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

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In honor of the International IBCLC certifying exam happening today, I am going to give you the run-down on how to become an IBCLC & provide you with some resources specific to the North & South Carolina area of the United States.

Pathway 1

Pathway 1 is the most common route of becoming an IBCLC if you already are a recognized healthcare professional by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). If you are one of the healthcare professionals listed on the above link, then you have 3 subsequent steps you need to take:

  • 90 hours of lactation-specific education - these can be online or in-person; they can also be through LEAARC recognized continuing education, LEAARC approved 90 hour courses, or other lactation-specific education
  • 1000 hours of lactation-specific clinical practice - these will be "on-the-job" hours & is why someone who already works with mothers and infants on a daily basis may choose to get their hours in this pathway
  • Sit for your IBCLC certifying exam in either April or October

Pathway 2

Pathway 2 is an accredited and coordinated program that is overseen by LEAARC. Each program that is accredited has unique admissions requirements. You can search for an accredited program here (spoiler: there are not many of them).

For interested students in North Carolina, Chapel Hill has an accredited program housed within the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Global Public Health (this is where I went!)

Pathway 3

Pathway 3 provides an option for students to find their own mentors and gather their clinical hours on their own. Students must have completed education in all of the 14 health science subjects or be a recognized healthcare professional (see link under pathway 1). After finishing your coursework or being a recognized healthcare professional, you have 2 subsequent steps:

  • 90 hours of lactation-specific education - these can be online or in-person; they can also be through LEAARC recognized continuing education, LEAARC approved 90 hour courses, or other lactation-specific education
  • Complete 500 clinical hours overseen by the IBCLC that has agreed to mentor you
  • Sit for your IBCLC certifying exam in either April or October

If you are in North or South Carolina, I am working with Winthrop University is working on developing a semi-coordinated pathway 3 lactation consultant training program by offering a certificate through the university. If you are interested for more information on this program, you can contact me at limah@winthrop.edu.

If you are wondering how to choose which pathway is right for you, IBLCE has a great guide here.