Newswise — SAN DIEGO, CA – With demand for lactation consultants continuing to grow, University of California San Diego Extension announced it had recently received accreditation for its Lactation Consultant program from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), making it one of only four programs in the world to have that recognition. CAAHEP is an accrediting agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation that currently accredits more than 2,100 education programs in 30 health science professions.

The CAAHEP accreditation covers Extension’s Pathway 2 program, which is designed for those who want to train as lactation consultants and need both didactic education and clinical experience. The UC San Diego Extension’s Lactation Consultant pathway 2 course of study is based on the guidelines, objectives and competencies established by the Lactation Education and Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC) and its approval and recommendation is a precursor to being accredited by CAAHEP. Although UC San Diego Extension does not issue the credential of Lactation Consultant, its course of study supports the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) for the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) credential.

With the rise in breastfeeding rates, there has been an increased demand for qualified lactation specialists as well as a need for more standardized and consistent training and credentialing. It is estimated that in 2013 76.5 percent of American women attempted to nurse their infants, up from 58 percent who attempted to breastfeed in 1985.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control hopes to increase numbers of mothers who attempt breastfeeding to 81.9 percent by 2020.

Lactation consultants are seen as key to increasing breastfeeding success rates. In their work, they interact with patients in a role similar to nurse practitioners and typically work independently to triage and manage a clinical lactation concern for mother, baby and family unit.

Despite the increase in breastfeeding and the demand for lactation consultants, UC San Diego Extension is the only one of the four CAAHEP accredited programs that is offered online and serves both national and international students. This new accreditation will allow Extension to offer its state-of-the-art education and training and meet the standardized guidelines of CAAHEP and the IBLCE.

“This accreditation provides those who are interested in becoming a lactation consultant a credible and flexible way to get the training they need,” said Gini Baker, RN, MPH, IBCLC and program director for UC San Diego lactation programs. “The studies are clear that breastfeeding improves an infant’s health and Extension’s program is designed to train lactation consultants who can assist new mothers on this important journey.”

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About UC San Diego Extension: As the continuing education and public programs arm of the university, UC San Diego Extension educates approximately 62,000 enrollees a year, which translates to about 25,000 students in nearly 4,300 courses. UC San Diego Extension is recognized nationally and internationally for linking the public to expert professionals and the knowledge resources of the University of California.