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Completing Pathway 3 Plan to Become an IBCLC

Going Pathway 3? If so, you’ll need to grapple with some hard questions on your Pathway 3 plan to become an IBCLC. I’ve heard dozens of questions from Pathway 3 candidates over the years. But I recently heard a new one.

I noted the $100 fee that must be submitted to IBLCE with the Pathway 3 plan only goes toward having IBLCE review the plan. Applicants should not assume that “when the check clears, you’re in,” but must wait for the plan to be officially approved before starting their clinical experience. Unfortunately, I explained, there is always the chance that IBLCE might not approve such a plan.

An aspiring IBCLC on the webinar came back with a very good (but hard to answer!) question: “What would cause IBLCE not to approve someone’s Pathway 3 plan?”

So if you using the pathway 3 plan to become an IBCLC, listen up!

No Insider Information on Pathway 3 Plan to Become an IBCLC

The answer is: I’m not sure. No one has ever told me about a plan they’ve submitted being rejected. (If it’s happened to you, I’d like to hear your insight. Feel free to comment below or shoot me an e-mail at

I have no “inside information” from IBLCE on this topic, and I have no “experiential information” from Pathway 3 applicants as to how this might work. I do, however, have some experience with something very similar.

Pitfalls when submitting any application

Each year, here at and Breastfeeding Outlook, we offer the Felix Biancuzzo Scholarship in memory of my late father. The application is about 5 pages long, and we ask applicants to respond to short-answer questions and some long-answer questions. The first year we offered the scholarship, I went through each and every one, personally, when it arrived. I don’t do that anymore.

Here’s why: Only applications that are completely filled out can be considered for the scholarship, yet every year a surprising number of applicants leave one or more questions unanswered! Given the value of this scholarship, I find it surprising, but I learned that we do — always — get some incomplete applications. Now, my staff eliminates those before the rest — the ones that have answers in every space — come to me. The second phase looks at whether the answers actually address the questions being asked, and some are eliminated in that round, too.

Lessons to be learned with applications

You see where I’m going with this, right? It’s entirely thinkable to me that some applicants might submit a Pathway 3 application that IBLCE finds to be incomplete or lacking answers to particular items. So, here’s a “MUST” before you send away your $100 with your Pathway 3 paperwork: Make sure you have completed everything required on your application!

Your application for Pathway 3 plan to become an IBCLC

There are a few particular things that might cause your application to be rejected. For example, the “mentor” chosen for your Pathway 3 plan must be not only an IBCLC, but one in good standing. Also, your application must be signed by the chief mentor, and failing to have it signed could trigger a rejection.

It goes without saying that the IBLCE does reserve the right to reject an application for any reason, including if the plan for meeting “Clinical Competencies” seems insufficient. However, as far as I can tell, there is no clear-cut criteria for what constitutes acceptance or rejection of the Pathway 3 application.

I have spent many, many hours helping people to complete their applications, and I still find them to be anything but clear. In my opinion, the “requirements” for the Pathway 3 plan can seem contradictory or confusing.

To anyone who has put in the time to complete the plan, and invested the $100 to have it reviewed, I would say: Seek clarity. Get an explanation. If your plan has been reviewed and rejected, ask for some solid answers before you try to go down that path again.

Bottom line is, if you’re using pathway 3 plan to become an IBCLC, complete it carefully, and completely.

What has been your experience? Was your application accepted? Was your application rejected? If so, did you get any helpful feedback on why? I’d be curious. I’d like to help others to deal with this. Post in the comments or — if you’d rather share your experience privately — e-mail me at

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