Congratulations on your interest in the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) profession! Working as an IBCLC is very rewarding and enhances the lives of the families you touch. Certification is international, rather than limited to one country. There are three organizations that can help you as you work toward becoming an IBCLC: the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®), the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®), and the Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee (LEAARC). Each is described below.
There is also a very active Facebook group, “Want to be an IBCLC,” where you can ask questions about your journey to becoming an IBCLC. Click here to visit the group. Note that this group is not affiliated with ILCA.
To become certified, you will need to:
- Complete required health science courses
- Complete 90 hours of didactic learning in lactation
- Complete clinical experience
- Pass the certification exam
The following sections provide resources to help you understand and accomplish those steps in a manner that matches your particular situation.
The Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee
LEAARC provides approval to lactation management courses with at least 90 hours of didactic instruction. LEAARC also formulates recommendations for accreditation of postsecondary academic programs. LEAARC recently also approved a category of recognition for courses less than 90 hours that prepare students as breastfeeding counselors and educators. These distinctions provide a reliable indicator of educational quality and business standards to students, employers, insurers, educators, governmental officials, and the public.
LEAARC Approved Courses – The courses on this list are all LEAARC Approved. LEAARC has been approving courses since 2008. LEAARC Approval is a voluntary process and there may be courses available that do not appear on this list. Students are encouraged to seek a LEAARC Approved course.
Accreditation – Accreditation for programs that are offered in post-secondary academic institutions became available in late 2011. LEAARC serves as a review committee for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The first lactation program became accredited in January of 2016. Visit the CAAHEP website to locate accredited programs.
The International Lactation Consultant Association
ILCA is the independent, international professional association for the IBCLC and other health care professionals who care for breastfeeding families. ILCA has many resources to help individuals become an IBCLC and prepare for the certification examination. We encourage you to become an ILCA member to enjoy additional members-only benefits as well.
Visit ILCA at www.ilca.org to learn how we can help you! These resources will especially helpful:
The Journal of Human Lactation
Clinical Instruction Directory
Clinical Experience – Acquiring clinical experience is a challenge for many students. These ILCA resources may help you:
Find a Lactation Consultant Directory – Contact IBCLCs in your area to ask if they will mentor you.
The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®)
IBLCE is the independent, international certification body conferring the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) credential. IBLCE can answer questions about pathways, eligibility requirements, and other information about the credential. Contact IBLCE directly for any questions about qualifications and pathways.
Here are a couple of helpful links:
IBLCE Resources – Information about required health science courses, certification pathways and requirements, competencies, scope of practice, and more.
Preparing for Certification – Valuable insights into preparing for certification.
As IBLCE adapts to the circumstances of COVID, you can find updates here.
Employment opportunities for IBCLCs
IBCLCs are employed in a variety of settings including hospitals, public health, physician offices (e.g., pediatrics, obstetrics, family practice), private practice, and in businesses through employer support programs. The majority work in hospital settings and, depending on the country, employers may require additional licensure (e.g., nurse, physician). Another large group works in public health settings. These IBCLCs may also have degrees in nutrition. IBCLCs with experience may work in private practice and provide services in the community with referrals from hospitals and other settings where mothers and babies are seen. There is a growing trend among employers in some countries to contract for the services of an IBCLC as part of their worksite lactation programs for their employees. This offers opportunities for IBCLCs who do not have a license in the health profession, if such a license is required in their country. There are many local, national, and international initiatives to increase optimal breastfeeding and access (and employment) to IBCLCs.
Support for your journey
Becoming an IBCLC can be a complex, confusing, and challenging process. If you would like to connect with others who are also pursuing IBCLC certification, you can consider joining these online Facebook communities. Note that these groups are not affiliated with ILCA.
- Want to be an IBCLC?
- Want to be an IBCLC? World View
- Want to be an IBCLC? Lactation Courses, Conferences, Webinars and Books