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 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”.
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’ve heard things in the past like, “$200?!? 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. $200 isn’t “nothing”. $200 is like a month’s worth of gas (depending on the vehicle you drive) or a week’s worth of groceries… But rest assured, you’re NOT actually paying me $200 to come hold your baby….
My initial lactation consult home visit fee is $200 (I give a 15% military discount for Active Duty families - So $170 for them) A visit is 2 hours, so to many people this sounds like “WOAH you’re being paid $100/hour?!?” …Not really… 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 $60 I put into a tax savings account for each Lactation client. So now we’re down to $140. Credit Card processing fees total about $6. So now we’re down to $134. I have two monthly expenses that are vital for my practice: liability insurance and my HIPAA compliant charting software which come in at about $20 and $50 a month, respectively. 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 $11 per client for these two expenses. So now I’m making $123 per a visit. “Jaimie, that’s still about $61.50 per visit”. 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. Masks, gloves, demo dolls, demo boobs, a $900 scale, and sometimes even some basic feeding equipment like nipple shields or syringes.
All of those can be considered investments, you could say. So at this point, less say 25% of the remaining $123 goes toward future supplies/maintenance for equipment. So that's $30 set aside for maintaining the tools I need to provide your care… Now we’re down to about $95 per visit… Still not bad. Over $40 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. The test alone was over $600. 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 $10 each client to go into the “Continuing education fund”… Now we’re down to $85 per visit. My take home is $85. But just like you, when I go to work I need to pay a sitter. So if you’re within my one hour service radius, my sitter is here up to 4 hours for three kids, for a 2 hour visit..at an average of $15 an hour that’s another $45 in the red for me, which isn’t your problem at all.. but it means my take home is down to $40.… and we haven’t even discussed gas money and maintaining my vehicle to be able to travel to your home.
So I’m getting paid $20/hour…. Except not really. See your visit doesn’t only take 2 hours of my time. Your visit takes 2 hours of your time. I take at least an hour to prep for visits… read your chart, research any medical conditions you may have that I’m not too familiar with, gather materials that may be relevant to you, and then I can take up to 30min+ checking charting. This doesn’t even cover the time it takes to handle other business responsibilities that allow me to continue serving you. Your appointment takes at least 4 hours of my time. So now, I’m getting paid $10 an hour for your visit.
Ten. Dollars. An. Hour. To come to your home and hopefully help you improve your breastfeeding experience. Ten dollars an hour to serve you in the convenience of your home, in a professional capacity. Remember when I said I serve a max of 6 lactation clients a month? That means I get to contribute $240 to my family’s household income each month. This is only a small portion of my monthly mortgage. If something happened to my husband’s income, this couldn’t even pay to put food on the table for a month.
And I know my household finances are not your concern… but when you’re paying for a lactation consultant and balk because you think you’re being price gouged, I want you to pause and remember this breakdown for me. Remember how much time, effort, and energy your LC is putting into supporting you, and how little she is actually asking for in return. $10 an hour is LESS than I made working in a nursing home as a CNA… and now I’m an LPN, IBCLC… I have much higher credentials and am making much less money. So when I charge you $200 for a lactation visit, I’m not trying to scam you. I’m not trying to prey on you because you’re vulnerable. I’m not ridiculous. I’m not unreasonable. And I’m certainly not charging “an arm and a leg”. And I'm DEFINITELY not "in it for the money".
If you're looking for a lactation consultant to help troubleshoot your breastfeeding experience, let's set up an appointment! I provide in home and virtual lactation support and am excited to serve your family. While I am not currently in network with any insurance providers, I can provide you with a superbill to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. 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 South Jersey and Central New Jersey, and across the United States. Mother of three, military wife, and lover of coffee, Jaimie enthusiastically supports hospital and home births in South Jersey. Jaimie offers in home lactation consults to families in Burlington, Camden, Atlantic, Ocean and Monmouth Counties and surrounding areas. 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!