I am employed as an RN in an LDRP unit but I'm an IBCLC also (labor delivery recovery postpartum - my hospital is smallish and doesn't yet have an IBCLC position). I'll try to answer your questions:
Does anyone know if it is a good idea or not to go straight to lactation consultant certification and not become an RN at all?
I know it is possible, but is it wise, in terms of getting a job afterwards?
Most hospitals want RN-IBCLC's.
Also, what kind of hours/schedule can I expect as a lact. consultant?
Just depends on the job, but they are usually more daytime than shifts like regular nurses. Probably a lot of part-time positions as well. Check job listings here for some descriptions and requirements:
Online Lactation Consultant job search sites & compensation info.
Is it more of a M-F kind of job, as compared to nursing?
see above; usually it's more daytime, especially if the hospital doesn't employ 24/7 IBCLC's... more people are awake for consults in the day (and weekends).
Can anyone give me some idea about the salary I can expect?
From what I know, an RN salary is usually the expected minimum, again see the ads. Some people get paid along the lines of CNS positions (clinical nurse specialists). See FAQ's here at the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA): ILCA - Frequently Asked Questions
Here's the salary.com page, although I have not always found it to be accurate (in general, not necessarily for LC's):
Average Lactation Consultant Salary.
You can find more info at www.iblce.org
also (I think they are working on the site at the moment, I can't get there but it's usually always up)