IBCLC with new parent and baby. Image is provided by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Almost as soon as I became an IBCLC I began to receive emails and phone calls from aspiring IBCLCs asking about my experience and advice for their own journey toward the credential. In an effort to streamline the amount of time I spent on these emails, I sat down and wrote an email template so that I could address as much of the basics at once and not have to re-write it each time. I’m now happy to be able to share this information on the Sound Beginnings’ blog so that it’s more readily available for those who want some assistance in determining the steps and if it’s the right path for them.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, as background here’s a link to my professional story.
First, if you have not already done so, take the time to carefully review the website of International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE), the independent international certification body conferring the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) credential. Here is the page with the certification information. This information should clarify which Pathway you would qualify for and the steps you would need to complete to be able to sit for the exam.
A careful assessment of the prerequisites which include “education in specified health science subjects, education in human lactation and breastfeeding, and clinical practice in providing care to breastfeeding families health science courses” will be essential in determining the level of investment an IBCLC credential will involve for you personally.
As a brief summary:
- Pathway 1: health care providers or approved breastfeeding support group leaders
Pathway 2: comprehensive lactation training programs
Pathway 3: mentored clinical hours
If you choose either Pathway 1 or Pathway 3, you will need to then decide which didactic program you’re going to do. You can either do that through an in-person training, such as the one through our local Bastyr University (which offers the first 45 hours and then you would figure out the remaining 45 hours), or you can do the full 90 hours through online education. For online training there are a few programs with more added regularly. The most established are Lactation Education Resources and Health-e-Learning. I recommend that you check to make sure that any potential source of training is going to meet IBLCE requirements and your own educational goals. For Pathway 2, the didactic education is included within the program.
For Pathway 3, the next step is finding a mentor—or more likely mentor(s). Ensuring that you’ll get enough clinical hours within your designated time frame for can be challenging. Since IBLCE changed their policy on mentor qualification, it has opened up options to work with any IBCLC. I recommend that you connect with local, active professional IBCLCs about the possibility of mentorship/internship. Be prepared with an outline of your goals/expectations, logistics and availability, and any compensation you are prepared to offer to the potential mentor. Mentoring is a logistically, emotionally and mentally intensive experience for both parties and the relationship should be taken seriously. Who you choose to work with will greatly impact your learning and possibly your career, especially if you plan to stay within a given geographic region and perinatal community.
As you may have gleaned from reading about my experiences and the above information, it can be a complex and nuanced path with a great deal of financial, emotional, and energetic investment. I personally worked with over six mentors, had three main types of clinical hours including traveling across country for a month long intensive hospital-based internship, and invested countless dollars and hours beyond the ones I could officially count toward the requirement. (As a side note, I highly recommend keeping an accurate record of your hours, as well as all certificates or transcripts from trainings/courses, in the event of an audit—which can definitely happen, as I and others can attest.)
If you would like additional personalized support, you’re welcome to contact me to schedule a professional consultation.
Best wishes on your career discernment!