How to Become a Lactation Consultant
Congratulations on your interest in becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC! PRO-LC, the Pennsylvania Resource Organization for Lactation Consultants, has organized the following information for those interested in becoming IBCLCs, including a resource list of locations willing to provide clinical experience for those wishing to qualify for the IBLCE exam. If you have further questions, please contact our Mentoring Coordinator, Lisa Mandell, at
What are the different pathways for becoming an IBCLC?
The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which administers the exam for IBCLC certification, offers three pathways toward the exam. For detailed information on the pathways, visit www.americas.iblce.org.
Here is a quick description of the different pathways:
Pathway 1: This is for those working in a paid or volunteer job providing breastfeeding care to families. This includes nurses working in maternity, volunteer breastfeeding counselors, and others. Candidates pursuing this pathway are required to complete the general education and lactation specific education requirements (see below), and to document 1000 hours of clinical practice in lactation care. It is expected that these candidates will use their paid or volunteer work experience to count toward this clinical practice, but some Pathway 1 candidates may benefit from additional supervised clinical experience.
Pathway 2: Individuals seeking qualification through Pathway 2 must graduate from an accredited academic program in human lactation and breastfeeding (these are limited at this time). This pathway requires 300 hours of clinical practice in lactation care directly supervised by current certified IBCLCs who are supervised by the academic program director. Pathway 2 candidates may wish to review our resource list for clinical experience locations.
Pathway 3: This is for those without a background in either maternal/child health or volunteer breastfeeding counseling. (If you have those backgrounds, you may wish to pursue Pathway 1.) Candidates pursuing this pathway are required to complete the general education and lactation specific education requirements (see below), and to submit a plan for 500 hours of clinical practice in lactation care supervised by a recertified IBCLC.
Starting in 2012, Pathway 1 and Pathway 3 require the following:
General education: 8 higher education subjects and 6 continuing education topics
Lactation specific education: 90 hours
A listing of course providers offering lactation specific education is available here:
FAQs on becoming an IBCLC
What should I do first?
You probably want to talk to some lactation consultants to find out about their work, explore different practice settings, and consider what kind of work you want to do and whether working as a lactation consultant will meet your needs and goals, before you decide to move forward. Once you know you want to work toward certification as an IBCLC, your first steps will be to complete the general education and lactation specific education.
How do I find clinical experiences?
The following locations may have clinical internships in lactation available. You may contact the lactation consultant listed and find out more information about their program and opportunities; the information listed here is subject to change. Internships require completion of lactation specific and general education prior to starting, and will require payment (fees are listed here for some facilities, but are subject to change; you should contact the facility to confirm the fees). To work as a lactation consultant intern, you will need to have professional liability insurance, which is available through several insurers; the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) has arranged for low-cost liability insurance for student lactation consultants as well as practicing IBCLCs.
Debi Page Ferrarello, MSN, MS, IBCLC
This program will be taking interns as a cohort with a minimum of 3 people and a maximum of 5. Dedicated mentors will work with the interns, enhancing their experience, while meeting patient needs. The internship will be 200 hours, with various options for additional hours depending on need and skill of the intern. It will be 3-4 days/week for approximately 7 weeks and will cost around $2800. With a variety of skilled mentors and the diversity in our patient population, the internship will be a rich experience. The program is likely to start in January 2013.
Robin B. Frees, BA, CHt, IBCLC
The Chester County Hospital
701 E. Marshall St., Rm N220
West Chester, PA 19380
This program will be able to take one intern at a time.
Colette M. Acker, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Resource Center
1355 Old York Rd. Suite 101
Abington, PA 19001
Clinical hours available in an outpatient center. Applicants should send their resume to . Internship cost: $10/hour.
Linda Derbyshire, IBCLC
Center City Pediatrics
This internship would ideally occur after completing a hospital setting internship to establish the basics in breastfeeding to appreciate the continuity of care needed to support mother and baby from day 3- 1 yr. Internship cost: $10/hour.
PRIVATE PRACTICE LACTATION CONSULTANTS:
These private practice lactation consultants work part-time doing home visits. They would not be able to offer significant hours of clinical experience, but can provide some hours to complement experience from other sources.
Liz Brooks, JD, IBCLC, FILCA
Serving mothers in Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
Lisa Mandell, MBA, IBCLC
Serving mothers on the Main Line, and in Delaware and Philadelphia counties.
For an aspiring lactation consultant following Pathway 3, you need a Chief Mentor to coordinate your clinical experiences. The following lactation consultant is willing to serve as a Chief Mentor.
Robin B. Frees, BA, CHt, IBCLC
What are other resources that might be helpful?
This page lists a variety of resources that may be helpful as you prepare to become an IBCLC:
How long will it take to become an IBCLC, and what will it cost?
Answers to both questions will depend on your situation, the education you already have, and the choices you make. If you are not already a health care professional, you will need to take a number of general education courses that could take a year or more depending on how much time you can devote to coursework. You will have to complete 90 hours of lactation education, which may be done in an intensive two-week course, or online over many months, or through conference attendance, or a variety of these choices. The clinical experience might take anywhere from three to eighteen months to complete. The costs will vary based on these choices as well.
What kind of jobs are available for IBCLCs?
IBCLCs are hired at hospitals, pediatric practices, WIC offices, health clinics, and breastfeeding centers, and some IBCLCs have their own private practices. Some facilities may require IBCLCs to also be RNs. Many IBCLCs work part-time; full-time positions are limited at this time.
Where can I learn more about lactation consulting?
Join PRO-LC, and come to our meetings. You can meet and talk to IBCLCs, ask about their work, and start learning from our speakers.
It is also valuable to join the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), which offers a low-cost student membership. This membership gives you access to all that ILCA offers, including online-only access to the Journal of Human Lactation.
Are any scholarships available?
PRO-LC is interested in encouraging and supporting minority candidates from one of the groups underrepresented in the lactation field (African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, or Pacific Islander) in the Greater Philadelphia Region to become certified as IBCLCs. PRO-LC will reimburse selected candidates for the IBLCE examination fee. Now accepting applications for 2015: Minority Scholarship Information
Additionally, support may be available from the Monetary Investment in Lactation Consultant Certification (MILCC):