Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

The road to becoming a Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

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What we do and why you would want one in your life!

It’s IBCLC Day! A Day to celebrate IBCLCs around the world. There are over 30,000 IBCLCs around the world practicing in 125 countries

In honor of this very special IBCLC Day, I want to share:

  1. What IBCLCs do and when you should find one
  2. Resources the The Lactation Network offers for lactation support
  3. Why I became an IBCLC
  4. The path to becoming an IBCLC

This blog is in partnership with The Lactation Network 

The Lactation Network (TLN) is fighting to create a world where all parents have equal access to the vital information and resources they need to best care for themselves and their children. 

Through education, connection, and advocacy, they foster a network of inclusive care, where moms and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) empower each other to thrive. TLN is the go-to source for lactation education, a one-stop shop for lactation products and services, and a key initiator of lactation health awareness.

They are currently connecting new moms to IBCLCs and resources in 47 states and Washington D.C. 

Visit their website here to input your location and insurance information. They provide lactation visits (in-home or telehealth) and can help you find pumps, pump parts, and provide pumping education. 

What do IBCLCs do and when should you find one?

IBCLCs are lactation consultants trained and certified in lactation education. They can help you in establishing breastfeeding, trouble-shooting concerns, and be a support system. It’s important to find one that aligns with your values and supports your mind, body, and spirit. 

An IBCLC is considered the gold-standard of lactation education given their intense hours of clinical time (I needed over 1000+ clinical hours in lactation education) and course-work (science course-work and 95+ lactation education coursework). 

They are not only helpful in providing help in challenging or unique breastfeeding concerns; they can be the support system many moms need in their newborn feeding journey.  

Here are some reasons you may seek help from an IBCLC:

  • You are pregnant, using a gestational carrier, or are adopting and want to breastfeed: Having an IBCLC lined up can help for when you are postpartum or even for questions you may have to prepare
  • You are struggling with milk production postpartum
  • Your baby is struggling to latch
  • You want to utilize a breast pump and want education on how to balance this with breastfeeding 
  • You’re returning back to work and want to keep your supply
  • You want to wean your baby off breastfeeding. 
  • You have mastitis, a clogged duct, or are in pain 
  • Wanting emotional support: Breastfeeding doesn’t come “naturally” to many women. And even if it is something that comes easily for you, you may want the motivation or support from a trained professional for concerns. 

I advise any parent who plans on breastfeeding or pumping to get tied in with an IBCLC. 

The right one can be invaluable to your feeding journey. 

Why I love The Lactation Network 

The Lactation Network is committed to providing lactation education to families in a non-judgemental way (my kind of education!) They work with families to help them reach their feeding goals. I often find some lactation resources can be very judgemental or stressful in their style, but The Lactation Network is committed to making this a pleasant experience for you to reach your goals.

You can visit their website here.

Utilizing their services is easy! Visit their website to input your location and insurance information. They provide lactation visits (in-home or telehealth) and can help you find pumps, pump parts, and provide pumping education, all free through your health insurance.

The Lactation Network assists with:

  • Prenatal Consultations: Extremely beneficial and crucial to setting families up for success, these visits provide a complete breast assessment, an overview of what to expect and potential hiccups, recommendations for breast pumps based on needs and lifestyles, and the opportunity to ask any questions.
  • Lactating Consultations: Not producing enough milk? Baby crying at all hours of the day? TLN has the largest network of IBCLCs in the country with consultants in 47 states and DC.
  • Breast Pumps & Accessories: With a wide selection of the best products on the market, TLN will jump through the insurance hoops to quickly understand what breast pumps and accessories are available. And let me tell you: insurance hoops can be very annoying when you are postpartum! 

Why did I become an IBCLC?

In Pediatric residency we learn about the benefits of breastfeeding, but we don’t get the heavy education in lactation education that IBCLCs do. While in residency, I always wanted to become an IBCLC but time was limited for the course-work required. 

As I practiced medicine in NYC and Florida, the dream was always there. It wasn’t until I had my own son, Ryaan, experienced birth trauma, and met unsupportive and judgemental IBCLCs that I decided to finally fulfill my dream. 

I went through a very traumatic experience where “breast wasn’t best” for my physical recovery and mental health in the ICU, so I chose to formula feed my son. Through it all, I thought how I want no mother to ever feel like I did. I want them to feel supported in their lactation journey, but also respect if they choose something different like formula. I wanted to provide that same judgement-free lactation education that TLN provides because I do believe this yields the best lactation outcomes. 

So, I looked into all the requirements, course-work, and exam dates and started the process. It wasn’t easy. But when I passed the exam and got that email: “Congratulations on becoming an IBCLC” I knew my calling was here. To help so many in newborn feeding and postpartum. 

How to become an IBCLC

There are various pathways to become an IBCLC depending on your educational level. 

There’s four major steps:

  1. Choose your pathway
  2. Get your education
  3. Complete your clinical hours
  4. Apply and sit for the exam

There are Three Major Pathways to choose from when deciding to become an IBCLC:

Pathway 1, Pathway 2, or Pathway 3.

Lactation Training has great resources on which courses and requirements you need.

Pathway One (meant for Health Care Professionals and Recognized Mother Support Counselors) and is the pathway I completed.

  • Recognized Health Professionals include:
    • Dentist 
    • Dietician 
    • Midwife 
    • Nurse
    • Occupational Therapist 
    • Pharmacist 
    • Physical Therapist or Physiotherapist
    • Physician or Medical Doctor 
    • Speech Pathologist or Therapist
  • Requirements:
    • You need 1000+ hours of lactation specific clinical experience through paid OR volunteer experience as a Recognized Health Professional and/or Recognized Mother Support Counselor within the last five years of applying for certification (this is self-reported when applying for the exam).
    • 90+ hours of lactation specific education offered through resources like Lactationtraining.com 
    • 5 hours of communication skills education available on lactationtraining.com 
    • Take and Pass the IBCLC Exam: This exam occurs twice a year (In September and in March/April). In order to apply to sit for the exam you must have all requirements previously mentioned complete by the application deadline for the exam. Here is where you can find application deadlines: https://iblce.org/step-2-certification-fees-and-key-dates/.

Pathway 2 and 3 are for those who may not have clinical experience as a healthcare professional. You can find more information here:  https://www.lactationtraining.com/lc-training/certification/pathways.

I completed all of the requirements for Pathway 1 by April 2021 and applied to sit for the exam and passed in September 2021.

Because I have been practicing for 6 years as an outpatient pediatrician who also rounds in the newborn nursery, I had more than the 1000 hours of clinical experience because I see a lot of newborns and their parents and discuss lactation often.

The 90 hours of lactation education and the 5 hours of communication education was all done online via lactationtraining.com. I managed my time and started taking the course in January of 2021 and completed it by the May deadline to apply for the September exam. 

Before the exam, I took a refresher course via lactationtraining.com which was high-yield and very helpful for the actual exam. 

The entire cost for the exam, online coursework, and review course was about $1900. 

This was a huge investment, but nothing we aren’t used to in the medical field given our obscene cost of medical education.

I do believe my experience as a Practicing Pediatrician was helpful in passing the exam. The exam had a blend of physiology, pharmacology, infant development, and so much more.

I learned so much from the online course that I continue to utilize in practice every day.

I am truly honored to be an IBCLC and proud to partner with The Lactation Network to educate parents on their feeding journey! 

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.