The pros and cons of being a lactation consultant

While I happen to think that being an IBCLC is one of the coolest jobs ever, it’s not all unicorns pooping rainbows. There are pros, and there are cons. Here are some for your consideration.

Actual picture of me on a good day.
Actual picture of me on a good day.

PRO: Smooshy new babies! Smiley older babies! I like to coo over them and admire their uniqueness and marvel over the ways they’re alike. I try to make them grin, and sometimes I even get to hold one.

I made this particular smooshy baby so I was allowed to squeeze him as much as I wanted.
I made this particular smooshy baby so I was allowed to squeeze him as much as I wanted.

CON: One must resist the urge to unabashedly kiss sweet baby heads and squeeze chubby thighs when said babies are not your own. It takes great restraint.

PRO: Being a lactation consultant is a pretty nifty and unique job, and people are often quite interested in what you do. It makes for good small talk.

CON: Some people (let’s be honest, it’s usually men) hear “breasts” and they can’t help but make (not-always-tasteful) jokes. I’m a fan of humor and keeping things light, but I’m anti-fetishisation of my job.

PRO: When they find out what I do for a living, people can be very open with their breastfeeding stories. They share what they’re proud of and sometimes what was hard. Since one thing that drives me to do this work is how much of an impact breastfeeding can make on someone, whether it goes well or not, I feel like I’ve been offered a gift each time someone opens up to me.

CON: It’s hard to hear people apologize or get defensive for not breastfeeding or for stopping for whatever reason. Even if I know I’m not judgmental, they don’t. I know that not everyone is nonjudgmental about breastfeeding, and it makes it harder for people to trust me and harder for me to do my job well.

PRO: I get to meet so many people from all kinds of backgrounds during what is one of the most joyful times of their lives, and I have the opportunity to increase the joy. It’s a special moment when a concept clicks or advice resonates. Whether my role is minimal or long term, it’s special to be a part of a family learning and growing.

CON: Sometimes breastfeeding goes well, and sometimes it’s more challenging. Sometimes I don’t know what went well and what didn’t. My contact with clients usually stops after a few days, weeks, or months, although I occasionally see former clients out in the wild and get to admire their gorgeous babies and tell them they’re doing a great job.

Holy-cow-I'm-at-the-ILCA-conference-and-dozens-of-people-I-admire-are-behind-me selfie
Holy-cow-I’m-at-the-ILCA-conference-and-dozens-of-people-I-admire-are-behind-me selfie

PRO: I love working in a medical field and spending time in hospitals and clinics. There’s something about the smell of gauze and antiseptic… And it’s pretty neat to collaborate with brilliant and dedicated people.

CON: It’s hard to not feel like one of the little guys sometimes. Building relationships with colleagues is hard work!

PRO: Conferences are a great excuse to travel, pretend I’m on vacation, hang out with friends and colleagues from all over the globe, fangirl over the superstars of lactation and ask to take selfies with them, and stuff my brain with information.

CON: $$$$. It’s not cheap to get or keep those letters after your name, and this is one thing that contributes to inequity in the profession. We have to pay for our education and exam; pay for continuing education and recertification or for retaking the board after 5 years; pay to take the exam again at the 10-year mark. Employers don’t always foot the bill, and many lactation consultants, if they obtain a coveted position, are not full-time employees. Those who are in private practice have business-related expenses, as well.

PRO: It’s always a challenge!

CON: It’s always a challenge!

PRO x millions: What’s better than doing what you love while helping people? (Don’t say tacos. They are merely a close second.)

About Tipper Gallagher, IBCLC

Tiffany (Tipper) Gallagher, BA, IBCLC, RLC, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, metro area. In her private lactation consulting practice, she provides in-home visits for families experiencing breastfeeding difficulties as well as prenatal and postnatal education in private and group settings. Tipper melds her passions for writing, advocacy, and sharing evidence-based information by blogging at www.theboobgeek.com, presenting at conferences, and actively participating in professional organizations.

One thought on “The pros and cons of being a lactation consultant

  1. Love this!! I think I can handle those Cons! Grateful for you sharing some of your experiences, it’s very reassuring!!:)

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