How Do I Become a Lactation Consultant?

Have you been dreaming of becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)? It's time to make that dream a reality. Get started on your IBCLC journey today!

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Get Informed

Attend Marie's Free Webinar, Becoming a Lactation Consultant and let Marie help you:

  • Determine your Pathway
  • Identify the college-level courses you may still need
  • Figure out how to get your clinical hours
  • Decide if you need a mentor
  • Get your 90 hours of lactation education
  • Pass the IBCLC Exam!

What are the Requirements to Sit for the Exam?

Determine Your Pathway

You will need to read the IBLCE's Candidate Information Guide to determine which Pathway will work best for you.

Basically, you will need the following:

  • Health Sciences Education
  • Lactation-specific Education
  • Lactation-specific Clinical Experience

How you get these things and the number of required hours of clinical experience vary depending on the Pathway you choose. See the details in each Pathway link, below.

Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Complete Your Health Sciences Education

The IBLCE requires that you have completed several college-level health sciences courses as well as a few continuing education health sciences courses. Read the IBLCE's Health Sciences Education Guide for more information and review their Health Sciences Summary Page.

You will need the following courses from an accredited institution of higher learning:

  • Biology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Infant Child Growth & Development
  • Introduction to Clinical Research
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology or Counseling Skills or Communication Skills
  • Sociology or Cultural Sensitivity or Cultural Anthropology

And these courses from either an accredited institution of higher learning or a continuing education provider:

  • Basic Life Support
  • Medical Documentation
  • Medical Terminology
  • Occupational Safety & Security for Health Professionals
  • Professional Ethics for Health Professionals
  • Universal Safety Precautions & Infection Control

Breastfeeding Outlook has a Health Sciences Continuing Education Program that covers all of these except for Basic Life Support (which must be taken locally) for just $99!

Get your Health Science Continuing Education

Get Your 90 Hours of Lactation-Specific Education

The very best way to get your 90 hours of lactation education is to take a LEAARC-Approved Comprehensive Lactation Course. You can be assured that these courses will properly prepare your to take and pass the IBLCE exam and to have a successful career as an IBCLC.

Get Your Clinical Hours

The number of clinical hours you need and how you get them will be determined by your Pathway. The IIBLCE's Candidate Information Guide has more detailed information on accruing and counting lactation-specific clinical hours. Remember, if you are doing Pathway 3, you cannot being accruing clinical hours until your Pathway 3 Plan has been approved by the IBLCE.

Read Marie's blogs on Clinical Hours

Complete Your Application for the Exam

Applications are due 6 months before the exam

And you must have ALL of your requirements completed BEFORE you apply. So this means you need to start early! If you still need to complete some college courses, you need to start even earlier. Give yourself at least a year to get your clinical hours and sign up for your 90 hours of lactation education about a year before you plan to test.

See the IBCLC Exam Dates & Deadlines

Be Prepared to Spend Some Money

The exam itself currently costs about $600, due when you apply. Completing your exam requirements will also be costly, especially if you need to take some college courses or get a mentor. So determine the potential costs, clear off a credit card or start saving. Don't be afraid to ask for support from relatives and friends. We have gift certificates available. Just ask for them for your birthday or the holidays! Marie also offers a scholarship for her 90-hour program each year. So do some research and get some help. This is a career, not a job, and it is worth the investment of your time and resources.

Prepare for the Exam

Once you've fulfilled all your requirements and submitted your application, now it is time to prepare to take that exam. This is not an easy exam. We hear from smart people every year that failed. And we often hear statements like, "That was the hardest exam I have every taken!" and "That was harder than my nursing boards!" So be prepared. You will need to spend a significant amount of time studying and you will need to practice taking computerized, timed, multiple-choice test questions. Also, the IBLCE Exam is about 2/3 image-based. This means that the there will be an image provided and a question asked about the image. This makes the exam even more challenging. So you need to practice answering image-based questions, too.

As Marie often says, "This is a GLOBAL exam!" And, because it is global, you must be prepared to answer questions about topics you may never face in your practice. You must know the standard recommendations for dealing with lactation management issues, not the way your hospital does it. You must be able to sort out the right "exam response" vs. what is right in your day-to-day practice. You must keep this in mind as you prepare.

When you are ready, there are many companies out there with exam prep materials. Do your research and find the best ones. We offer our own selection of review courses, practice exams, drill questions, and Marie's live seminar, Picture Perfect, which helps you learn how to analyze those pesky images on the exam. We are here to support you from the initial stages of gathering information all the way to passing the exam and beyond. Your Success is our Goal!

Felix Biancuzzo Scholarship