How to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

I became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 2022. You can read more about why I worked to become an IBCLC and a little about my journey here. I get asked all the time, “So HOW did you do it?”, so rather than answering mountains of emails, I figured I’d write a blog post!

I started my breastfeeding studies with the Australian Breastfeeding Association as a breastfeeding counsellor. Breastfeeding, and breastmilk, is really SO incredible! I couldn’t get enough information. After finishing my Certificate IV in breastfeeding counselling I looked into next steps to become an IBCLC.

Pathways to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

There are 3 different pathways by which individuals can work towards becoming an IBCLC. Pathway 1 is for recognised healthcare providers such as midwives, GPs, nurses and others who provide care to breastfeeding mothers in a clinical setting. Pathway 2 is for individuals who do not have a recognised healthcare provider role and will undertake the clinical hours via volunteer counsellingPathway 3 is for individuals that are able to obtain mentorship in a supervised setting. Given I wasn’t a recognised healthcare provider and didn’t have a local mentor that could provide mentorship, I obtained my certification via pathway 2. Image below of different pathways available through IBLCE.

Become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant 

So what does pathway 2 involve? 

Pathway 2 requires applicants to do:

  • A minimum of 95 hours of lactation specific education, including 5 hours focused on communication skills, within the past 5 years prior to examination application.
  • Minimum of 300 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice within past five years prior to examination application.
  • Completion of 14 health science units
  • Adherence to, with attestation, the Code of Professional Conduct for IBCLCs.

When I was undertaking my certification the main difference to the above criteria was that I had to do 1000 hours of supervised lactation specific clinical practice. For me, this involved:

  • Becoming a breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA)
  • Providing 1000 hours of counselling and associated services of volunteer work (yes, unpaid), through the ABA helpline, livechat, email counselling and in person support groups.

How can you obtain the 14 Health Science Units required to become an IBCLC? 

This is different for each person dependent on their already undertaken studies. For me, at the point of working towards becoming an IBCLC, I had already done a degree in Advanced Science, an Honours degree and a Doctorate, however these were not in a health sciences field. Due to the units I had already completed some of the needed health sciences had already been covered (Microbiology, Biochemistry and others), and so I mostly needed to focus on Sociology, Childhood Development and Childhood Psychology. For a full list of the necessary units to undertake, look here. I’m unsure if things have changed but IBLCE wouldn’t guarantee that any particular program or unit would pass audit, so you were kind of left to your own devices with working out what was appropriate and not. The Facebook Group, “Want to be an IBCLC” was so valuable for hearing other’s experiences of this and sharing information.

How can you obtain the 95 hours of lactation specific education to become an IBCLC?

Again, each applicant will do this differently, but there are multiple different courses out there that can support you in this endeavour. Some people choose to do the 95 hours as individual lectures from separate conferences or online learning platforms like those offered through Gold Learning. Others will take a specific course that has 95 hours of lactation specific education ready to work through, which *should* give you the information needed to pass the IBLCE exam. Some of the available courses include:

Marie Biancuzzo’s Lactation Education Course (I did this via scholarship and it was fantastic!)
Gold’s Lactation Academy
Health e-learning’s Breast Ed Series
Lacta Learning’s Program
– Many more, you can Google your heart out!

Scholarships to help you become an IBCLC

It can be an expensive endeavour undertaking certification to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). There are scholarships available for those who are willing to apply, and it is well worth your time and effort! I was fortunate enough to receive the LCANZ and Marie Biancuzzo Scholarships and I am so grateful for the financial support they provided me on my journey to IBCLC certification!

LCANZ’s Lyn Slatter Memorial Scholarship
Marie Biancuzzo’s Felix Biancuzzo’s Memorial Scholarship
Health E-Learning’s Trudi Szallasi Memorial Scholarship
USLCA Scholarships
MLCA Scholarships
Monetary Investment for Lactation Consultant Certification Scholarship
Diversity in Lactation Consulting Scholarship

What next? Apply for the IBCLC Exam! 

Once you have satisfied all of the ceriteria you then can apply to sit for examination through the IBLCE. This exam is only run twice a year and involves rigorous exam conditions. Around 10% of all applicants will first be audited to check that they satisfy the above-mentioned criteria. You then sit the exam, wait around 12 weeks to find out if you passed and if you did, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re an IBCLC!

How long does it take and what happens after you become an IBCLC?

It took me around 3 years to complete all of my studies and sit the exam. Honestly, the most learning you will do about lactation comes through counselling women, both prior to certification and after. I believe that continuing professional development is crucial, and I am constantly attending conference, online learning programs and in person events to further my knowledge in lactation to better support mothers and babies. Some IBCLCs will go into private practice while others will find a job within governmental or other organisations; you can learn more in a multitude of Facebook groups!

Every 5 years after becoming an IBCLC

After certification you are required to recertify every 5 years either by resitting the exam or showing you have completed at least 75 Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs) AND having current basic life support education and 250 hours of clinical practice. These are regulated through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. You can contact IBLCE here should you need further assistance.

Can I help you?

If you need support, I currently DO offer lactation consults in the beautiful Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Nepean regions, and also online. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out.

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Birth Aims Blog

Who am I?

Hello, I’m Aimee! I support women and their families through pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding. I am a qualified and experienced Doula and breastfeeding counsellor, providing support in the Blue Mountains and surrounds. I’d love to meet you for an obligation free catch up! Contact me here.

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