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!
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 IBLCE 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.
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. Your health sciences education courses do not have an expiration date so it does not matter how long ago you took them, just that you did.
You will need the following courses from an accredited institution of higher learning:
- Human Anatomy
- Human Physiology
- Infant Child Growth & Development
- Introduction to Clinical Research
- 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 90 Hours of Lactation-Specific Education
The IBLCE exam tests the application of knowledge in the disciplines listed in the Detailed Content Outline. So it is important that your lactation education cover these disciplines. The very best way to ensure that your 90 hours of lactation education covers the Detailed Content Outline 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. Your lactation education is only good for 5 years. You must apply to take the exam within 5 years of completing your lactation education.
- See our LEAARC-approved Comprehensive Lactation Course - Scholarship Available
- See our all-online 90-hour course - No travel required!
Get Your Clinical Hours
The number of clinical hours you need and how you get them will be determined by your Pathway. Your clinical experience should be as broad as possible and should cover as many of the IBCLC Clinical Competencies as possible. 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. Your clinical hours are also only good for 5 years. You must have accrued the required number of hours within the 5 years immediately preceding our application date for the exam.
Complete Your Application for the Exam
Applications are due 5 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.
Be Prepared to Spend Some Money
The exam itself currently costs about $660 USD, 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 the IBLCE exam. The IBLCE exam tests the application of knowledge in the disciplines listed in the Detailed Content Outline. It is important to make sure your education and clinical experience has covered these disciplines so you will be able to pass the exam and be prepared to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies as an IBCLC.
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!