Sunday, September 30, 2007

What is a Certified Lactation Educator?

In teaching breastfeeding classes, working with moms one-on-one and advocating for breastfeeding in my everyday conversations I get called lots of names. Good ones like lactation consultant, lactation nurse or even the boob lady. However, I have only two true titles in the world of lactation - accredited La Leche League Leader which is a volunteer position with the oldest, most respected mother-to-mother breastfeeding support organization in the world and Certified Lactation Educator through CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association).

This year I became a trainer for CAPPA's Lactation Educator program. My next training is October 20-21 in my old hometown of Knoxville, TN. It will be attended by nurses, LLL Leaders, mothers who want to help other mothers, WIC employees and others. I want to share a little bit about the CLE program through CAPPA to clear up any misconceptions, answer your burning questions and who knows, this might be YOUR path in lactation support.

Purpose of Lactation Education Certification Program.

The purpose of the CAPPA lactation educator program is to provide childbirth professionals comprehensive training in breastfeeding education. When a candidate completes the certification program they will be qualified to teach and educate the public on breastfeeding and related issues. When all requirements have been satisfactorily completed candidates will be issued the CAPPA credential “ CLE ” Certified lactation educator.

This program does not issue Lactation consultant status, and does not qualify one to issue medical advice, diagnose medical conditions for mother or baby or to prescribe treatment or medication.

Scope of practice
Certified Lactation Educator

Lactation Educators fill an important function in educating and supporting families interested in learning about breastfeeding. This education may take place in the public, hospital, clinical or private setting. Lactation Educators provide informational, emotional and practical support of breastfeeding. They may provide this service exclusively as breastfeeding educators, or may use their training to augment their support in other professions, in the cases of doulas, childbirth educators, nurses, dietitians, and postnatal or parenting educators. In addition to providing breastfeeding information, Lactation Educators offer encouragement, companionship, an experienced point of view, and foster confidence and a commitment to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding education is not restricted to new families, but applies to the general public and medical staff as well. Due to the limited breastfeeding information given in standard medical and nursing training, and the rampant misinformation about breastfeeding that is so prevalent in our society, the breastfeeding educator serves as a resource for accurate, evidence-based information to the public and health care providers, as well as to childbearing families.

CAPPA does not issue Certified Lactation Consultant status, nor does the Lactation Educator Program qualify a member to dispense medical advice, diagnose or prescribe medication. However, Lactation Educators provide a wealth of information about how and why to breastfeed; establishing a breastfeeding-friendly environment; basic breastfeeding
anatomy and physiology; the normal process of lactation; deviations from normal; physical, emotional and sociological barriers to breastfeeding; overcoming challenges; and resources available (including medical referrals) for the breastfeeding family. They can also be a source of vital support, guidance and encouragement throughout the duration of breastfeeding.

CLE™ Program FAQ

How are CAPPA's Lactation Education programs different from other breastfeeding courses or programs?

Our program is designed for those who would like to teach breastfeeding classes either privately, in groups like at hospitals, parenting centers, etc., or use the credential and education to complement their doula and/or childbirth educator practices.

Do your Lactation Education training's qualify me to sit for the IBLCE exam?

No. Our training's are Lactation Education training's, not breastfeeding management courses. We are geared towards those who wish to educate, not for those who wish to prepare to sit the IBLCE exam at this time. Our courses are not IBLCE exam prep courses, with the exception of some of Vergie Hughes' courses. Please see our training's page for more information.

If you wish to sit for the IBLCE exam, please see the IBLCE website for instructions, qualifications and pathways.

What do you train your Lactation Educators to do?

We teach normal and unique breastfeeding situations and management, the role of the Lactation Educator, scope of practice, counseling the nursing mother, what to refer out to healthcare providers such as IBCLCs, MDs or Midwives. We assume that our attendees are higher level learners who already know the basics of breastfeeding.

Another part of what we teach is how to set up a class, interesting teaching techniques, and compassionate communication with the new breastfeeding family, which most breastfeeding management/exam preparation courses do not offer.

What exactly is a CAPPA Certified Lactation Educator?

We are like childbirth educators, except that we are breastfeeding educators. We can also act as counselors, referring out issues that are out of scope of practice to IBCLCs, MDs or group support to LLL. We have a position paper about our Lactation Education programs available at Lactation Educator Position Paper.

For Requirements and pathways to certification, please visit

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