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How to become an IBCLC - FAQs 

Please note that CLCA/ACCL is not a IBCLC certification body.

Please contact from The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners for more information. 

Q: I am a Registered Nurse. How do I become an IBCLC?

A: The IBCLE is the official source for information on getting your IBCLC certificate, registration and exam requirements but generally speaking, if you've completed a nursing degree, you will have met the basic sciences requirements. You will want to visit IBCLE website for all the most current info about becoming an IBCLC. Specifically check out these pages: Step 1, and IBCLC FAQS

LEARCC is the body which accredits courses and they have a full listing here.


Q: I am an Occupational Therapist working in the NICU inquiring about requirements to become a Lactation Consultant. I understand my health professional designation fulfills the Health Sciences education component, however I am unclear which pathway I would fall under for the clinical experience component and the various ways I can fulfill this. 

A:  Our families that we serve deserve the expert skill and knowledge. You are correct in that you would pursue the first pathway for healthcare professionals, in regards to education AND clinical practice. I suggest to connect with your manager at your workplace and complete the online excel form to determine the amount of hours  spent providing lactation support and education at work. This form can be found within the International Board Lactation Consultant Exam web page within IBLCE Documents here: Lactation Specific Clinical Practice Calculator. 

I believe this document will also be helpful:

Once you have reviewed these documents, and had a chat with your supervisor about the amount of hours you spend providing lactation support, you should gain insight on your next steps towards becoming an IBCLC.


Q: I have been working on the hours of work required to become and IBCLC in Ontario. Where can I find supervisors or a programme for the practical component? 

A: Currently, the Ontario chapter may be able to support you in your journey for a local mentor. Most often,  IBCLC applicants are finding their own mentors by building relationships with those in the industry and approaching them directly.

IBLCE does not require IBCLCs to mentor though it is strongly encouraged.

IBCLC mentors at this time need to have been certified for a minimum of 5 years before being approved to mentor new applicants.

Some find it helpful to gain their hours through a community breastfeeding support program such as Le Leche League (pathway 1),or under the mentorship of an IBCLC who also has a healthcare professional credential - most commonly a nurse (pathway 2 or 3).

In these types of instances, mentorship often happens within a medical organization such as hospital, public health, family health team, community health centre etc and the opportunity for applicants to gain experience is less likely unless they also have a healthcare professional credential. Depending on your  background either of these may apply to you or perhaps not.

For those IBCLCs who work in private practice, the opportunity to take on a mentee is a bit more complex as there are significant time and resource requirements that are needed for the relationship to give the mentee the best educational experience.

This often ends up being feasible for the mentor only when they are compensated monetarily which is not always an option for the applicant, though it does provide excellent educational opportunities.

Finally, the programs where an applicant could gain access in a structured clinical setting are very limited in Canada. IBLCE recently upgraded the requirements for these programs. As of January 1st 2017, these programs must be accredited according to the guidelines found on IBLCEs website. 

You may find that joining the Facebook group to be helpful in finding a mentor for yourself. They may also offer you some additional resources that are local to you.


Q:  I am a Licensed Practical Nurse and I want to complete my Lactation Consultant certificate. How do I proceed? 

A: The majority of IBCLCs in Canada and the USA have an RN background, although it is not required to certify.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE which is our certifying body) has three different pathways to look at when deciding how to go through the education and clinical requirements before sitting the exam.

There are many IBCLCs who do not have a second registration as a health care professional. Some are social workers, some have degrees in arts, engineering, some are doctors, some are speech language pathologists, some are simply those who have been working with ale Leche League or have gained their certified lactation educator status and wish to continue their education. Nursing education counts for all the health science course requirements.

You will need to take the lactation specific education courses (90hrs) and complete a clinical rotation. This can be the tricky part as you will do best with a mentor that you’ll need to find on your own. Perhaps you can shadow an IBCLC in a facility? Perhaps you can find a private practice IBCLC to mentor you in the area? Our Find A Lactation Consultant search engine can be helpful in knowing who is in your area.

I would encourage you to look at IBCLC for their pathway options and work from there.

The America’s IBLCE office can be contacted by phone and email. They are happy to help you with the process.


Q: Do insurance providers cover the services of a private practice for Lactation Consultants? 

A: The lactation support insurance landscape in Canada is quite varied from province to province, region to region and company to company. 

As far as we know, at this point, IBCLC support services in private practice are being reimbursed inconsistently between 3rd party insurance companies. 

The most consistent success we are aware of is when a client has a health spending account. These are policies that provide a lump sum of funds to the client to use as they wish for health care costs. 

Some clients will submit their breast pump receipts for reimbursement, their private IBCLC receipts and all manner of other health care related expenses until that lump sum is fully claimed. 

For those IBCLCs with a registered health care provider license such as a nurse or dietitian, a policy without a health spending account may still cover lactation support in the home if the receipt specifies the services as such. 

This would likely mean that the receipt the client is given would contain lines that indicate the full list of recognized credentials of the service provider, their license number(s), dates of services and note that the care was given “in home”. 

Some plans will require a physician note or prescription for such services as well (and they may insist the note be issued prior to the services received). 

Sometimes nurses have the most success for clients when putting “in home nursing services”.  This is because the plans tend to agree to covering “in home nursing services” by a Registered Nurse or Registered Practical Nurse if sanctioned by a physician. This is all related to the debated need for regulation of profession within Canada. 

This is a topic that CLCA is actively investigating. Based on our findings and that of the lobbying group on behalf of the profession, there is a lot of work to do before we get to this point. 

But everything worth doing is worth doing right and CLCA is committed to engaging the regulation process with clarity, dignity and transparency and wisdom.


Q: I am a Registered Nurse looking to start-up my own private Lactation Consultant business. Where do I start?

A: As the private practice landscape in lactation varies significantly from coast to coast, and the legislation requirements also vary, there is quite a bit of room for interpretation when it comes to any advice we might offer. 

That said, there are some general points to consider. 

For one, when entering the private practice field, having an understanding of how to run a small business is important. You can begin with a business name. This would involve a name search within your province registry. You’ll also likely want to register a website domain. 

Because you have a nursing background, you’ll want to learn more about liability insurance before you open the doors to your practice. 

For those IBCLCs with no other healthcare background, liability insurance looks a little different than those with a license. You are required to insure to your highest scope of practice which means insurances an RN for private practice.

You may already have this through your association. Contacting them and asking questions can be a good starting place. 

Knowing (or learning) a financial management software can be a big benefit as well as figuring out how you want to take referrals, payments and provide receipts etc. 

How will you advertise and where? 

How can you leverage your experience and understanding of your local environment (i.e. a needs assessment) in order to provide targeted care? 

Who is your target population and how do you need to price your services to be competitive with others in your area? 

There are many business courses that can be taken at small colleges and in smaller communities. 

One book that is helpful for IBCLCs in private practice is by Linda Smith “The Lactation Consultant in Private Practice:  The ABCs of Getting Started”. Although this book is designed for the American market, there are still useful guidelines applicable to the Canadian landscape. I would also recommend you connect with the Provincial Association in your province ( if availalbe) for peer support. 


Q: I am not a Registered Dietitian but do have a degree in Human Nutrition; does this meet the criteria for Health Sciences Education portion for becoming a Lactation Consultant? 

A: Although you may not be a Registered Dietitian, you would still follow the Pathway 1 for Health Sciences Education. What that means is that you would provide your transcripts to the IBLCE to demonstrate all the Health Sciences credits you have. This link here,  provides more detailed information on which Health Sciences Education credits are required, therefore you can verify whether the courses you took to obtain your degree are enough or if there are other courses you may need. 

Once you have verified that you have your Health Sciences Education, then you can proceed with obtaining your Lactation Specific Education (90 CERPS) and the Lactation Specific Clinical Practice hours (1000hrs) within the Pathway 1. Here is the link for that:

So to summarize, I believe your next step is to view the Health Sciences Education course requirements with the courses you have completed in your degree. If you are missing one or more, you could obtain that course (s) to continue down Pathway 1.


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