IBCLC? CPD? CNM? Decoding the Alphabet Soup of Postpartum Certification

postpartum certification

The world of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting support feels like it is booming—which is a GREAT thing for new parents. More support people = more support! But as you figure out what kind of support you need and who you need to provide it, can be be hard to figure out who is who and what is what. We’re talking specifically about postpartum certification. 

There are so many different trainings and certifications for postpartum professionals—and it seems they all come with special letters after the professionals’ name! You’re probably familiar with MD, but what exactly is an IBCLC? What’s the difference between a CNM and CPM? How about doula certifications CPD, CD, and more? 

Let us assist! Here’s our breakdown of the postpartum certification vocabulary. 

CBE: Certified Birth Educator

Someone who is qualified to teach childbirth education. Every person seeking to become a Childbirth Educator (CBE) must complete an exam, research, and gather information that will prepare them to educate modern families on childbirth and early parenting.

CD: Certified Doula 

Not every doula is certified, but this distinction means the doula with this behind their name is! Doulas are not mandated to be certified to practice in any state, but some do choose to get trained and become certified. 

CFSD: Certified Full-Spectrum Doula

A certified full spectrum doula is someone who supports people throughout the full spectrum of  reproduction, from including miscarriage, abortion, pregnancy, loss, postpartum, and more. 

CLC: Certified Lactation Counselor

CLC stands for Certified Lactation Counselor, which is a certification of the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice. Professionals with a CLC certification have attended a 45 hour training course and then passed a breastfeeding exam. They provide general and specific support for breastfeeding, including to families who have questions or problems during the course of breastfeeding/lactation.

CLE: Certified Lactation Educator

CLE stands for Certifies Lactation Educator and is a certification of the organization CAPPA. CLEs educate, counsel, and support families and the community by providing evidence-based information about lactation and breastfeeding. They often teach lactation classes and offer counseling, but do not provide clinical support. 

CBS: Certified Breastfeeding Specialist

The training for a CBS is similar to that of a CLC, with over 50 hours of clinical lactation training. People with a CBS certification have to pass an exam about lactation. This is often used as a stepping stone to the IBCLC certification (see below for IBCLC details).

CM: Certified Midwife 

Certified midwives have the same graduate-level training  as certified nurse midwives, except they have a background in a health field other than nursing. CMs are college-educated and certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives. Like CNMs, CMs receive representation through ACNM. and must therefore meet the same standards for certification. Like CNMs, CMs may provide a full range of primary healthcare services, from adolescence to beyond menopause. Certified midwives work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, health clinics, OB/GYN practices, birth centers, and private homes. CMs are currently only licensed to practice in Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Maine, and Rhode Island.

CNM: Certified Nurse Midwife

A Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is a nurse with a graduate degree who specializes in prenatal care, labor and birth, and postpartum care. CNMs are well qualified to provide care to people not just during the childbearing years, but also across their lifespan. They provide regular reproductive health visits, gynecologic checkups, contraceptives, family planning services, and treatment of STDs, among other services. CNMs are also qualified to provide neonatal care during the first 28 days of life. They attend births in hospitals, birth centers, and at home. 

CPD: Certified Postpartum Doula 

A certified postpartum doula is someone who supports people and families after birth and during the fourth trimester (the first three months after birth).  They provide emotional, mental, physical, and informational support to new families during the weeks and months immediately following birth. This can look many different ways, depending on your needs and preferences, but it is always family-centered, non-medical, and supportive. 

CPM: Certified Professional Midwife

The CPM credential is the only midwifery credential that requires the holder to demonstrate knowledge and have experience in providing midwifery services in out-of-hospital settings. Most CPMs work in their clients’ homes and in birth centers, providing care to people throughout their childbearing cycle.

DPT: Doctorate in Physical Therapy

Physical therapists focus on the motor functions of patients. They understand how the muscles and ligaments work to perform tasks, and they typically watch a patient move and perform specific tasks to diagnose their condition. PTs develop treatment plans that are designed to help the patient improve their functions and to reduce or eliminate pain. They usually prescribe exercises that are designed to help their patients improve their abilities.  The Professional Doctor of Physical Therapy program prepares individuals to become licensed physical therapists.

DO: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Osteopathic doctors are fully licensed physicians who practice in all areas of medicine. They are trained in and may also provide manual medicine therapies, such as spinal manipulation or massage therapy, as part of their treatment.

IBCLC: International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are specialists in lactation.  This can include education, support, troubleshooting, identification of problems and issues, and much more. IBCLCs have undergone rigorous training in breastfeeding, including 90 hours of education and hundreds of hours of clinical lactation support. Nurses, midwives, physicians, or doulas can also be IBCLCs. Most hospitals employ them, but they are also found in community settings like clinics, education centers, and more. IBCLC services may be reimbursable through health insurance, but it often depends on the setting—if you need or want to pay with insurance, check with them before making an appointment.

To see the full list, including letters M-Z, download our app, My Fourth, and navigate to the Postpartum Prep section. Then, click on our resource guide “The ABCs of Perinatal Providers and Caregivers.” There’s so much more to learn!