Resources for Future International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)

Author: Emma Waugh

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional that works to support mothers and their babies have the most successful breastfeeding experience possible An IBCLC is the “only internationally certified healthcare professional in the clinical management of breastfeeding and human lactation.1” Additionally, the utilization of an IBCLC has been shown to significantly improve breastfeeding outcomes and lower health costs1. There are several paths to becoming an IBCLC that all involve developing a strong background in the health sciences, clinical experience with breastfeeding, lactation specific education and taking the IBCLE exam. Although the certification process is rather extensive, the rewards of the job make the whole process worthwhile.

There are three pathways to becoming an IBCLC depending on applicants’ background and preferences:

1) Current Healthcare Professionals and Recognized Mother Support Counselors: In order to be eligible to sit for the IBCLE exam, healthcare professionals and mother support counselors must have 1,000 hours of clinical practice in lactation and breastfeeding care in the previous 5 years, 90-hours of lactation specific education and 14 health science courses. The clinical experience does not need to be directly supervised and may be accumulated through one’s routine job responsibilities.

2) Accredited Academic Programs: There are several lactation education programs that will provide the necessary requirements for the IBCLC exam. These requirements include 14 health sciences courses, 90 hours of lactation specific education and 300 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical experience.

3) Mentorship: Candidates who wish to complete the requirements for the IBCLC exam without enrolling in an academic program may do so under the mentorship of a currently practicing IBCLC. They will still need to complete 14 health science courses and 90 hours of lactation specific education in addition to 500 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical experience. Candidates following this pathway must gain approval with IBCLE before beginning their clinical hours.

For more information on all the pathways, go to:

Content of IBCLC Exam2
1. Development and Nutrition (Infant & Maternal) 5. Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology
2. Physiology and Endocrinology 6. Techniques
3. Pathology (Infant & Maternal) 7. Clinical Skills
4. Pharmacology and Toxicology

About the Exam: The IBCLC exam is administered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and is given twice a year (April and October). There are 7 subject areas covered on the exam listed in the table to the right. In order to take the exam, you must apply using the online portal which can be found here: IBCLC Online Portal You will be notified about two weeks after submitting the application and all necessary documentation if you have been approved to take the exam. The exam takes about 4 hours and is usually administered on the computer.

Resources for Studying for the Exam

1. Lactation Education Resources:
This online resource provides video lectures, timed practice exams and other study materials to help prepare for the IBCLC exam. Costs for this program range from $80-$159.

2. Experience Navigating the Compute Test Environment:
This will provide you with an interactive practice exam to help you get a feel for what the test will look like on test day. It will not include practice questions for the IBCLC exam, but will help you practice the logistics of computer test taking.

3. Health E-Learning Lactation Exam Practice:
This online resource provides practice with answering multiple-choice questions in subject areas relevant to questions they might see on the IBCLC exam. This resource is available for a one-time fee of $97.

4. Mometrix Test Preparation:
This online resource provides some free study materials as well as more extensive material available for purchase.

The IBCLE website offers much more detailed information on all aspects of becoming an IBCLC: There are currently over 28,000 people that have gone through this process and are serving as IBCLCs around the world. According to a report issued by the Georgia Health Policy Center, it would require a minimum of 763 full-time IBCLCs to provide the services recommended by the Surgeon General at the service rate of 8.6 per 1000 births. Currently, Georgia has around 350 IBCLCs.

Best of luck to you has you go through this process and enter the exciting world of clinical breastfeeding care!