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Misinformation About Clinical Hours for IBLCE Exam Eligibility

Misinformation about clinical hours. Ask questions!
Over the years, the staff here at Breastfeeding Outlook have fielded many calls about the clinical hours requirement for taking the IBLCE exam. Our first step is always to recommend the IBCLC candidate check the IBLCE site. But if they are still confused, we try to help. I thought I’d “heard it all” but last week an aspiring IBCLC called with a new problem. She had misinformation about clinical hours. Specifically, she had misinformation about how to calculate the required clinical hours and whether a shortage of clinical hours would bar her from getting her 90 lactation-specific education hours.

Her role, her involvement

The caller was a certified nurse midwife (CNM) who has been in practice for more than 25 years. She works part-time in a clinic, doing what you’d expect any CNM would do: diagnosing (including lactation-related conditions), prescribing medications (including medications for such ailments as mastitis), counseling mothers about breastfeeding, determining whether the breastfed baby is making adequate weight gains and meeting developmental milestones, and more.

The caller thought she would be ineligible for the IBLCE exam in July, because someone had told her she did not have enough clinical hours. I listened carefully to her story, and felt she was operating on misinformation about clinical hours. I couldn’t reach the same conclusion.

Calculating her hours

I’m not a CNM myself, but I imagine that a CNM in the clinic setting would spend at least 50% of her time with breastfeeding mothers. (In the state where she works, breastfeeding rates are high.) Using rough numbers, I calculated that if she worked only 25 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, she would have accumulated over 1200 work hours in two years.

That would easily exceed the IBLCE’s requirements of a “minimum of 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice that was obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.”

I was stumped. So I asked: “What makes you think you don’t have enough hours?”

Some pesky 10% number

Someone  had told her that only 10% of the hours worked in a clinic counted as “breastfeeding” hours. I had never heard that. I’d never read it before. A thorough search of the IBLCE’s web site did not produce such a rule. (If you’ve heard it before, please comment below with where you heard it!)

Somewhere in this discussion, the caller said she had been denied admission to an education course because of her lack of clinical hours. I wondered if she might have confused an academic institution’s admission requirements with exam requirements. Those are two different things.

Over the years, we have admitted many, many IBLCE exam candidates to our 90-hour blended (live plus online) course or our 90-hour online course. Perhaps some other educators have clinical hour requirements for course admission, but we do not. In fact, some candidates have come to the course even though they have accumulated no clinical hours whatsoever.

Misinformation about clinical hours? Get the facts. 

We can all learn a few lessons from this calller:

  • First, requirements for admission to a course and requirements to sit for the IBLCE exam may be very different. (And requirements vary between Pathways 1, 2, and 3 as well; we know it can be confusing!)
  • Second, it’s best to go to the primary source for information; a friend, colleague, or other person might unknowingly mislead you.
  • Finally, don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions–even if you think you’ve been stopped in your tracks. We’re here to help you land your dream job.

Get help if you have questions or doubts about the IBLCE exam requirements. Leave us a comment (or give us a call) .

“Breastfeed Early and Often” Key for Mothers, Newborns in Hospital (and After)
Preparing for the IBLCE Exam: The Transformation Process


  1. Anna Utter

    Marie is right. There can be a lot of misinformation out there about IBLCE eligibility requirements. The best sources for the correct information about IBCLC certification requirements are the IBLCE website and the IBLCE staff.

  2. Renee P. Lomax

    Hi, I am a LPN working in an outpatient clinic, and I am a CLC. I received my training for LPN in the military, 20t years ago. I have taken over the past 15 years, several Lactation courses. My concern is that I don’t have all of the coruses, like maternal child and health and chemistry. I assist, on a daily basis, several moms with breastfeeding. I need help in deciding what college courses I need to take. Thank you.


      • Marie

        Maybe. It all depends on your pathway. I’m assuming that if you are wanting to accumulate 1000 hours, then you are going Pathway 1, right? If you are on their list of Recognized Health Professionals, then you can go Pathway 1, do your “regular” job, and get your 1000 hours without any special documentation. They ask you to take a best estimate. I’ve addressed that on a YouTube video if you are still confused.

  3. Joanne

    I am still having a tough time trying to figure out which pathway would be best for me. Hoping for some guidance. I have been a nurse for over 18 years now. I have always done PostPartum, L&D, special care and NICU! But sadly my husband got sick and I had to leave work for the last five years. I Have started my LC training courses and am just over the five year mark for all the beast feeding education I did in my past job :/.. I am wondering how many hours I will need to get. 1000 seems like it will take so long, with my background. Pathway two i don’t think is the right one. Pathway 3??? Any advise !

  4. Marie

    Joanne, my first inclination is to say Pathway 1. While in “theory” anyone can go any pathway, I like to remind people that there’s the easy way, and the hard way to everything! Seems like Pathway 1 would most certainly be the easy way for you.

    However, you have a bunch of other stuff going on here. All lactation-specific hours and all clinical experience needs to be within the past 5 years. I offer a free LIVE webinar. It’s easy to join. I cover lots of common questions, give good tips, and you get to ask real questions and I’ll give you real answers, on the spot! Just sign up for it.

    You may sign up here: or you can read more about it here if you wish:

    Or you can just call our office! 703-787-9894. We are on our summer hours, but approximately 9 to approximately 4 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern time.

    Let us know how we can help!

  5. Dr.Ahoud

    im a general physician who worked in a fertility clinic for 2 years ( 8hrs a day – 6 days a week) , my role was prenatal and antenatal care. i did give advise for breastfeeding and helped breast feeding mother. i just completed my 90 hr lactation specific education in december and since then started organising cafes and volunteer to help women with breast feeding issues but i never documented any of it.
    I’m wondering if I’m still eligible ?

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Probably! I’d need to take a clearer “history” of your clinical activities, but it certainly sounds like your clinical experience, past and present, would make you eligible for the IBLCE Exam. As a physician you would probably want to qualify through Pathway 1. (I’ve helped many physicians, and that’s what they have all done, which doesn’t mean that’s what you need or want to do, but in all likelihood, it’s probably a best “fit” for you.) I think your most pressing question here is about the documentation. Understand, I am NOT a representative for IBLCE, I am an independent educator. So you should always check the primary source to get the most authoritative answer. However, I have never seen anywhere in their requirements that a healthcare professional needs to document their hours. (I know that if a person is qualifying through Pathway 3 they must have a clear paper trail for their hours.) You should check the IBLCE’s site yourself, and, if you are still uneasy, drop them an email and say that you are a physician and ask what, if anything, you need to do in order to document your hours.

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