An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a specialist in the field of lactation. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) is the ONLY certifying body that is able to award this credential. Please visit their website to learn more about the prerequisites to sit the Board Exam.
To qualify as an IBCLC you will be required to achieve a passing grade on the IBLCE examination.
Prior to sitting the IBLCE examination, you must:
- have extensive practical experience in assisting mothers and babies with breastfeeding. Lactation-specific clinical practice hours required (breastfeeding counseling): 1000 hours for Pathway 1, 300 hours for Pathway 2, and 500 hours for Pathway 3. If you are unsure of which Pathway is best for you to consult the "Which IBLCE Pathway is Right for Me?" document.
- complete a comprehensive, evidence-based course of study on breastfeeding and lactation. The minimum lactation-specific education required for ALL candidates is 90 hours. As of April 2021 in addition to the 90 hours of lactation-specific education, five (5) hours of communication skills education will also be required. The BreastEd program meets and exceeds these criteria.
- If you are not a registered/licensed health professional you will also have to complete the 14 Health Sciences Education courses
- 8 subjects each of one academic credit session at a higher learning education institution. These subjects are human anatomy; human physiology; biology; infant and child growth and development; nutrition; sociology; introduction to research; and psychology.
- And you will need to complete continuing education courses in basic life support; medical terminology; medical documentation; universal safety precautions and infection control; occupational safety; and ethics.
Health e-Learning has online programs in medical terminology and professional ethics that will meet the requirement for those subjects.
Both your clinical experience gained and your lactation-specific educational preparation must be acquired within the 5 years prior to sitting the IBLCE examination.
You will be able to obtain all of the lactation-specific education you require for the Board exam online with Health e-Learning. (Exception: students qualifying under Pathway 2.)
The minimum lactation-specific educational preparation accepted is 90 hours, however, IBLCE strongly recommends that students complete a comprehensive, evidence-based LEAARC-approved program of 120+ hours duration. It is unlikely that you will be able to acquire the depth and breadth of knowledge examined by IBLCE and required as a professional in the field from courses of study less than this.
Health e-Learning's BreastEd Series is a comprehensive, evidence-based program covering all the lactation topics examined by IBLCE. The BreastEd Program has received LEAARC-approval, indicating it provides quality preparation for IBLCE certification as determined by a task force set up by IBLCE and ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association). For more information about the BreastEd Series click here.
When you have gained the experience and completed your course of study you may apply to IBLCE to sit their Exam. The IBLCE Exam is offered twice a year (April and October). The Exam is offered around the World at many, many exam sites during this time. If you contact your regional office of IBLCE they will tell you the closing date for exam applications and where your nearest exam site will be.
Before deciding if this is the career path you would like to take, please read further about how to Prepare for IBCLC Certification. I'd also encourage you to read the sections linked from that page to the Scope of Practice for IBCLCs and other important documents. IBLCE also offers a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
If this is for you, then I welcome you to a wonderful and rewarding career.
Frequently asked questions:
I've been assisting mothers and babies with breastfeeding for many years as a qualified nurse (or doctor, or midwife). I've studied lactation before. Do I have to do any further study?
Was at least 90 hours of your formal lactation-specific education acquired within the 5 years before you intend to sit the IBLCE exam?
Did it extensively and intensively cover all the topics the IBLCE will examine you on? This can be found in the Detailed Content Outline
Do you have an academic transcript to support this?
If the answer to any of these is 'no', then you do not yet meet the IBLCE prerequisites and must do more study.
I don't have any health professional qualifications, but I have experienced (or watched) breastfeeding and I want to help other mothers. Why does IBLCE make it so hard for me to do this?
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are recognized as health professionals in their own right, with professional and legal responsibilities. Because of this, and before they can be allowed to consult with mothers unsupervised, it is important that their knowledge and experience is at a very high level. The health of the next generation is at stake!
I only HAVE to get 90 hours of education to sit the IBLCE Exam. Which of your courses can I do to meet the minimum requirement?
We don't offer a course for IBCLC preparation that is only 90 hours. Our faculty felt that we'd rather put our efforts into a comprehensive program that will give you the confidence to take and pass the IBLCE Exam and to work competently as an IBCLC afterward. The BreastEd Series (120 hours) is the program we offer to prepare future IBCLCs.
I'm just beginning to work in the field and I won't be taking the IBLCE Exam for at least 3 - 5 years. Should I do the BreastEd Series now?
Yes, that is appropriate. As you continue to gain your clinical experience you will be applying and consolidating the knowledge you've gained from your studies. You will gain maximum benefit from both your clinical experience and your studies.
Can Health e-Learning help me to get clinical experience?
No, sorry currently we can't - It is worthwhile asking the IBCLC association in your region/country to suggest possible mentors, consider volunteering as a breastfeeding support counselor or refer to the ILCA Clinical Instruction Directory.
Can I get my General Education courses with Health e-Learning?
All licensed, registered or recognized health professionals are deemed by IBLCE to have met these criteria. For those who are not health professionals, the eight Group 1 subjects must be obtained from an accredited college or university and each is of one academic term in length. Health e-Learning does NOT provide these subjects.
Of the six additional subjects required Medical Terminology and Professional Ethics can be obtained from Health e-Learning.
OK, I've definitely decided I want to become a Lactation Consultant. I'm going to enroll in the BreastEd Series. Are there any other courses that you recommend?
Congratulations on your decision. Yes, ET01 Ethics for Lactation Consultants will be beneficial, and the Expert Lectures will be invaluable. Then, between January and March or July and September of the year you are taking the exam, enroll in the Lactation Exam Practice. You'll be very well prepared and confident.