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.