Connecticut Lawmaker Looks to License Lactation Consultants

State Rep. Jennifer Leeper, D-Fairfield (CT Examiner).


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HARTFORD — For the second year in a row, State Rep. Jennifer Leeper, D-Fairfield, is  proposing a bill that would require the approximately 250 lactation consultants in the state be licensed, in an effort to protect patient safety and ensure that poor mothers have access to those services.

Connecticut Medicaid offers coverage to pregnant women and includes services from licensed fields, such as lactation consultants, who provide breastfeeding support, guidance and education to women when they are pregnant and after they give birth.

Leeper noted that currently, individuals in need of lactation consultants must either cover the cost themselves or rely on private insurance, with the extent of coverage and the number of visits allowed varying significantly among insurance providers. Some women might never need a lactation consultant, while others may need several visits, she said, with each visit costing upwards of $200.

Leeper told CT Examiner last week that many women can’t afford to pay for lactation consultants or are not aware of the services.

“Breastfeeding is correlated with significantly better health outcomes both for mothers and their infants,” said Leeper, a mother of two boys. “For women who have difficulty during their breastfeeding journey and do not have access to a clinical professional to help them, that is a challenge. Your body has been through a lot and it’s a really stressful time, and you feel a tremendous amount of pressure because, literally, your baby’s life is dependent on you being able to feed it.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a recent national representative sample found that breastfeeding was associated with a 21 percent reduced risk of postneonatal death for all infants and a 31 percent reduced risk for Black infants. Additionally, it found that mothers who breastfeed experience lower risks of type 2 diabetes and breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer.

If the measure passes, Connecticut would be the fourth state in the country to require that lactation consultants be licensed, following Rhode Island, New York and Georgia. 

“Rhode Island is a state we are trying to model ourselves after,” Leeper said. “Rhode Island is all inclusive and is not excluding peer support, for example.”

Last year’s version of the bill passed the state House but did not reach the state Senate for a vote. This year’s bill, which is currently being crafted, would need the approval of the 37-member Public Health Committee.

Leeper anticipates bipartisan support for her proposal.

“I think the lived experience of having an infant and trying to breastfeed is universal,” she said.

Leeper’s proposal has the support of Public Health Committee Co-Chair Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield.

“Formula is extremely expensive, and breastfeeding is something that can help new parents when it comes to dealing with the changes in the budget that come when you have a new baby in your life,” she said. “I, for one, was a new mom and I had a husband who was unemployed. I wanted to breastfeed and was doubly committed to it because I knew it was something that would help us to be able to make ends meet. Clearly, however, the health benefits are the driving factors for me now in my public health role.”

McCarthy Vahey, committee co-chair since 2023, said the group will hold a public hearing in March once the draft is filed.

“The great thing about the committee process and through the hearing process is that we will get to hear from all perspectives about any concerns people might have about the merit of the bill,” McCarthy Vahey told CT Examiner.

McCarthy Vahey acknowledged that her committee received pushback last year from lactation consultants in the state who did not want to go through the licensing process, which would entail 1,000 hours of supervised clinical work.

“The pushback last time was from folks who have been practicing [as lactation consultants] and might feel that going through the process of licensure and the training would be an onerous task,” she said. “It’s a matter of conversation and education and understanding that we are not suggesting that they can’t continue to provide education and support. This bill would specifically ensure that those who are lactation consultants have the right training and background.”

Leeper said the bill would allow lactation consultants up to three years to get a license through the state Department of Public Health, although it could be done in less time.

Amy Gagliardi, a board certified lactation consultant and the senior program manager of prenatal services for the Middletown-based Community Health Center, told CT Examiner that breastfeeding “has many benefits for babies, but it also supports the mother’s health in many ways, such as supporting cardiovascular health.”

Using the services of a lactation consultant, Gagliardi said, is critical during the breastfeeding process.

“It’s a very sensitive period after a baby is born,” she said. “We have hormone changes and we are getting used to a new family. It’s us and this new little person. There are so many physical and psychological problems and changes happening at the same time, and you need the support of an expert. … Not only do we support the mother emotionally, but we provide the right guidance and information to make sure that her goals of breastfeeding are met.”

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950