I surprisingly get asked about how to become a lactation consultant A LOT! The more I think about it, the more I can see how people don’t know or understand the exact process and what needs to be done. In efforts to make my explanation 50 times easier, I’m going to explain the process on how to become a lactation consultant here!

For the sake of this post, let me start off by saying that I’m an I.B.C.L.C. This means “Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant”. There are several other different positions (CLC, Lactation Counselor, etc) that offer lactation support but this specific role is, in my opinion, more sought out when looking for breastfeeding help. Most hospitals and private practices are hiring IBCLCs. This certification is more in demand right now and, I believe, in the future.

1. Determine your eligibility through your pathway

In my opinion, this is the most confusing part of figuring out how to become a lactation consultant. So let’s dive in. There are 3 pathways and their requirements:

  1. Pathway One: Recognized Health Professionals and Breastfeeding Support
    One of these careers OR take these 14 courses (more information about said courses on page 3 of this link)
    – 90 hours of lactation specific education (within 5 years of taking exam)
    – 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice
  2. Pathway Two: Accredited Lactation Education requirements:One of these careers OR take these 14 courses (go straight to page 3)
    – Complete an academic program that consists of: 90 hours of lactation specific education (within 5 years of taking the exam) and 300 hours of IBCLC directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice
  3. Pathway Three:
    One of these careers OR take these 14 courses – 90 hours of lactation specific education (within 5 years of taking exam) – 500 hours of IBCLC directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice (Internship)

I did pathway one because of my previous nursing experience in Mother/Baby or Postpartum Nursing. If you’re not a medical professional, pathway 3 may be your best bet.

*** After typing all of this information out, I found this resource on Lactation Education Resources that might be A LOT easier to understand. This is also a really excellent resource if you’re unsure of exactly how to obtain the courses listed above.

2. Get your education hours

I received my 90 education hours online from Lactation Education Resources. Fortunately they offer tons of payment options as well. You can pay in full or do installments.

There is also an option to do live 90 hour courses in the span of days. I have a former coworker who did this and loved it. I personally didn’t have the time, finances, or mental capacity to handle it all thrown on me at once but I say do what works for you!

3. Sit for the exam

The exam is only offered twice a year, in April and October. You must register by a specific due date to sit for the exam. Most registration dates end pretty early.

The exam is 175 questions, split into two sections. The first section is basically answering multiple choice questions. The second part is examining and assessing images then answering multiple choice questions about those images.

To study for the exam, I used Lactation Training’s IBLCE Enriched Exam Review. I also reviewed all of the notes I took while doing the 90 education hours. This site will show you what is expected to be on the test. Then you can review in whatever ways work best for you. I knew that I wanted to pass the first time. I’m horrible at taking exams so I made it a point to do everything in power to pass.

AND I DID!

Unfortunately, the results aren’t delivered immediately. It takes two months to find out if your test results. Once I finally received my certificate and official IBCLC card in the mail. It was the best day ever.

Other things to know: it can be a little pricey. Doing it over a longer span of time worked better for my family financially. The estimated total that it cost for me to do Pathway One was approximately $2000 total.

Overall, I think it took me a little over 18 months from the moment that I made my first payment on Lactation Training to the moment when I finally received my certification. In that span of time, I went from having one child to two children and working part-time to being a stay-at-home mom. I’m sure the timing of all of this can be done much faster if you’re able to manage your time wisely.

And that’s how I managed to become a lactation consultant!

I really like my job. It has it’s ups and downs as most jobs do but overall, it’s an incredible specialty. I love the work that I’m able to do. Though I currently work in a hospital setting, I have future goals to work in a private practice. I hope this post helps you figure out your next steps. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the process! In the meantime, if you haven’t already followed my social media channels for The Milk Manual, please do! You can find my Instagram account (here) and my Facebook page (here).