: I live outside the US, can I still apply?

A: Unfortunately, due to our USA only nonprofit status, our insurance policy requires Breastfeeding Counselors to be located within the US, or in US territories or on US military bases. Our training is only available to those seeking to become Breastfeeding USA Counselors.

Before Applying


Q. I have taken a lactation course. Do I still need to complete your course?

A: Yes. All candidates must complete the Breastfeeding USA course at this time. Our Breastfeeding USA Counselors include many IBCLCs, CLCs, and others experienced in supporting breastfeeding families. We require everyone to complete the course to ensure that they are up-to-date on the most current lactation education and counseling skills, and to provide consistency in advancing the Breastfeeding USA mission.

Q. Where can I find existing BCs and Chapters in my area?

A. Current Chapters are listed on our website and new Chapters are added on a regular basis. The listing on the website can be found here: https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/breastfeeding-counselor-locations.

Q. Why am I asked to reach out to local BCs in my area?

A. A local BC can serve as a mentor and can be a great resource as you go through the course and become accredited. We encourage you to collaborate with other BCs when possible. Plus, knowing what the other BC in the area are doing will prevent duplicate efforts - think two booths at the same baby fair.

Q. I want to apply with my friend. Do we both need to contact our local BCs?

A. Yes. Breastfeeding USA believes it is in each applicant’s best interest to develop a support network to assist them in work as a BC. This includes, but is not limited to, reaching out to a BC in the local geographic area.

Q. There is no local Chapter listed on the website. What do I do now?

A. Breastfeeding USA is a rapidly growing organization with new Chapters forming frequently. If there is no local Chapter in your geographic area, you may be interested in forming a new Chapter after you become accredited as a Breastfeeding USA Counselor. You will learn more about forming a Chapter as part of the course program. In the meantime, please reach out to the nearest Chapter, regardless of distance.

Q. How do I apply?

A. The first step in applying is to become a member of Breastfeeding USA. You will then need to fill out the online application form. The application form is only visible to people who are current members. The form can be saved so that you can fill it out over time. Once you submit your application, it will be acknowledged via email by one of our volunteers within 4 days. We will then contact your recommenders (please see below for further information.) Once your recommendations are received, your application will be moved to the interview stage. Emails will be sent to set up your phone interview.

Application Process


Q. What happens when I am accepted into the course?

A. You will receive emailed instructions on how to pay the course Education Fee. Once your fee is received, you will receive instructions on how to sign up in Learn World and begin the online course. Please allow up to a week to receive an email with instructions on enrolling in the course.

Q. How long does the application process take?

A. It varies and greatly depends on how quickly you and your references are able to respond to requests for information. Once both of your recommendations are received, we will move your application to the interview stage. You will be notified of the current wait time via email. This wait time depends primarily on how quickly we receive your recommendations, so please follow up with your recommenders to make sure they have received our emails and are able to complete the form in a timely manner. The wait also depends on how many applicants we have at the same time and the availability of the volunteers conducting the interviews. Please anticipate at least three months to complete the application process, with the understanding that it could take less or more time, depending on circumstances.

Q. Who can submit recommendations?

A. We are looking for personal, not professional, recommendations. The recommendation must come from someone who knows you in person (not online only) and is not related to you, your children, or your partner’s family. We ask that you choose people who have known you for at least one year. The recommender should be able to tell us about you as an individual and not solely as a breastfeeding parent and advocate. Please choose people who can send their recommendations to us in a timely manner, or your application will be delayed from moving forward in the process.

Q. How do the recommendations work?

A. We will email the two contacts you provide us with our online form. We require that all recommendations come to us using our form; this keeps the process fair for all applicants. If we do not hear back within two weeks, we will follow up. If we still have not heard in two more weeks, we send you a note so you can follow up as well. Checking in with your recommenders directly during this stage can help expedite your application.

Q. What if something in life comes along and I cannot complete the application process?

A. As long as your membership is current, you may place your application or candidacy “on hold.” Your application is valid for one year from the date you first applied, and you are allowed to remain on hold until that time is reached.

Q. How should I communicate with the Applications workgroup or with local BCs?

A. Please use email or phone. Texts are not a generally accepted method of communication during the application process, except to notify a local BC that you would like to talk with them.

Education


Q. How long does the course take? How is the course structured?

A. The course is self-directed and consists of online modules including the science of lactation, counseling skills, and specific lactation scenarios you may encounter. The course is online and you can proceed at your own pace. We do require you to complete at least one lesson per month. You will have online access to “Counseling the Nursing Mother” (6th Edition), the text upon which much of the course is based. Some candidates have completed the course within a few months, whereas others take much longer. The workload is comparable to a college-level 3-credit hour course.

Q. What if something in life comes along and I cannot complete the course?

A: You may email Candidate Support and request to be put "on hold.” You can remain "on hold" as long as your annual membership fee is current. If you allow your membership to lapse more than 2 weeks, Candidate Support will begin the process to withdraw you from the course. Once withdrawn, regaining access to the course requires a new application.

Q. My learning course account was suspended. Why?

A:You have an unpaid fee (either membership or education). Please contact Candidate Support for more details.

Q. I received an email that my coursework has been put “on hold.” I did not request this. Why did this happen?

A: All candidates are required to reply to emails from Candidate Support in a timely manner. If you fail to answer our emails, and you have failed to meet the minimum requirement of one lesson per month, we take this as a sign that your life is too busy for coursework, and as a courtesy, we have placed you “on hold.” You can reactivate your coursework by emailing Candidate Support.

Q. What does putting my coursework “on hold” mean?

A: It means Candidate Support will not send you emails about your progress in the course; however, we will send emails if you fail to pay a fee (membership or education) in a timely manner. You can remain “on hold” for as long as you need (months or years) as long as you convey this need to Candidate Support by answering our emails AND keeping your membership current.