Updated: May 23
If you're reading this article, at some point you may have found yourself wondering: "Why are lactation consultants so expensive?"
Being a private practice IBCLC is so rewarding in so many ways. Being able to work closely with amazing parents, precious new babies, and have a positive impact on the experience of a new, growing family is one of the most rewarding things in the world. This job is literally a dream for me. Providing families with home visits or virtual visits for breastfeeding support is very important to me because it is where parents are the most relaxed. They feel comfortable and relaxed. Not like they’re on a time crunch so I can squeeze in my next 15 minute appointment or pop over to the next inpatient room and then make the rounds again in a few hours trying to squeeze in all 25 newborns born today… I like the personal aspect. The relationships and connections I build with these moms is so special. But there’s one resounding question I get all the time… “Why does it have to be SO expensive!?” I know how stressful it can be when you have a new baby. Especially if you’re losing work hours and your income has been affected. It’s hard to budget for everything and it can be frustrating to have to PAY for breastfeeding that we think of as “free”.
But breastfeeding is hard sometimes, and you deserve support. From questions about sore nipples and how to use a nipple shield, to wondering how often your newborn should nurse, and troubleshooting weight gain issues, tongue ties, etc, you deserve personalized answers and support. Supporting your goal to feed your baby human breastmilk is a worthy investment. In this blog post we will discuss what to expect when paying for breastfeeding support, why lactation consultants cost as much as they do, and how you can make sure you're able to afford your lactation consultant.
What should I expect to pay for a private lactation visit?
Private practice lactation consultants charge a variety of fees based on many factors. Some big influences are include your region, the lactation consultants education level, and more. In my practice, private pay visit cost varies based on setting (telehealth, home visit, or office visit), and whether or not this is an initial consult or follow up. My initial home visits tend to start around $225, however I offer generous discounts for those on Tricare West and Medicaid Insurance Plans. Furthermore, I provide options of HSA/FSA and I also provide a superbill for you to submit to insurance for reimbursement. Of course if your insurance is working with Little Bear Lactation you will have little to no out of pocket cost.
You might be wondering, "Wow, why is it so expensive to hire a lactation consultant?"
When you're hiring a lactation consultant, getting your money's worth matters, but price shopping can be dangerous. Shopping for the cheapest option is not necessarily going to give you best option. A professional lactation consultant charges higher prices because there is a lot that goes into running a professional lactation consulting practice.
What does your lactation visit fee pay for?
Today I want to share a little bit of my price structure for you with full transparency so that you understand what you’re investing when you book a visit with an IBCLC. I want you to know that the point of this article is not to defend my pricing structure, but rather to help you understand what exactly you’re investing in. I’ve heard things in the past like, “$225?!? That’s UNREASONABLE! …An outpatient visit at the hospital is only $45…” (Psst… they’re not spending as much time and energy on you AND they have a much higher client load and vaster resources overall…) I’ve also heard things like, “I thought you did this because you care about people… it seems like you’re in it for the money…” I get it. I do. $225 isn’t “nothing”. $225 is like two trucks worth of gas or a week’s worth of groceries… But rest assured, you’re NOT actually paying me $225 to come hold your baby….
My initial lactation consult home visit fee is $225 A visit is usually around 90 minutes, so to many people this sounds like “WOAH you’re being paid over $100/hour?!?” …Not really…
I'm going to be transparent and give you a solid breakdown of everything your money is paying for, but that might not interest you, so you can click here to jump to the next section where I tell you how you can afford your lactation consultant. But before you do that, I want you to know that you aren't just paying $225 for a random person to come tell you how to latch your baby, you're paying for hours of skilled support, education, and experience. You are paying for problem solving. You are paying for peace of mind. You are investing in your health and your baby's health. First, let’s take 30% off the top for taxes. Estimating taxes is never fun, but has to be done… and overestimating is safest to avoid major consequences later in the year. So this is $67 I put into a tax savings account for each Lactation client.
So now we’re down to $158. Credit Card processing fees might be $5. So now we’re down to $153. I have two expenses that are vital for my practice: liability insurance and my HIPAA compliant charting and communication softwares which total around $60+/m. Now, because I strive to provide very personal support, I keep my client load “low”. Imagine I see 6 clients a month, this works out to just over $10 per client for these two expenses. So now I’m making $143 per a visit. “Jaimie, that’s still over $50 per hour”. True. But in order to chart I need to maintain my technology. So I use an iPad (not cheap) with internet access, another $10 a month… negligible. I also bring lots of equipment with me. Gloves, demo dolls, demo boobs, a $900 scale, and sometimes even some basic feeding equipment like nipple shields or syringes. I need to send the scale out for calibration once in a while, which costs money as well.
All of those can be considered investments, you could say. So at this point, less say 25% of the remaining $143 goes toward future supplies/maintenance for equipment. So lets round to $35 set aside for maintaining the tools I need to provide your care… Now we’re down to about $108 per visit… Still not bad. Over $50 an hour. But I didn’t mention that my education to become an IBCLC wasn’t cheap. I invested thousands of dollars to train and test for this credential to be able to serve you. And in order to maintain this credential? I have to spend hundreds of dollars each year for continuing education… and that’s NOT just to maintain my credentials. That is to provide you with the most up to date, evidence based care. So say I set aside $20 each client to go into the “Continuing education fund”… Now we’re down to $88 per visit. My take home is $88.
Still this sounds like a solid $44/hour for a 90 minute visit. But a lactation visit takes 90 minutes of your time, it takes about 3 hours of my time between doing appointment preparation before your appointment, charting after your appointment, and making sure your OB and Pediatrician receive reports regarding your visit to ensure continuity of care. So now we're down to $15. Minimum wage in many areas. Remember when I said I serve a max of 6 lactation clients a month? That means I get to contribute $264 to my family’s household income each month. Now my financial situation is non of your concern... but yours is. I get that. So how can we make sure you get professional breastfeeding support without breaking the bank?
Three ways to pay for your lactation consultant:
There are a few ideas on how to mitigate the expense of lactation support.
Breastfeeding Education during pregnancy can reduce cost of postpartum breastfeeding support
For starters, a lot of lactation problems can be mitigated with quality preparation. Taking a breastfeeding class and even scheduling a Breastfeeding Prenatal appointment can help you walk into breastfeeding confidently and prepared. You will be prepped to handle common challenges that can be either prevented or reduced with early action.
Lactation Consultant Fund on Baby Registry
Second, when registering for your baby shower, you can add a "Lactation Consultant Fund" to your wishlist. Some online registries allow cash fund options, so tell your friends and family that you plan to breastfeed and they can best support you by helping you pay for professional support.
Make the most of your Health Care Spending Accounts & Medical Insurance
A third option is medical insurance and FSA/HSA accounts! While many private practice lactation consultants are not in-network with insurance companies, your insurance company is likely to fully or partially reimburse prenatal breastfeeding classes and lactation support visits postpartum. This is why I provide a superbill for all of my clients to submit to their insurance companies to offset the investment in breastfeeding support. Even if your insurance company doe not cover your lactation visit, lactation visits usually are considered a qualified purchase for your Flex Spending or Healthcare Savings account.
I'm also very excited to let you know that I do, in fact, work with The Lactation Network and Tricare East to provide insurance covered lactation consults to families across the country with no out of pocket cost! Click here to learn more!
As a final note, I want to remind you that while hiring a Lactation Consultant may feel expensive, the common alternative to fixing your breastfeeding problem is formula. Yearly formula costs are estimated to cost anywhere between $1000-3000 per year depending on feeding equipment, brand of formula, and other factors.
If you're looking for a lactation consultant to help troubleshoot your breastfeeding experience, let's set up an appointment! I provide in home breastfeeding support in Wichita Falls, Texas and virtual lactation support throughout the United States, and am excited to serve your family.
Please contact your insurance company for more details on lactation support coverage!
Jaimie Zaki, owner of Little Bear Services, LLC is a Birth Photographer, Labor Doula, & IBCLC serving families in Wichita Falls, Texas, and across the United States. Mother of four, military wife, and lover of coffee, Jaimie enthusiastically supports women from pregnancy through their breastfeeding journey. Jaimie is excited to also serve families from, all over the United States with online childbirth classes, online breastfeeding classes, and virtual pregnancy, birth plan, and lactation consulting! Learn more about Jaimie and the services she offers!