The term “lactation consultant” is a bit generic. It can be applied to several types of breastfeeding support professionals. In this blog, we will discuss how to become an IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant). For more information on all the different types of breastfeeding support professionals and educators, click here.
Let’s address some facts and myths before we discuss the path to gaining this credential.
How do you become an IBCLC?
In brief, you have to take college classes, have lactation education, and clinical hours or work experience. Your lactation education and clinical hours have to be within the last 5 years before applying to take the exam.
What confuses people is there are 3 different pathways. I wish they would make it the same requirements for everyone.
This is for health professionals or peer support leaders from a recognized program. Your work experience counts for your clinical hours. You must have 1,000 hours of experience.
This is for people going through a college program specifically for lactation consulting. You have to have 300 hours of clinicals.
This is for people who are not one of the recognized health professionals or peer support leaders. The educational requirements are the same. The clinical requirements are 500 hours under the supervision of an IBCLC that has been certified at least 5 years. You must submit your clinicals for approval before beginning your hours.
To learn more about the requirements, visit the website for the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.
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Once you meet the qualifications through your chosen pathway, you study and sit for the board exam. The exam is offered twice a year – April and October.
Once certified, how do you maintain certification?
Upon passing the board exam, you will need to recertify every 5 years. Every 10 years needs to be by passing the exam. The other times you can recertify through CEUs.
Where do IBCLCs work?
Lactation consultants can work in hospitals, birthing centers, pediatrician offices, obstetrician offices, WIC offices, and in private practice.
How much money do they make?
The money you make being an IBCLC is going to depend greatly on your other credentials. If you are a RN adding IBCLC to your name, your investment will definitely pay off. If you are not a nurse, finding employment in a hospital may be challenging. If you’re working as a childbirth educator or doula, it’s up to you if you want to invest the money into becoming an IBCLC or choose another credential. If you are working in a facility, you should be paid by the hour. If you are working in private practice, be sure to charge your worth so you can maintain your business. You have to put money into every client you serve. You also have to pay a hefty amount in taxes. Keep in mind, your startup costs will include all the equipment you have to buy such as dropping nearly $1,000 on a scale alone. You’ll typically have a one or two hour visit the first time with a client, but you’ll spend around 5 hours of work for that visit. Expect to need to charge around $200-$300 for a visit and at least $50 for follow-up visits. That’s just to stay in business. Some insurance companies do cover IBCLCs. In most cases, private practice lactation consultants do not make enough money to live off of that as a sole income.
How much money does it cost to become an IBCLC?
It costs thousands of dollars to become an IBCLC. It also costs at least $1,000 every 5 years to maintain your certification.
You’ll need to pay for the following
Should I become an IBCLC?
If you like supporting women in their breastfeeding obstacles and answering their questions, yes. You should consider becoming a lactation professional. Usually, I hear women say they want to become a lactation consultant because they love breastfeeding. That’s wonderful that they had a good experience, but people don’t call you for help when all is well. To be a lactation professional, you must realize that different people have a wide variety of experiences and preferences. You will be working with women who are
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