How do I become an IBCLC?
To become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), there is an exam which is set by the IBCLE (International Board Certified Lactation Examiners). The exam is held twice a year in various locations throughout the country. It is a computer based exam, with multiple choice questions. You can decide yourself when to apply for the exam, as long as you have met the prerequisites (detailed below).
There are a 3 pathways to becoming an IBCLC, depending on your educational background. IBCLC is a standalone qualification (i.e. you do not need pre-existing qualification to become an IBCLC) but you do need to meet the criteria in one of the pathways to be eligible to sit the exam. If you do not already hold a relevant health professional qualification embarking on training to become an IBCLC will take at least 3-4 years and similar costs to acquiring other health professional qualifications.
The Pathways Explained
Pathway 1 (this is the most common pathway taken by Irish candidates, either from a non medical or medical background)
For recognised Health professionals and recognised mother support counsellors.
- a minimum of 90 hours lactation specific education within last 5 years
- a minimum of 1000 lactation specific clinical hours within the last 5 years
- to complete 14 modules in health science education. (If you come from the health science background it is considered you completed these 14 health science in your training and you are exempt from this section.)
There is an insightful blog post by Caoimhe Whelan here, outlining her Pathway 1 journey towards becoming an IBCLC.
Pathway 2 (not available in Ireland)
For candidates that do not hold a recognised Health professional qualification and are not recognised mother support counsellors.
- to complete 14 Health Sciences Education courses
- a minimum of 90 hours of lactation specific education
- a minimum of 300 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice with a IBCLC registered and in good standing
Information available here.
Pathway 3 (Mentorship, rarely occurs in Ireland)
- the mentorship to be developed according to the specifications found in the Pathway 3 Plan Guide
- the certification status of the IBCLCs serving as mentors to be verified by IBLCE prior to beginning the mentorship and the IBCLC to have recertified at least once
- to complete 14 Health Sciences Education courses
- to complete a Minimum of 500 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice in the duties described in the Clinical Competencies for the Practice of IBCLCs a within the 5 years immediately prior to exam application
- a minimum of 90 hours of lactation specific education within the 5 years immediately prior to exam application
How To Get 90 Educational Hours
- Attend a IBLCE exam preparation course. Some ALCI members run training / exam preparation courses. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and request the Education Directory.
- Attend breastfeeding conferences e.g. ALCI, La Leche League and Cuidiu conferences.
- Online, visit Health e learning.com for CERPs, discussion forum and mock exam preparation.
- Online, visit ilactation.com for conference with 20.25 CERPS (18.25L, 2E).
- Online, visit ILCA for study modules and online webinars.
- Online, visit Lactation Education Resources.
- Online, visit Breastfeeding Outlook for courses and CERPS.
Education That Is Counted For Exam
There are three types of Continuous Education Recognition Points (CERPs):
- Programs with instruction specific to lactation are recognised with L-CERPs
- Educational activities about the ethics of practice for IBCLCs are recognised with E-CERPs
- Professional education that is related to the work of an IBCLC, but is not specifically about breastfeeding or ethics, is recognised with R-CERPs
One (1) CERP is equivalent to sixty (60) minutes of instructional time
L (lactation) CERPs
L (lactation) CERPs can be earned from educational sessions, programs or materials where the primary focus or learning objective is lactation or breastfeeding specific, or addresses the role of the IBCLC
Example of L CERPs
- Breast anatomy in relation to lactation
- Clinical skills for IBCLCs
- Clinical documentation for IBCLCs
- Influence of culture on breastfeeding
- The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding management
- Breastfeeding research
- Nutrition during lactation
E (ethics) CERPs
E (ethics) CERPs can be earned from educational sessions, programs or materials that address professional ethics or standards, or ethical issues relevant to IBCLCs
- Practice ethics for lactation consultants
- Informed consent
- Health workers and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes
- Conflict of interest
- Knowing your limits; when to refer
- Human rights and infant feeding choice
- Dealing with a colleague whose practice is not based on scientific principles and up-to-date information
- Copyright and intellectual property
R (related) CERP
R (related) CERPs can be earned from educational sessions, programs but is not lactation, breastfeeding or ethics specific.
- General anatomy
- Infant growth and development
- Research methods and statistics
- Cultural differences in health practices
- Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Postpartum depression
- Counseling or communications skills
- Adult education principles
- Family dynamics
- Infant Massage Practices
- Nutrition (if not lactation-specific)
- Complementary therapies (overview sessions only)
Educational programs based on topics not included on the IBLCE Exam Blueprint are not eligible for CERPs. Examples of topics that will not be recognised for CERPs include: Computer skills, Business management, Bra fitting (unless specifically related to lactation), Motivational sessions, Instructional programs on complementary therapies or specialized health care skills (e.g. fetal monitoring). Restrictions for CERPs include clinical work as a lactation consultant, antenatal or postnatal classes for mothers, private study, including reading journals and watching videos or programmes sponsored by formula and manufacturing of teats companies.
If you are considering becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or if you have begun your journey to become one, joining the Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland is very beneficial to you. Advantages of ALCI Membership include; discounts to ALCI events, annual events for members only, a regular ALCI Newsletter, email alerts from ALCI on breastfeeding / lactation education related issues, a Members Directory, access to a Facebook discussion and support forum for ALCI members only, and the ability to apply for a cash bursary to attend an lactation education related event.
Prepared with assistance from Lorraine O’Hagan.