The Lactation OT

M U S T   R E A D S

How to Become a Lactation Consultant as an OT, SLP, or PT

getting started
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Are you a therapist who’s interested in specializing in lactation, or at least learning more about it so you can answer your client’s questions and point them in the right direction? 

If yes, you’ve found the right corner of the internet. We are thrilled that more therapists are exploring this specialty area. 

Working in lactation is a fulfilling choice for those passionate about infants, maternal health, or breastfeeding dyads. Lactation-informed therapists and lactation consultants play a crucial role in assisting new mothers and infants, ensuring both receive adequate nutrition and care. In an ideal world, every therapist interested in lactation would pursue the highest credential, the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). We understand, however, that this isn’t the path for everyone, especially for therapists who are just beginning to explore their options.  

This article provides an overview of how to get started in lactation since there are a variety of ways to work toward higher-level understanding and certifications in this arena. 

Also, we’ve created a downloadable guide that provides a quick reference to the information you need as you begin this journey. Click below to access this resource.


Self-Reflection As You Start In Lactation 

As an OT, SLP, or PT, you have a unique skill set that complements the lactation-specific education required to become a lactation consultant. By combining your expertise in your respective fields with lactation, you can provide comprehensive support to breastfeeding dyads. 

But before you start down the path to becoming a lactation consultant, it’s important to explore your expectations and interests. This allows you to confidently choose a path that fits your needs and meets your goals. 

As you consider adding lactation to your practice, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much time are you able to dedicate to learning and mentorship? If you choose to achieve the highest level of lactation credential, the IBCLC, this can typically take 2-5 years.
  • Do you want to work with both the mother and the baby or focus on just one? This means both clients are your patient and you have signed consent forms and medical history for both clients.
  • Do you want to be able to simply identify lactation issues and refer out or do you want to fully assess and provide intervention for lactation issues? This may not be feasible in your current work setting.
  • What aspects of lactation excite you the most? Many are drawn to the field from personal experience, but lactation is broad! Many therapists tend to gravitate towards tongue ties, but there are many other areas such as food allergies, low supply, and inducing lactation to name a few.

Take time to reflect on these questions. Your answers can help guide you in deciding how (and if) you’ll incorporate lactation consulting into your OT, SLP, or PT practice.

Also, remember your answers may change over time. If you’re not ready to pursue your IBCLC right now that’s ok… but keep it in mind for the future. 


Start With Lactation Specific Education 

If you’re interested in becoming a lactation consultant or providing lactation-informed therapy services for infants, then your first step is obtaining lactation-specific education. 

General CEU courses usually cover the lifespan of all types of feeding while barely touching on infants, especially breastfeeding infants. Lactation-specific education zeroes in on breastfeeding, providing more specialized information, but often not taught by therapists making it more challenging to determine how the information is applicable for a therapist caseload.

We offer lactation-focused continuing education typically taught by a therapist (OT, SLP, or PT) who also specializes in lactation either an IBCLC or other lactation credential.

You must provide evidence-based, up-to-date information to your clients rather than anecdotal information, especially as a licensed clinical professional. 

Many of the lactation programs listed in the Getting Started Guide offer a certification upon completion. Lactation professionals hold many different titles and credentials. This can be rather confusing for clients. As a licensed OT, SLP, or PT, it’s important to remain ethical and present your current lactation-specific skill level clearly to avoid any potential confusion. Being a therapist doesn’t make you a lactation expert just because it may be within your scope of practice, but it does provide a strong foundation to help you become an excellent lactation consultant if you should choose to pursue this.

Numerous programs provide lactation-specific education hours. Each program is slightly different and has strengths and drawbacks. The right one for you is the one that is within your budget and helps you work toward your specific goals. 


The #1 mistake lactation-curious therapists make is not getting started because all the program options keep them stuck in analysis paralysis. Don’t fall into this trap.

We’ve created a downloadable resource to help you choose which program is best for you, gain access by clicking below to view the list of the 
most common sources for online lactation education. Each option provides a different level of certification or credential title. Always check directly with the program for the most up-to-date information. 

The two main differences you’ll find between lactation programs are the… 

  • Time/duration of the program (ranges from live 2 weeks to 1 year on-demand learning)
  • Price (some programs offer full scholarships or group discounts) 

Find other clinicians who are interested in lactation and sign up for a program together! 

(A great place to connect with other therapists who are interested in lactation is in The Lactation OT Community. Join us!)  

And if you’d like to start learning about lactation, but aren’t ready to enroll in one of these programs, the "Introduction to Breastfeeding for the Lactation-Informed Therapistcourse is an excellent first step.  


Requirements to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) 

As a clinician, you have a jump-start to becoming an IBCLC due to your education and ability to work in environments with infants and breastfeeding dyads. 

Here are the summarized requirements to become an IBCLC:

Foundational Education:

  • 14 health science courses OR
  • Be a clinical healthcare professional on the recognized list. (OT, SLP, and PT are included on this list!) 

Lactation-Specific Education:

  • 90 hours of lactation-specific education
  • 5 hours of communication skills

You can use any combination of verified Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs) to obtain the 95 hours in total. Psst… The Lactation OT courses count toward these education hours!

Clinical Experience:

  • 1,000 hours through Pathway 1 independently as a recognized health professional 
  • 300 hours through Pathway 2 in an academic program with an IBCLC mentor
  • 500 hours through Pathway 3 with IBCLC mentor

As you can see, mentorship is not a requirement on Pathway 1 to becoming an IBCLC… but we HIGHLY recommend having mentorship from a current IBCLC throughout the process. 

If you’re unsure about getting a mentor, just think about how many nuanced therapeutic gems you picked up as a student during your clinical rotations. With a mentor to help you, you’ll integrate lactation-specific education into your therapeutic practice. 


An Overview of the Pathways to Become an IBCLC

The IBLCE created three different ways to become eligible to sit for the exam and earn the IBCLC credential. This flexibility is beneficial, but choosing a pathway is where many aspiring lactation consultants get confused or stuck. 

Below we’ll provide a quick summary of the three pathways and our recommendations for licensed professionals. 

Pathway One: Recognized Health Professionals and Breastfeeding Support Counselors

  • 1,000 hours (can be retroactive) 
  • OT, SLP, and PT are included on the list of recognized health professionals
  • OTA and PTA should contact IBCLE directly to have it in writing that your professional license will be accepted

There is no official process when you choose this pathway. You’ll independently track your hours in case of an audit — similar to tracking CEUs or PDUs for your licensure. 

Pathway Two: Accredited Lactation Academic Program

  • 300 hours completed with a program IBCLC mentor
  • Complete a comprehensive, accredited academic program in human lactation and breastfeeding

Pathway Three: Mentorship with an IBCLC

  • 500 hours under the direct supervision of an IBCLC
  • $100 application fee 
  • Must sign a contract with an IBCLC and submit this to IBCLE before the accumulation of clinical hours
  • Please note that many IBCLCs will charge to provide this mentorship usually ranging from ($10-$25 per clinical hour)

For most therapists, we suggest either Pathway 1 (with added unofficial mentorship from an IBCLC) or Pathway 3. Some therapists decide to complete Pathway 2 for ease of finding mentorship.

*One important thing to note is if you switch from Pathway 1 to Pathway 3, you’ll forfeit the hours you’ve accumulated in Pathway 1 because the contract with an IBCLC must be submitted prior to tracking your hours. 

As an OT, SLP, or PT, the pathway you choose depends on your work setting, whether your caseload can easily include breastfeeding dyads, financial resources to invest, time to devote to pursuing the IBCLC credential, and access to a local IBCLC mentor. Also take into consideration your current knowledge and skill level in lactation, maternal and infant mental health, as well as manual therapies or "bodywork”.

To make your pathway decision easier, we created a flowchart where your answers to questions guide you to the best pathway for your situation.  Access this pathway decision chart in the Get Started In Lactation Guide below. 

If this sounds a bit overwhelming or you’re still not sure lactation is the specialty for you, that’s ok. You can be a lactation-informed therapist. You’ll be able to provide some guidance and refer breastfeeding dyads out to IBCLCs while you decide if this is the direction you want to take your clinical career.  


How to Find Clinical Lactation Hours as a Therapist

After you’ve completed some (or all) of your lactation-specific education hours, you’re ready to start gaining clinical hours. 
Finding clinical hours can be slightly different depending on which pathway you choose. Below is a summary of common places to gain hours. 

Pathway 1 Ideas

Pathway 3 Ideas

  • Pediatrician’s office/primary care 
  • OB office
  • Midwifery office (or birth/prenatal center)
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unity (NICU)
  • Working with an IBCLC in their private practice


The Impact of Specializing in Lactation as an OT, SLP, or PT

Being a generalist is hard. You never know what’s coming onto your caseload and you may often have that nagging feeling that you don’t quite know enough about each diagnosis to provide the best interventions and outcomes. We hear this from a lot of therapists who are considering becoming specialists. 

We happen to think (in our totally biased opinion) that lactation is the absolute best area of maternal health specialize in. You get to provide impactful interventions and support to breastfeeding dyads during a critical phase of life and development. 

Your clients may be consuming misinformation from the internet, struggling silently, or simply feeling insecure about their breastfeeding journey. As a specialist, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to confidently support them and help them achieve the best outcomes. 

We can’t wait to see where you go on your journey into lactation. 

This is a lot of information to digest all at once, which is why we created a downloadable guide for you to reference as you become a lactation-informed therapist or a lactation consultant. 

Written by The Lactation OT staff

Download the Free Guide to Getting Started as an OT, SLP, or PT