LLL Leader or Lactation Consultant?

From LLL in VA/WV References

As you read through the posts on the Forums, you'll often see the suggestion to talk to an LLL Leader or Lactation Consultant. LCs and LLL Leaders might seem interchangeable at first, but they have very different training and experience and fulfill different roles.

There may be other certifications not listed here. If you work with a lactation consultant or lactation specialist, be sure to ask about her credentials so you have some idea of how much training and experience she has.

LLL Leaders

LLL Leaders are mothers who have breastfed their own babies. They are unpaid volunteers who want to help other mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.

Training and Experience

An LLL Leader must have breastfed a baby for at least 9 months before starting her application for Leadership, and has usually breastfed for over a year before being accredited as a Leader.

LLL Leaders are accredited by La Leche League International after receiving training in the normal course of breastfeeding, common breastfeeding problems, and supportive communication skills.

Mothers who are interested in becoming LLL Leaders and helping other moms can find more information on LLLI's Thinking About LLL Leadership pages.


LLL Leaders support and promote LLL's philosophy of mothering through breastfeeding.


All La Leche League support is provided to mothers for free. Mothers who find LLL helpful can give back by becoming members of their local groups.

Most LLL Leaders provide one-on-one help to mothers through phone counseling and email.

Group support is provided through monthly meetings. Some LLL Groups also hold breastfeeding cafés, where moms can drop in at any time, ask questions, or just socialize. Many LLL Groups also have Facebook pages or groups where local moms can interact.

Some Leaders may do home visits, depending on their personal circumstances.

How to Find an LLL Leader or Group

LLL Leaders' contact information and Group meeting times can be found through the LLLI Group Index or Group Locations Map (some Groups may not appear on the map).

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC)

IBCLCs are health care professionals who specialize in breastfeeding management. Their services may be covered by health insurance.

Education and Training

IBCLCs usually have an educational or professional background in a health-related field. They are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE), and must recertify every 5 years.

To be certified, a lactation consultant must take 90 hours of educational coursework in human lactation, acquire at least 500 hours of clinical experience in breastfeeding management, and pass an examination given by IBLCE.


IBCLCs provide one-on-one breastfeeding counseling in health care settings like hospitals, pediatricians' offices, clinics, and private practice. Some IBCLCs in private practice may include home visits as one of their services.

How to Find an IBCLC

Local IBCLCs can be found through the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) website.

Not all lactation consultants are IBCLCs. If you're not sure if an LC is certified, you can check on the status of their credentials through the IBLCE Registry.

LLL Leaders who are IBCLCs

Some LLL Leaders are also IBCLCs, but most are not.

Some IBCLCs are LLL Leaders or have been Leaders in the past.

If you know that an LLL Leader is also an IBCLC, make sure it's clear which role she's acting in when you talk with her.

Other Certifications

Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC)

CLCs have completed a 45 hour course in lactation and are certified by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice (ALPP). This is often an additional certification acquired by nurses, midwives, childbirth educators, peer counselors, or other professionals who work with mothers and babies.

Certified Lactation Educators (CLE)

CLEs are trained and certified by the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) to provide breastfeeding education and counseling to mothers and teach breastfeeding classes. This is another certification that doulas, childbirth educators, nurses, WIC employees, etc. may have.

Certified Lactation Specialists (CLS)

CLSs have taken a 5 day course from Lactation Education Consultants (LEC) designed to provide part of the education requirement for becoming an IBCLC. CLSs may be working on the coursework and clinical hours needed to sit for the IBCLE exam.