image of mother, doula and child while doula is helping the mother nurse

Why become a Certified Lactation Counselor and what is the CLSC (Certified Lactation Support Counselor) certification?

Why become a Certified Lactation Counselor and what is the CLSC (Certified Lactation Support Counselor) certification?

Lactation counselors are critical people in the mission to nurture, support and protect families on their infant feeding journeys. Systemic and medical racism permeate the US medical system, which doesn’t always value keeping babies and birthing parents together, doesn’t hire enough lactation professionals on our hospital floors to support all the parents who recover there, often includes lactation support or lack thereof steeped in medical and systemic racism and doesn’t have mandated postpartum home care, lactation counselors are the bridge to help people succeed at the basics of feeding their infants.

There are various certifications and pathways to learn how to support a birthing parent with early lactation. It can be confusing and overwhelming for a professional to pick the best one for them. We interviewed expert Lactation Consultant, Lea Rivera, IBCLC who designed and teaches the Certified Lactation Support Counselor (CLSC) curriculum (formerly known as CBC) at Birth Day Presence to help us understand what her course includes and why she has evolved her course over time to best reflect the needs of all families.

Why did you launch a new certification for Lactation professionals in the first place?

About 8 years ago, I entered into birth work as a doula. I had been working as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for 4 years at that point and this opening of my world into childbirth and the advocacy work that comes with being a doula began an evolution in my practice that resulted in my creation of what I originally called the Certified Breastfeeding Counselor course (CBC). The CBC was developed as a direct result of conversations and observations of doulas who, in many cases, had taken other lactation counselor courses and were providing what I saw to be incomplete and sometimes even dangerous lactation support to their clients.

Why did you change the certification from CBC to CLSC and what is the difference?

I saw the repetition of racist tropes in lactation education that consistently impacted the care provided to families. After teaching hundreds of people about basic lactation support, it has become more and more important to me as a BIPOC queer sexual abuse survivor that my curriculum reflect not just me and other skin and education privileged persons, but must center and directly address the issues of Black and Brown Birthing Persons. To address my belief and desire to be authentic in my journey, I changed the name to Certified Lactation Support Counselor (CLSC). The CLSC is still, and always will be, a dynamic curriculum, and it is one of the few that I know of that directly addresses health disparities, racism, trauma, and lactation for queer families.

As a CLSC certificate holder, will the counselor be ready to provide multiple levels of lactation support?

No. This is an introductory course, which will give the counselor the skills to provide evidence based information to new families and to make sure that their families are making decisions that are best for them. Doulas who complete this certification will be able to support milk production, basic positioning, and help their clients identify the appropriate resources when lactation is more challenging. Ongoing group support is also available to trainees. There is a Facebook group and a Slack channel for sharing and keeping up to date. Mentorship hours with me are also available as the counselors continue their learning as they build their practices. There is also the added benefit of adding a crucial skill to your toolkit as a doula. When doulas are also lactation counselors they are in a better position to serve their new families!

Why should a birth worker take this course?

The curriculum fits the current conversations around health disparities, Covid-19 and racism in lactation support. All together the value added to a birth worker’s practice is more than just letters after a name. It is about joining a community of advocates and people passionate about changing the world around them. Lactation is an interwoven aspect of birth and early parenting and a doula with these skills has extra knowledge to best help support their clients.


Lea Rivera Todaro is a DONA birth doula and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Lea has over 30 years experience in education and psychology with a Masters in Educational Psychology. She has worked in maternal child health for 11 years. As an IBCLC she has had the benefit of working in both hospitals and in private practice through the last decade. She brings skill and training in oral structures, premature/near term deliveries, NICU stays, cleft palates, endocrine disorders, breast surgery and supply issues. Lea enjoys teaching and training others about lactation support and spending time with her two kids, swimming and hiking with her dogs.

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