International Lactation Consultant Certification

Lactation consultants teach the benefits of breastfeeding.
i Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, or IBCLC, offers the only internationally recognized certification in lactation consulting. Health care professionals, including midwives, nurses and breastfeeding counselors seek certification to demonstrate their expertise in breastfeeding knowledge and care. People who have the IBCLC certification must pass an exam to prove they're skilled in promoting breastfeeding and supporting mothers.

Pathways to Certification

You must meet specific health science and lactation education requirements in addition to lactation-specific clinical experience. Candidates have several options -- three to be exact -- for meeting these requirements. All paths require taking classes in 14 specific subject areas including biology, human anatomy and physiology, nutrition, psychology, medical terminology, social science and ethics. Coursework doesn't have to be recent and it must be complete before taking the IBCLC exam. Certain health professionals, such as nurses and midwives, are exempt from the health sciences educational requirement. However, all candidates must complete 90 hours of lactation-specific education and clinical experience, according to the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

Certification Exam

Once you meet certification requirements, you can apply to take the IBCLC exam. Read the Candidate Information Guide before applying and watch for deadlines. You can apply online by selecting your region on the IBCLC's website, where there are also details about the cost. If your application is approved, the IBCLC will send you an admission letter for the exam. The test is computer-based on a pass/fail basis and is offered through Pearson Vue test centers nationwide.

Professional Standards

The IBCLC has established a code of professional conduct and ethics, scope of practice and clinical competencies. Getting certified means you will uphold these standards in your practice. IBCLCs are expected to keep up-to-date on lactation issues, coordinate care within a health care team, educate the public on breastfeeding problems and support breastfeeding care throughout development.

Maintaining Certification

Certification must be renewed every five years. If you took the exam in the past five years, you have the option to retake it or to earn recertification from continuing education recognition points or CERPs. CERPs are awarded by IBCLC for approved educational activities. You can get up to 25 CERPs for a semester-long college class or 1 CERP for 60 minutes of instruction. There's no fee to apply for CERPs. The exam must be taken every 10 years, meaning the second time you renew, you will not be able to use CERPs, notes the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

the nest