If you are not a Recognized Health Professional, the IBLCE requires that you complete 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:
And these courses from either an accredited institution of higher learning or a continuing education provider:
Breastfeeding Outlook has a Health Sciences Continuing Education Program that covers all of these except for Basic Life Support for just $99!
The very best way to get your 90 hours of lactation education is to take a Comprehensive Lactation Course. You can be assured that these courses will properly prepare your to take and pass the IBCLC exam and to have a successful career as an IBCLC.
To accrue your clinical hours, you will need to have a mentor who is an IBCLC in good standing. Your mentor will help you complete your Pathway 3 Plan, which must be approved before you begin to accrue your clinical hours. Before you begin accruing your 500 clinical hours, you will need to spend an indeterminate amount of time in training with your mentor. Your mentor will determine how much time you must spend in training. The IBLCE's Pathway 3 Plan Guide has more detailed information on completing your lactation-specific clinical hours.
Applications are due at least FIVE MONTHS prior to 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.
The exam itself currently costs about $660 in Tier 1 countries (which includes the United States), due when you apply. The Candidate Information Guide has additional information on costs for other countries. Completing your exam requirements may also be costly, especially if you need to take some college courses or need a mentor for your clinical hours. So determine the potential costs, start saving or clear off a credit card. Look into available scholarships (Yes! We have one!) and don't be afraid to ask for support from relatives and friends. This is a career, not a job, and it is worth the investment of your time and resources.
Breastfeeding Outlook offers a scholarship for our 90-hour programs each year. Click here to get more information or apply. We also have gift certificates. Just ask for them for your birthday or the holidays.
The IBLCE automatically audits a certain percentage of all applications. After you submit your application, you will be immediately notified if you will be audited. So have all of your back-up documentation available when you submit your application so an audit will not threaten your hard work and preparation.
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 IBCLC 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.
This is especially important for candidates that have been working in lactation for a while. 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. Additionally, you must know the standard recommendations for dealing with lactation management issues, not the way your hospital or clinic 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 one for you. 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.
Scores are released about 3 months after the exam and are highly anticipated. Know when your scores are due and watch for the notice. If you pass, you are immediately an IBCLC and your dream is complete!
Every year, approximately 500 people fail the exam. So, if this happens to you, remember that you are not alone. Don't give up and don't be afraid to reach out for help. Go back to the company that provided your exam prep tools and let them know you did not pass. Some companies, like Breastfeeding Outlook, have programs to help their clients get back on their feet and try again. Remember how much time, energy, effort, and money you have put into your dream already and don't give up on it easily.
Here at Breastfeeding Outlook, we strive to help all of our clients reach their dream, whether they do so on the first try, or the third. 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!
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