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Closing the Gap and Meeting the Education Requirement for Taking the IBLCE Exam

Completing the 90 hours of education in human lactation and breastfeeding can seem a daunting task. Many people make it to the halfway mark easily. But then what? Nearly every day I have someone ask me how to get from 45 credits to the 90 that are required to take the IBLCE™ Exam.

I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who asks: What’s best for one person may not be best — or even possible — for another. But there are some questions that can help you decide the best approach to closing that 45-90 gap, for you.

What is your tolerance for risk?

It’s easy to focus on the 90 and engage in a countdown to application readiness. But IBLCE didn’t choose “90” without reason. This is the number of hours of education that IBLCE has calculated it takes to be exposed to the range of topics you’ll have to know for the exam (and, subsequently, practice as an IBCLC).

Consider where you stand in terms of readiness to tackle all of those topics. Are you half prepared? Half unprepared? Registering for the exam as a first-time test-taker costs over $600. You’ll want to be sure that you’re ready to pass the exam, and not end up as one of the 500 first-timers who typically fail it each year.

What are your goals?

It can be tempting to think of completing the 90 hours as simply an exercise in “checking the box.” It can seem to make sense to try to meet this numeric goal in the easiest, fastest, or cheapest way possible.

That may get you the 90 you need to take the exam. But it probably won’t get you the 90 hours of education you need to pass it. If your goal is to pass, you’ll want to take advantage of one of the available comprehensive lactation courses, such as one I offer online.

My goal is to help you pass the exam, and be ready for the career to follow. The best way I know to do that is with a 90-hour course; I offer online an course. A second-best choice is to take the (online) 45-hour course. Both come with many multiple-choice questions to make sure you’ve learned what you need to succeed, not just gone over  some information.

If you want to pass the IBLCE Exam on the first try, and to build a strong foundation for your lactation practice as you prepare for the exam, you’ll want to consider a review course.

What are your resources?

Everyone knows that taking any kind of course takes time and money. But it can be harder to know how to maximize your savings in both of these areas.

If you take two 45-hour courses, what sort of time will you need to spend to determine whether you’ve covered all of the topics you may face on the exam? How long will it take you to review the topics later, and what additional resources will you need to get in that process?

If you feel unable to buy another course, consider some creative financing. I spoke with a woman the other day who was ecstatic about registering for the 90-hour course; her boss had offered to pay for both the course and her time to complete it! Another woman told me that she got a grant to pay for her course. Then, of course, there is the gift certificate option. The gift of education — whether for a birthday, holiday, or other special occasion — lasts a lifetime.

What are your learning preferences?

Many people I speak with have gotten their first 45 hours in a face-to-face course and are looking to accumulate the other 45 hours online. This options works well if you have tech-savvy skills, can easily organize tons of materials, can discipline yourself to take the time, and can self-determine your mastery (or your need to review) certain topics. If you question your ability to do all of that for 45 hours of education, I encourage you to think about another in-person course.

There is no single answer to “What’s the best way to get from 45 to 90?” But keep in mind that getting the 90 isn’t the goal — it’s one marker along the way to your ultimate finish line: Passing the IBLCE exam on the first try, and getting on to your work in the lactation field.

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  1. Jacqueline Komoroski

    Dear Marie.
    I purchased, and submitted the 90 hr lactation review rather quickly in order to have the hours needed by November so I could take the IBCLC exam for the first time in April 2018. I began reviewing by only listening to the audio portions of each section, including the lectures from your guest speakers, and without taking many notes so I could absorb the information first. I’m now ready to start from the beginning and concentrate on the pdf portions, and extra reading material from each section. I’ve learned so much by just listening, but its already mid January, and I’m worried I may not have enough time to get through all the pdf files, and learn the info well enough to pass the exam. I also purchased the Breastfeeding picture atlas but have not used it yet.
    I’m an RN working in the Women’s Services Dept. of a hospital, and since earning my CLC over 3 years ago, I now assist with only Lactation 1-2 days/wk.
    I would really appreciate any input, advice, or tips you can give me that may help me better prepare in time to pass the test.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Jackie Komoroski

    • Marie

      Jackie, I’m glad it’s going well for you so far! You were smart to just knock out the lectures, assignments, etc., and then go back and review them later. No matter how good the education is, reviewing and reinforcing is good, and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing.

      It’s tough to tell you exactly what to do. I’ve been teaching for decades and honestly, each learner is a little different. But I would encourage you to start by at least looking at our 8 week study plan. (It’s free, and should be in your account.) You don’t need to use it in an 8-week period. You could use it in a 16-week period. Just do HALF of the chunk I give for one week, then do another HALF the next week, etc. And remember that the order in which I devised the study guide is not necessarily the order in which you should tackle it. Personally, I would start with the stuff that is the hardest, and work my way to the more familiar material. In other words, I’m suggesting that you use the “Guide” as indeed that; just a guide! Adjust it to suit your own needs.

      But many people need to do more active learning,rather than just reading and re-reading, listening and re-listening etc. We have flash cards, practice exams, and all sorts of resources that might help you. Honestly, I give you a lot of credit for just admitting that it’s really tough to study for a comprehensive exam! It’s not like studying for an end-of-semester exam. Not at all.

      There are several blogs here which address how to study, and how to take the exam, and I would encourage you to read each of them carefully. If you haven’t already SUBSCRIBED to the blog, I’d encourage you to do so. I have several blogs coming up that will address at least some of these concerns in more detail. I am also trying valiantly to come up with a new “thing” to help people like you, and when it’s ready, blog subscribers will be the first to know! (I cannot guarantee that it will be ready by exam time in April, but I have pages and pages written! So stayed tuned!)

      Also, I and my very well-trained staff are here to help you. We are really committed to getting people to pass the exam, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help you, so please feel free to call us at 703-787-9894.

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