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Resources for Becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

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 to learn how we can help you! These resources will especially helpful:

The Journal of Human Lactation

The Annual Conference

ILCA’s Knowledge Center


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.

Learn more about IBLCE here.

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.

What other resources have you found useful in your journey to becoming an IBCLC? Share them with us in the comments.


Embracing the ILCA Sisterhood

By Indira Lopez-Bassols, BA with hons, MPP, IBCLC

My first encounter with the International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA) was in the form of an email when I had just become an IBCLC. It was invitation to a trial membership, which of course I accepted. Although I did look around the articles online and found the information sheets invaluable, I thought naively that it looked like an interesting AMERICAN organization but too far across the Atlantic sea to be valuable to me in Great Britain.

A set of coincidences allowed me to embrace ILCA and become an avid fan! My inlaws celebrated their Jubilee anniversary in Tampa, Florida in July 2012. I had received the information about the 2012 ILCA Conference which looked amazing but again seemed quite unreachable. But then it clicked to me that I was going to be in Tampa just a few days before the conference in Orlando!

My first moves were to see if I could fit the days into our itinerary, enroll as a member of ILCA to get a great deal for the conference, and apply to Lactation Consultants Great Britain (LCGB) for some funding. All three tasks were completed quickly and successfully and I was off to Orlando for the conference. It was mind blowing! Luck was on my side as the oral skills sessions were full as I had signed so late so I attended the Spanish sessions, which I thought were incredibly well presented.

In the first session I actually sat next to Roberta Graham de Escobedo, without realizing the role she played on the ILCA Board of Directors. She was so welcoming and warm, no wonder she is in charge of ILCA memberships!

I remember thinking after the morning session, “This has already been so worth it! Thank be to God for all these coincidences!” The following day were the plenaries and I just could not believe how so many people together could share the same interest and passion as me!

I said hello to people I had met in the past and enjoyed all the networking from the International delegate gathering and meeting the Hispanic community. Being Mexican, married to a Peruvian/Italian/American citizen, having lived all over the world because my father was a Diplomat, and now residing in the UK, you can imagine how I feel like a true citizen of the world.

I came out of the conference feeling exhilarated, refreshed and uplifted. There are around 26,000 IBCLCs working around the world today, and only 423 of those are in the UK. The National Health Service has yet to recognize us so although there is a lot of work to be done nationally, it sometimes feel we are riding solo into the battle. I was really impressed as the group of IBCLCs in Orlando felt like a more cohesive united group with a true international presence from different fronts.

I swore that, if in the future, I had money to attend breastfeeding conferences, my priority would be on those produced by ILCA. The following year after I attended, I revisited the ILCA website to stay connected and read voraciously every Journal of Human Lactation I received through my subscription.

Jill Dye, Director of LCGB and Indira

Jill Dye, Director of LCGB and Indira

There are coincidences in life and we use them to craft our destiny. My next set of coincidences came in the form of another email I received, a reminder about the ILCA conference scholarships. I had no idea ILCA offered any type of scholarship. I still thought the 2013 conference in Melbourne, Australia was way too far away and expensive, so I didn’t imagine I could attend, even in my wildest dreams. But, I took a risk and emailed Glenna Thurston, who was in charge of ILCA Membership Development, to ask her about the application form and process as I might apply in the future to another ILCA Conference in the US which is closer and more accessible economically to London. Glenna kindly explained the process but did encourage me to apply to Melbourne anyway. I did so and was awarded a scholarship! I again applied to LCGB for a bit extra funding and I was able to cover airfare and the remainder of the conference fee. To make my trip possible, a friend of a friend that lived in Melbourne kindly opened his home for that week.

Two consecutive years, I was able to attend the ILCA Conference and I felt like I was in heaven. I enjoyed tremendously the whole experience. Before the conference started, I went on the guided tour to the Sanctuary where we saw Australian native species and learned about some of their mammal’s breastfeeding experiences. One of the IBCLCs shared that kangaroos make pink milk but none of the zoologists onsite could confirm that for us.

I enjoyed most of the sessions that I attended and found Linda Smith to be a wonderful presenter with a great sense of humor. Influenced by her, I will definitely be adding more humor to my teaching and presentations in the future. Nils Bergman’s presentation was also fantastic and particularly useful to have science affirm what we have known for millennia about attachment and separation.

This year, I, like many others, volunteered to help out at the Conference. I was a bit nervous the first time I stood in front of everybody to introduce the speaker but soon it became second nature. I had a strong gut feeling that, although I am, like we say in Spanish still a bit “fresh like a lettuce”, the day will come that I will be a presenter.

The pinnacle of the Melbourne Conference for me was a session I attended as part of the Oral Skills rotating session on supporting mothers with voluptuous breasts, presented Gini Baker and Decalie Brown. Gini asked for two volunteers to pretend they had voluptuous breasts and were having breastfeeding problems.It was slightly embarrassing but on the funny side as she made us feel all so comfortable. She reminded us gently that we were all on the same boat: the sisterhood. That was a highlight, an “aha” moment for me. It is truly a wonderful sisterhood, as we all speak the same language, we are all passionate about what we do, we are fanatics about supporting breastfeeding families, and most important of all: united we are stronger!

Joining ILCA is much more than getting a membership. It is also about being a part of the sisterhood of wise, passionate, bright women that are changing the world one breastfeeding baby and mother at a time.

If after reading this article you have been gently persuaded to become an ILCA member, please mention me through the Each One Reach One Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to increase membership by spreading the word. Who knows? Your support may help me to attend a third ILCA Conference in the future.

Indira Lopez-Bassols, B.A. with Hons, M.P.P. and IBCLC, works in private practice in London and at Kings College Hospital Tongue Tie Clinic.   In addition, she leads the La Leche League Wimbledon group.  In combination with her doula work and her passion for teaching, she also offers breastfeeding study for doulas.  In her scare free time, she enjoys writing about birth and breastfeeding and has published in several related magazines.  She was awarded the 2013 ILCA scholarship to attend the organization’s annual conference in Melbourne, Australia.  For more information, visit:


Why ILCA Membership is Important to Me


By Robin Hollen, M.Ed., RN, IBCLC, RLC,  FILCA

Women of Achievement. picDear Breastfeeding Advocate,

You are passionate about breastfeeding and you’d like to help everyone reach their breastfeeding goals, all while learning all you can about this exciting field. BUT, joining ILCA just doesn’t seem to “fit” your goals and besides, you need that money for other things…

In 1987, I was exactly where you are, learning everything I could and attending the few breastfeeding conferences that existed. I participated in the Lactnet listserv when there were less than 100 people. I joined ILCA and, year after year, paid the dues and read the Journal of Human Lactation (JHL), went to some of the yearly conferences, got involved with a small ILCA committee, started a local affiliate group, and took my first board exam in 1991. ILCA kept me on my toes and my passion for breastfeeding never waned.

Fast forward to 2012 and I was a recipient of the Fellow of ILCA designation. This program recognizes significant professional achievements of the leaders and mentors in the field of lactation consultancy. By then, four children were young adults and I had the opportunity to build a private practice and work per-diem at a local hospital. The hospital caught wind of the FELLOW and INTERNATIONAL parts of the designation and the work I had done in the field to make it possible. The hospital celebrated it by submitting my name for the Nevada Women of Achievement, a recognition that was primarily given in the business world, saluting women for their unique and significant contributions in both professional and personal realms. The honoree has to have dedicated valuable time to enrich their community.

As I was honored in front of 1,100 business men and women, I was proud to be announced as a Lactation Consultant! What a way to get the word out about breastfeeding…and it all started with the passion, just like YOURS, and by being an ongoing member of ILCA.

About Robin:  After the birth of her first son, Robin’s passion for mothers and babies was nourished and nurtured.  She sat for certification as an IBCLC while pregnant with her fourth child in 1991, becoming the first person in the State of Nevada to hold this credential. She had the opportunity to participate in a variety of clinical settings throughout her career and develop Lactation coalitions and affiliates.

As well as the sole proprietor for Starfish Lactation, Robin is also employed as a Lactation Consultant at Renown Regional Medical Center and Nevada State WIC. She volunteers to mentor those passionate about the field of Lactation and provides inestimable volunteer hours each month supporting moms who are breastfeeding.  


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