Guest Post By Brandy Walters, BBA, IBCLC
I run what I consider a successful yet part-time private lactation practice called In Home Lactation Specialists, LLC. That being said, I am currently working on hiring IBCLCs that do the same consulting I do to cover more service area. I adore my job and truly know that it is my calling in life. However, I am also called to be a Lutheran Pastor’s wife, soccer mom to three growing boys and woman of interest. As such, my private practice is part-time and thus my income is too.
I currently live in Troy, Michigan which is a middle class suburb 8 miles north of Detroit. I am one of about three IBCLCs who are in private practice in my surrounding area. My service area includes all of Oakland County and surrounding cities. I do not have an office. I visit every mother where she is most comfortable – in her own home. I would see more mothers if I did have a central office but I wouldn’t be doing my job well or in the way that I am marketing myself. I travel no further than 30 miles one way from my home. I can see 3-4 families in their homes in one day, a very busy crazy day. Before we moved here five years ago, I started my business in Fredericksburg, Virginia which is less populated. The demand was minimal for my job. I am not an RN, nor did I want to be one, and that was my first barrier to work in a hospital setting. I needed to find my niche. And in Troy, Michigan I did.
The following are things that I learned are necessary components of a successful private lactation practice:
Let me first start by saying: I am not able to serve as a mentor to anyone sitting for the IBCLC exam, wanting to start their own private practice, needing clinical hours, or be a shadow. The work I do is flexible for my family and the families I work with. I get weekly inquiries about what I do and how I do it and I tell everyone step one is to become IBCLC certified. So, step 1 is:
- Become IBCLC certified. Check out the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) – the actual international board that accredits lactation consultant and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) for more information. See here for a detailed explanation by ILCA of what an IBCLC is.
- Charge a legitimate fee and stick to it. Research the area you live in and set a price. Talk to other IBCLCs already established in the area. Poll forums on line. You need to know what your mothers will be willing and able to pay. You put in a lot of time to be certified, you should charge for that knowledge and time. You are valuable. Decide if and what you should charge for a visit, an hour, travel time, follow-ups, emails and texts. You will
need to decide what works for you and the area you are serving. I charge by visit and my consults are usually no longer than 1.5 hours – babies and moms work hard when I am with them. And in private practice, you need clear boundaries to be a good support to mothers but not let every mom be all consuming to your mind and move into your family or off time.
- Read The Lactation Consultant in Private Practice: The ABCs of Getting Started by Linda J. Smith and get to work. The book may be dated but honestly, it is really really good stuff. READ IT. LEARN IT. Mine is folded, highlighted and used to its fullest. I pulled it out the other day to review a couple things.
- Make yourself known to the people who matter. I cannot stress enough how very important it is to get your name, business and what you do into the hands of those who refer you: PEDIATRICIANS and OB/GYNs! Everyone likes mail, the kind that shows up on paper in the form of a card or letter in the mailbox. Personalize your letter to everyone you want to know you. Then, walk into those offices like a pharmaceutical representative. Introduce yourself; bring flowers or goodies and plenty of business cards to leave behind.
- Business Basics. Of course, you need the business basics: your name, branding, website, social media, to establish an LLC, get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, open a SEPARATE business checking account than your family’s and apply for your NPI. Order your business cards, postcards and marketing stuff. (I use VistaPrint). That is all business related and necessary. But don’t get hung up on it and don’t spend a lot of money on it. Get a scale, but not the best on the market. Women trust stepping on scales and then stepping on the scales with their babies in arms if they are worried about their baby’s weight. You do not need the $600 scale. Figure out how you will keep track of your clients. However, it doesn’t have to be electronic, an app or complicated. Find out what works for you and use it. I use Excel to keep track of how many clients I serve monthly and yearly, how much I charged, how many miles I drove and who referred them.
It is a whirlwind, I know and this is just the tip of the iceberg for the successful private practice. Stay tuned for more tips in part 2!
This is a guest post from Brandy Walters, BBA, IBCLC, she runs In Home Lactation Specialists, LLC. You can find her on Facebook here. Look for part 2 coming soon.
Are you a lactation specialist (of any kind) in private practice? Consider sharing your experience – tips, lessons learned, challenges, etc. in Galactablog’s “Words from the Wise” series. Contact us here or at email@example.com.
21 thoughts on “Words from the Wise: The 5 Essential Tips to Starting Your Own Private Lactation Practice”
Hi! you mention that in Fredricksburg, VA the demand for lactation services was minimal but that where you are currently, in MI, there is demand. I’m curious what you think is the reason that there wasn’t demand in VA? Too few people in the area? Or socio demographics? If an IBCLC can choose where to practice, what type of area do you think she should look for? Higher income? Higher population? etc. Thanks!
In my experience the demand was just not there for my services. Fredericksburg was much more rural with less people than the market I now service.
As for where to practice, that is solely the IBCLCs decision. I spoke with an IBCLC who serves a specific area for a discount or for free as part of her calling.
Pingback: Words from the Wise: The nitty gritty of starting your own private lactation practice | galactablog
Thank you! I am starting a private practice and the office, paperwork and marketing side of things is overwhelming to me. I like that you said “Don’t get hung up on it.”
Love this! Thank you!
Are you still looking to expand your service area? I’m an RN and have been working with moms and baby’s since 2009. I’m a lactation consultant at a large medical institution in Michigan. I received my IBCLC this past April. I am very much interested in home visits. I currently see inputs and outputs.
Thanks for writing. I’ve forwarded your message personally to Brandy.
Could you recommend a scale to purchase for a new private practice IBCLC?
Great question. This is going to be a blog post eventually. I can’t personally recommend one, but I do know that lots of IBCLCs in private practice use Medela’s Baby Weigh Scale if they can afford it. Another popular (and more affordable choice) is Tanita, I believe it’s about 1/2 of the price of Medela’s. Marsden also makes a scale that some use, it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Tanita. Many find used versions on Ebay or buy cheaper scales while they save up money for the more expensive ones. For the most accurate results, you want to make sure to get a scale that is accurate to 1-2 grams (FYI: you’ll notice a big price increase from 1-2 grams).
Here’s a video on how to weigh infants you may find helpful too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlQp8QKx5Es&feature=youtu.be
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! This is perfect!
Thank you! As a new IBCLC in private practice I was looking for some word of wisdom to guide me! Will definetly get the book. Any recommendations of what scale I should purchase to start with?
There’s a brand new book out on private practice for IBCLCs that is getting rave reviews, it’s titled, “Paperless Private Practice for the IBCLC” by ANNIE FRISBIE, IBCLC, MA. You can check it out here: https://www.paperlessibclc.com/
As regards to your question about scales, that’s a terrific question [This is going to be a blog post eventually]. I can’t personally recommend or endorse one, but I do know that lots of IBCLCs in private practice use Medela’s Baby Weigh Scale if they can afford it. Another popular (and more affordable choice) is Tanita, I believe it’s about 1/2 of the price of Medela’s. Marsden also makes a scale that some use, it’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Tanita. Many find used versions on Ebay or buy cheaper scales while they save up money for the more expensive ones. For the most accurate results, you want to make sure to get a scale that is accurate to 1-2 grams (FYI: you’ll notice a big price increase from 1-2 grams). Hope this information helps, good luck!
Thank you again! One more question. Do I need to carry a hospital grade pump with me to every new consultation? Maybe renting one prior to visits and purchasing various flange sizes?
I never carried hospital grade pumps with me to home consultations, I did carry a smaller manual pump with me and different flange sizes though, along with different sizes of nipple shields. I was familiar with the popular brands and models available in my country (Lebanon at the time). I’m not sure if others carry a hospital grade pump with them to home visits, maybe they can chime in here. My quick thoughts: they are very expensive to purchase (easily 3-5x the retail price abroad!), and personally, I like showing mothers how to use the pumps they have already so they feel confident and comfortable with what they have. When I was living in Lebanon, there was only a few hospital grade pumps for rent in the ENTIRE country, so for me, it didn’t make sense to show mothers a pump that they most likely wouldn’t be using. Also, I don’t recommend hospital grade pumps in all cases.
Thank you! Awesome that make sense 🙂
How do you think the hiring market is for new IBCLCs? Just googling, it doesn’t seem that there are that many positions posted in hospitals/offices. I am working on my FNP, but also considering becoming an IBCLC, do you think that as an FNP (working for a primary care clinic), I would be able to put my lactation consultation skills to use? I love the idea of becoming an IBCLC, but I am afraid of putting in the time and money and not being able to find a job or use my skills.
I think the hiring market is going to drastically differ from State to State, county to county, etc. In some States, hospitals ONLY hire IBCLCs that are also RNs, whereas others (Washington and Oregon I believe), will hire IBCLCs who are not RNs. WIC’s requirements also differ State to State – for example, in some, they will only hire IBCLCs who are also Registered Dietitians, whereas others don’t have that requirement. So really, I think it’s going to depend on your area. For you personally, if you’re going for your FNP, then you have the medical background a lot of cross-listed IBCLC jobs require, whereas many don’t. As a FNP, you’d definitely be using lactation knowledge and training and your patients would greatly benefit – but you don’t have to necessarily go the IBCLC route either. For instance, how about starting with a 45 hour training course where you’d be certified as a “Lactation Educator Counselor” for example. These hours would count for the IBCLC exam if you decided to go that route, but you may not need to.
I do know many IBCLCs who have carved out their own jobs in their own communities – teaming up with pediatricians, ob/gyns, etc. So even though IBCLC jobs may not be listed, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there – it may just take some creativity and thinking outside the box.
I’m sorry if this is answered in the book, it but do you have to carry liability insurance? I live in the Kalamazoo (area) of Michigan and would love to start up an in home service for this area!
If you’re in private practice, then YES, I highly recommend that you take out liability insurance. Personally I wouldn’t practice without it. This is essential, not only to protect yourself and your own family, but to protect your patients too. To the best of my knowledge, your homeowners will NOT cover any type of in-home business issue (although I’m not a lawyer, so you could always call them and ask). I believe it’s required in some states for private practice health professionals. I know USLCA/ILCA offers discounted liability insurance for private practice IBCLCs. Here are some links to try, you can also ask on various lactation-related Facebook groups if you’re active on Facebook, that would be my go-to recommendation.
Did you file a Standard LLC or a professional LLC? Thanks!
I’m not sure which LLC Brandi Walters filed, but you can contact her here and ask her yourself: https://www.inhomelactationspecialistsllc.com/be-in-touch.html