All the info you need to figure out how to become an IBCLC can be found on the website for the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. The first time I visited the website, I found it a bit confusing, so I’ll lay out some things here to help clear it up.
First, there are several different lactation helper levels; only one is IBCLC. This post is primarily about how to become an IBCLC, but I figured it’s useful to understand the different levels of lactation support you may encounter.
● IBCLC– International Board Certified Lactation Consultant – studied in depth the
science of lactation, put in many hours (sometimes 1000 or more) of in-person work with lactating women, sits for an exam similar to boards for doctors. This is the only internationally standardized lactation credential available.
● CLC – Certified Lactation Counselor – taken a 45-hour course in breastfeeding
management training and passed a final examination. CLCs are required to obtain
continuing education credits every 3 years to maintain their certification.
● CLE – Certified Lactation Educator – taken a 20-hour lactation education course. Their
primary role, as the name suggests, is to educate families interested in learning more about breastfeeding.
● LLLI Leaders – La Leche League International Leaders – accredited by La Leche League International to offer mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding. LLLI Leaders have breastfed their own babies for at least nine months, adhere to LLLI statements of belief, and have demonstrated knowledge of breastfeeding through essays and personal work with her supporting Leader as well as the Leader Accreditation Department. Generally, a Leader works for about a year to earn her accreditation.
● PC – Breastfeeding Peer Counselors – someone who offers mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding, advocates for breastfeeding as the normal, optimal way of feeding an infant, and helps to establish or prolong the time spent breastfeeding. Peer counselors are accredited by various agencies (WIC, for instance) and have varying qualifications. Most have completed around 20 hours of training and taken some sort of examination.
Now, let’s get to the nitty gritty about how to become an IBCLC — again, all this info (and more, in much more detail) can be found at www.iblce.org.
There are three pathways through which you can obtain your certification — I won’t go into the details of each pathway, but I’ll give you some help in deciding which one might be for you. They are outlined in detail here.
Before I talk about the specific pathways, regardless of which pathway you choose, all require the following:
● 14 health sciences courses — if you have an undergraduate degree in some science, you may have a lot of these already covered. Details about the requirements are outlined here.
● At least 90 hours of lactation specific education that was completed within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination. The lactation specific
education may be obtained through classroom, distance learning, and/or online
education. Keep in mind that many courses are listed as 50 min, and not a true hour.
You need 90 full hours (60 min each).
● In-person lactation specific clinical experience — the extent and type of this experience changes with the different pathways.
Now, here are the three pathways with a small level of detail to help you decide which one fits your situation best. Again, all are outlined in detail here.
● Pathway 1 — this pathway is for people who already have a degree in one of the
recognized health professions. These professions include: dentist, dietician, midwife, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, physical therapist or physiotherapist, physician or medical doctor, speech pathologist or therapist.
You can also choose this pathway if you work/volunteer as one of the recognized
mother support counselors. The difference between this pathway and pathway 3 is that you do your 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical hours while working/volunteering in one of the above capacities (more on pathway 3 below).
● Pathway 2 — this pathway requires that you graduate from an academic program in
human lactation and breastfeeding which IBLCE approves. Currently, there are 5 of
these programs in the USA.
● Pathway 3 — this pathway requires you to make a plan that is verified and approved by IBCLE. I like to think of this pathway as the one for the lay person. You do your lactation specific clinical hours under the supervision of an IBCLC mentor. Before you begin, you make a plan with your mentor for the successful completion of your certification and IBCLE approves that plan.
I think that about covers it! If you have more questions about this process, please feel free to ask them in the comments below. We have a few members/admins who are in the middle of this process, and we have a couple IBCLCs in the Facebook group as well.