Menu Close

Do I Need to be a Nurse to Become an IBCLC?

Do you need to be a nurse to become an IBCLC?

A resounding NO to that one! No, you do not need to be a nurse to become an IBCLC.

As a nurse, it’s hard for me to imagine how a non-nurse could possibly acquire the knowledge and skills to become an IBCLC. However, just recently we heard from one of my course attendees; she got 91% of the questions on the IBCLC exam correct – on her first try! We were thrilled for her!

In good company

So yes, of course it can be done. Look around. I can immediately think of people who are IBCLCs, but not nurses. I’m thinking of people like Linda Smith, Barbara Wilson-Clay, Kay Hoover, Kathleen Kendall Tackett, who have my profound respect. And they are, by anyone’s standards, exemplary in their work.

Here’s more good news on this. We have offered the Felix Biancuzzo Scholarship for aspiring lactation consultants since 2010, and I’d be inclined to say that half or more of the scholarship recipients have NOT been nurses. Yet, all have demonstrated outstanding competencies and characteristics which our review team felt exemplified those for tomorrow’s.

Different backgrounds, similar challenges

I’d say that hundreds of non-nurses have taken one of my courses. The non-nurses are, in many respects, just like the nurses. Some are overachievers, some aren’t. Similarly, there are some who are good test-takers, while some aren’t. Some do the minimal amount of work required, others immerse themselves in for the fullest learning experience they can have.

Many non-nurses have taken my Lactation Education Course and/or taken my Lactation Exam Review course. Without looking in our corporate database, here are just a few examples that come to my head for those who are not nurses:

  • attorney
  • chef
  • chemical engineer
  • dental hygienist
  • doula
  • elementary school teacher
  • librarian
  • marketing expert
  • medical transcriptionist
  • model

Finding your own path

There are those who are not nurses but are considered healthcare professionals, such as registered dietitians, and others. Generally, those non-nurses that I’ve encountered qualify through Pathway 3 – it’s usually the best fit for them – but every IBCLC candidate needs to understand what is involved in each of the Pathways.

For those of you that are already IBCLCs, what field were you in prior to certifying? How has your previous experience helped you in your journey? Tell me in the comments section below!

Share this


  1. Patti Wallis

    Working in a hospital, all our IBCLC’s were required to be RN’s. I drew on my 25 years as an RN every day. I then went on to practice as an IBCLC for the next 20 years. My extensive knowledge base in newborn and special care nursing was utilized daily, in decision making and giving the very best care to moms and babies. I am now retired with so many wonderful memories.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Patti, I hear you. Truth is, we all bring to our IBCLC role our previous experience, expertise, enthusiasm and more–whatever that might be. Hoping you are enjoying retirement! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  2. Jean Bonnyman, IBCLC

    No, you don’t have to be a nurse to be an excellent IBCLC, but try telling that to hospital administrator employers! None of the hospitals in my area (East Tennessee) will consider hiring a non-nurse for a position as an IBCLC. I find this very frustrating as job prospects are more challenging for those of us who did not attend nursing school. Pathway 3 can be difficult because clinical mentorships are few and far between. I had to temporarily relocate to Charlotte, NC, to take advantage of a hospital-based internship program in order to earn my clinical hours. My background is art history (undergrad) and publishing (by career).

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      What you’re saying about hiring non-nurses for hospitals seems more widespread than just your area. I’ve taught in 40 out of the 50 states and have heard this often. So I’m eager to remind everyone that my post was about eligibility, not employment, but since you brought up the employment thing, let me briefly address that. From the administrator’s point of view, there are lots of hospitals issues that can make it soooooooo much easier to just hire a nurse. I’m not saying that makes it right or wrong, I’m just saying, it is often the practicality of the matter if you are a hospital administrator.

      • Sheryl Childress

        I have been an IBCLC in a large pediatric practice for more than 20 years. My education and background was dentistry and oral surgery. This was crucial to being able to pinpoint oral anomalies , tongue tie, high arched palates, etc. Unfortunately , it have been my experience that many RN’s/IBCLC’s in the hospitals have no clue how to spot a tongue tie or worse, don’t even examine baby’s mouth. I’ve had many women shadowing me who want to be lactation consultants but are put down because they are not RN’s. They do go the extra mile and time because they are passionate about wanting to be a lactation consultant. I hope this changes. Just because you are an RN does it make you a good lactation consultant. Marie, I have studied under all the women you mentioned and have taken your courses as well. It can be done yet it is much more difficult.

        • Marie Biancuzzo

          Sheryl, thank you for the compliment, and for your reinforcement and insights. I’m eager to repeat what you just said: Just because you are an RN doesn’t make you a good lactation consultant. And honestly, just because you’re an IBCLC doesn’t make you a good lactation consultant, either. I’ll go further, actually, Sheryl. Just because you have any specific certification doesn’t mean you are a good [fill in the blank]. It’s never the letters after our names. It’s always about our competencies and characteristics, both personal and professional.

  3. Veronica

    How can I become a lactation consultant I’ve been very interested in it. I worked as an lvn for about 15 years. Not sure want to continue with RN but know I want to be a lactation consultant and have been interested in health and nutrition my while life. I am proficient in Spanish, and have worked in hospitals for about 18 years. I’m still lactating myself with my third child and she is 2. Plus I would definitely need financial aide though. Thank you so much for any assistance.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      As I understand, you are currently a licensed vocational nurse (LVN). If you go to the IBLCE’s list of recognized healthcare professionals, you’ll see that they do not specify that you must be a “registered” nurse. So although a non-healthcare person can pursue their IBCLC certification, certainly, the fact that you are already a nurse should make it a bit easier. I think you will find it difficult to get financial aid. Yet, it is not impossible! We offer a merit-based scholarship for our 90-hour course, and I would encourage you to apply for it. Read a little about its origins, and see how to apply here. Feel free to send email to OR call us during regular business hours at 703-787-9894. We’re happy to help.

  4. Deanna

    I’m 33 years old and am considering a career switch into the Lactation field. I have a B.S. degree, but I’m not an RN or anything clinical. I am still breastfeeding my daughter (17 months) and have been so inspired and changed by this journey. I considered just doing the CAPPA CLE week long certification to get started, but I had trouble finding jobs needing only this level of certification, and if I did, they don’t make enough for it to be worth the switch. In my heart, I would LOVE to become an IBCLC.

    However, my concern is that I’m not an RN, and as mentioned jobs will very hard to come by. I’ve looked up jobs online, all over the country, and the heavy majority are for a hospital that requires an RN. This is very discouraging when wanting to start an IBCLC program under Pathway 3. It makes me feel that in order to be truly successful I need to actually go to nursing school first, even though I have no interest in being a nurse, then in 2-3 years once I’m an RN I can start the IBCLC program. Therefore, I have some questions…

    1. Are birthing center, Women’s Health centers, etc. more inclined to possibly hire an IBCLC without an RN, than a hospital? Or will there be the same barriers regardless?
    2. Do you know if there is much of a salary difference from IBCLCs with an RN vs. without? I’m not asking for actual figures and I know it depends on the state, years of work experience, etc., but in general, would it be common to make significantly less?
    3. My husband is in the military, so we move every few years. If I did go through nursing school, how difficult is it to update my RN license to the new state?

    Overall, I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth going through nursing school first. This article makes me feel hopeful that I could have a successful career as an IBCLC without being an RN, but I’m still unsure. I would appreciate any insights, thoughts, or words of wisdom. Thank you.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Oh Deanna, I feel like we need a big pot of coffee to talk through all of your questions! Yet, I do hear these questions all the time. I am wondering if I could write a post on each of those three questions! Meanwhile, let me see if I can capture some of my thoughts:

      1) To some extent, I’d say that birthing centers are more likely to hire non-RNs than hospitals. BUT, I would also say that it very much depends on the locale where you’re living. Some states (or even some counties) have a glut of IBCLCs, and hence, those states aren’t likely to hire a non-RN. Supply and demand, you know? So it’s not just the setting, it’s also (in my experience) the overall geographic location. You also say, “I have no interest in being a nurse.” I want to warn you that I found nurses’ training (which is what we called it in my day!) was one of the most demanding, exhausting, and just plain grueling experiences I’ve ever had. By Christmas of the first year, we lost 1/3 (yes, one-third) of my class. To this day, I think it was a minor miracle that I finished, and got my RN license on the first try. I cannot imagine how one would do all that is required without some passion for the RN license.

      2) Difference in wage or salary: I’ve taught in 40 of the 50 states, and had conversations with IBCLCs in all 50 states. My impression is that non-nurses are not paid as much as nurses. I do remember one who said the difference was very substantial.

      3) I have several military nurse friends who are officers. Their state RN license follows them from one base to the next. However, it sounds like your husband is military, and you’re the milspouse. In that case, I assume (assume!) you’d need to jump through the hoops like any other civilian. How difficult is it to get reciprocity? Well, I’d say that depends on the state! It took me two full years to get from my active NY state license to an active DC license. It took me less than a month to get my VA state license. So it might be a huge hassle, or a walk in the park. Can’t say.

      To be honest, though, I think you need to ask different questions. You’re asking questions about setting and salary and hassle. Try to take a step back and think about how you really want to interact with mothers and babies. You might be thrilled to be an IBCLC in a clinic setting, for example. Or a physician’s office, or a WIC clinic or private practice or whatever. I loved the hospital and I miss it every single day. Every single day. But I love what I do now, too, which is a million miles from the hospital!

      You might consider my Certified Clinical Lactationist certification. It is not international. And it’s a tough preparation, with a rigorous exam. And, like any other certification, I cannot tell you that it will or won’t get you the job you want. There are too many variables–the setting, the locale, etc. etc. But it might be worth considering.

      If you want your 90 hours of lactation-specific course work, we do offer a military discount.

      A few final thoughts: I’m fairly sure I’ve had a more fulfilling career than most people I know. Yet, only once in my life was I qualified for the job I applied for. Every other time, I’ve had to grow into the job. And, I’ve often made my own opportunities. I’d say, think about what you really want. If you have a big enough “why”, the “how” will eventually become apparent to you.

      Thank you for the question. Call my office 703-787-9894 if you still need to talk. I’m away, but everyone on our team is there to help you (and others like you) to meet your goals!

      • Deanna

        Oh, I wish we could sit down for a coffee chat! First off, I sincerely appreciate your prompt, detailed and thoughtful response. I’ve tried to better understand the field by calling some lactation consultants in the area, contacting the state breastfeeding coalition, ILCA, etc., but have never received any response.

        Yes, I completely hear you. I am also concerned that my lack of passion for nursing. I know it would make nursing school quite challenging. I understand that it’s a preferred foundation of information for IBCLCs, but it would be a long time of just “getting through”. Even still, I can’t ignore the reality that having an RN significantly increases IBCLC opportunities. Would it be crazy/dumb/not a good idea to possibly do it backwards? Meaning, go for what I want now (IBCLC), try to start working in the field, and then possibly go to nursing school down the road if need?

        Yes, my husband is active duty military and I’m the spouse. I also assume that it would be a lot of jumping through hoops every few years to keep a valid RN license. And I would have already been all in on Pathway 3 if it wasn’t for my husband giving me pause by consistently asking the bottom line questions of salary and job availability. He’s trying to be supportive, but from his perspective I should only do it if it’s worth the cost and time of school and training vs. the salary vs. putting our daughter in daycare, etc., and he wants me to set myself up to work on base (which is a whole other story, but probably something I wouldn’t be considered for)… And it all keeps bringing me back to nursing school. It seems getting an RN is the first step to possibly having it all, even though I currently have no desire to be a nurse.

        I also appreciate you sending information on the CCL program and military discount. I will take this into consideration. Thank you!!!

        • Sierra McCollum

          This is actually what I’m kind of doing. I’m in school right now getting my pre-reqs for Nursing school. And getting ready to start an IBCLC program. I’ll be starting the nursing program in August, so I’ll be my LC certificate before my RN.

          • Marie Biancuzzo

            Deanna, I’m hoping that you have a clear plan for what requirements to meet, and when. The big thing that worries me here is that you need to understand the “pathways”, because you’re in a rather unusual situation. You don’t qualify as a “healthcare professional” at this point, and yet, you’re doing some of that role and meeting some of those requirements. Have you seen my short video series on becoming a lactation consultant? I’d strongly suggest that you do. We’ve helped literally thousands of people to get their requirements for their IBCLC. But I’m here to tell you, MANY people mess up because they didn’t understand the requirements. This is a free resource, so I’d say … don’t miss it!

  5. Lauren


    I am 10.5 months in to my second breastfeeding journey. Exclusively pumping to be exact. I am an over producer this time around, vs being a stressed out, overwhelmed first time momma. I have found that both journeys were totally different. But one thing they both had in common- horrible help from the LC at the hospitals and classes. So I started digging and doing my own research and reaching out to other moms. I now have family and friends coming to me, and even their family and friends coming to me with questions. Its AWESOME!!!! So much so, I am considering making a career change. I currently have an associates degree and bachelors degree, both in business.

    Would I really need to go back to add on to my degrees? Or would a hospital, OB office, ect accept me with a bachelors and the passing/ certification of the test? I see other gals above mentioning how its hard to get jobs without being a nurse. Just curious if having a degree in general makes a difference? Also, your link to the Pathway 3 (which is what I THINK I am looking for – just testing and getting certified), is from 2018/2019. Does there happen to be an updated one?

    Thanks so much! Very eager to hear back

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Lauren, thank you for your insightful questions. There’s a lot to unpack here. Let try to take one at a time.

      Believe me, I get it about the horrible help. I didn’t mention the hospital IBCLC, so my take here was a little different, but I basically said, sometimes it’s time to fire your lactation consultant. I only hit the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to add a comment there if you wish!

      No, you would not need to go back and “add on” to your degree, but you would need to earn credits with some healthcare science courses. I’ve blogged about that on and off, but here’s the first one I came to related to requirements for healthcare sciences. Dig around, you’ll find more of my posts on that topic.

      Don’t mix apples and oranges. In the post you are commenting on, I addressed whether or not you had to be a nurse in order to be eligible to become an IBCLC. Getting a job is a whole other story. I addressed the issue of getting a job in a hospital here. Having a degree doesn’t make a bit of difference as far as I can tell. I’d just be eager to say that having a college degree helps you to think, so if a prospective employer values that, you might have an advantage, but don’t count on it.

      On Pathway 3: Fear not for the date on my post. I’ve long since forgotten when the IBLCE put into place the Pathway 1, Pathway 2, and Pathway 3 structure. But I’d guess well over 10 years ago. Sure, they tweak it a bit from time to time, but the basic structure is the same. I give a free webinar where I unpack all of the 3 options, and you are welcome to attend. We’re rolling out a new webinar in about 2 weeks. Want to sign up to come, or at least get notified? Join my Marie Biancuzzo Insider Club. It costs nothing, and we’ll put you on the list. Or, feel free to call the office, 703-787-9894. Since COVID we are running kind of kooky hours, but we do answer the phone nearly every day during a shortened business day (eastern time.)

      I do worry about your parenthetical remark: “just testing and getting certified.” It’s much more complicated than that.

      I’m sure you have many more questions. in this podcast, as fast as my jaws would flap (!) I tried to answer the 50 questions on eligibility that I’ve heard over the years. Sure, there are a few minor changes, but the basic structure hasn’t changed. Understand, too, that I am not an official representative for IBLCE. But I have helped about 5,000 people on 6 continents to get their IBCLC certification, so pretty much, I’ve heard all of their questions for years.

      I’d also be quick to say this as related to lactation or careers or anything else: Asking the right questions is key. So you’re going gangbusters so far!

      Hoping this helps. Call my office. We’re here to help.

  6. Patti Wallis

    I would like to say, I am very sorry to hear of Lauren’s disappointing experiences with her lactation support. The IBCLC is the gold standard.
    I firmly believe in an RN,IBCLC. There are so many assessments required during mother/ baby consults. My background as an SCN nurse, gave me an excellent foundation . I was also blessed to work as part of a team of IBCLCs in two different hospitals. We continued to build our knowledge of changes in the field, by attending conferences and reading the JHL.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Patti, yes, disappointing, but not uncommon. I hear a story much like Lauren’s a fair amount of the time. (Along with rude name-calling…you know what I mean!) We all need to keep in mind that IBCLCs, like anyone else who provides services (in healthcare or otherwise) aren’t all equal in their basic knowledge, skills, OR their ability to relate to others. I’d also be quick to say that in my 40-ish years of supporting breastfeeding, I’ve done some acts or made some omissions that I’m not proud of. We can only hope that maybe people will recognize their shortcomings and do better the next time. Sadly, not everyone is self-aware.

  7. Lauren

    Is it possible for me to do the testing and certification and then run my own consulting business? I’m getting ready to become a stay at home mom- so I’m just thinking part time work, on my own time as a consultant would be great!!

    *** do I need the certification if I’m doing it on my own? I assume so since it’s healthcare for legal reasons. But then again- it’s helping women latch a baby and helping provide tips and tricks. Not giving diet or health recommendations/ diagnoses.

  8. Marie Biancuzzo

    Well, that’s not a simple yes or no. Think of it this way. There are guys who are the neighborhood “handyman” and they might be very good at it, and you might pay them for their service, they just aren’t certified. But would you want that guy installing your electrical wiring? I wouldn’t! In my view, the best way to become knowledgeable, competent, and credible is to take (and pass!) the exam, and you become certified. Then, yes, you can have your own clients and run your own business. I’ll be eager to hear how your journey to certification goes!

  9. Lauren

    Ok cool!! So to sum up- certification is less appealing to hospitals unless accompanied with the degree. BUT it is appealing for private business.

    Do you happen to have a link to testing?

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Lauren, I’m not sure that sums it up. Let me clarify. Some employers favor employees who have some kind of degree, and that’s not just a “lactation” thing. Certification, if you’re working in a private business of your own, helps to assure the public that you are credible. I wrote a post on how tough it is for a non-nurse to get an IBCLC position in the hospital, and you’ll definitely want to read it.

      Also, it so happens that I have a blog post that I wrote a bit ago about starting your own lactation business. (I tend to write a bunch but post them later.) I think that one is scheduled to post this month. Subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss a post! I post every Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 AM Eastern time, but of course, you can read the post any time thereafter.

  10. Patti Wallis

    Thank you, Marie, for all you do to educate others, in how to thoughtfully pursue a pathway that is appropriate for them. I remember when I began preparing for the IBCLC exam. It was overwhelming. I was blessed to be friends with and have coworkers who had successfully taken this journey.
    They were all very compassionate women, with a passion to support women choosing to provide Breastmilk to their babies, sometimes by pumping. All of these IBCLCs had very strong ethics. We all need to really listen to moms and support them in reaching their goals. It breaks my heart to hear some moms have less than ideal relationships with their lactation consultant. They need to know that if it does not feel right, they need to seek help from someone else. I am interested in what continues to come out of studies related to Breastmilk and the Covid virus.

  11. Marie Biancuzzo

    Or Lauren, you could look at it this way. You could call yourself an “accountant”. But you can’t call yourself a CPA until you pass the accounting exam. Similarly, you could not call yourself an IBCLC until you pass the exam. Make sense?

  12. Marie Biancuzzo

    Patti, you really have my attention. The people who are “exploring” the IBCLC certification often express how confused and overwhelmed they are. They call our office and want to take a course, but we find we need to get them to slow down and get clear on all of the eligibility requirements before they paint themselves into a corner. So I find it interesting that even as someone who has successfully passed the exam, you still remember how confusing it all was. We hear that almost every day. “I’d like to be an IBCLC but it’s so confusing about how to do it.” Yep.

    If you would be so kind, please tell your colleagues that I have a new short webcast that helps people to unravel some of this confusion. I recorded it a few weeks ago, and we are going to roll it out in the next week or two.

    On listening and supporting goals: You just nailed it! As you may be aware, IBLCE is now requiring 5 hours of Communication in order to be eligible for the Exam. And my guess, that’s why they require it. If you know anyone who is interested, I do offer a course that fulfills that requirement,

    Thanks for your comments, and your insights!

  13. Patti Wallis

    I am sharing your information with my friends/ colleagues who still work in hospitals. Many have taken a one week CLC course. Again, Hank you for all you do.

  14. Marie Biancuzzo

    Thank you, thank you! If any of your colleagues have earned 45 hours and want to earn another 45 hours, we have a course specifically designed for that. It’s our StepUp course.

    And, of course, we have our 90-hour lactation education course if someone is starting from scratch.

    Thank you for being my advocate at your hospital!

  15. Patti Wallis

    Even though I am retired, my heart still holds a love for supporting breastfeeding moms and those seeking to become IBCLCs. I share your posts with everyone I believe would be interested. The hospital I retired from had a very busy lactation program. We provided seven day coverage, including holidays. Except on weekends and holidays, there were two IBCLCs. One covered the clinic and telephone line, and the other covered rounds on PP, SCN, and peds. If a mom presented in the ER with lactation issues, we went there. Birth center moms would come to our outpatient clinic. The program is extremely busy. We also served moms who only spoke Spanish, requiring an interpreter. We had an excellent female interpreter. Some cultures do not allow a male to be in the room to interpret. There are so many things to consider before pursuing the IBCLC. Your webcasts would certainly be a huge help to those trying to figure out what to do. I also attended the international ILCA conference the year I took the initial exam. Attending the skills workshop was very helpful. Those pursuing the IBCLC need to know they need to recertify every five years. As always, I thank you for all you do.

  16. Brittanie Sutton

    Hi there, I am currently a Medical Assistant with an OBGYN office, working with prenatal and postpartum moms full time. How many of these hours count towards my IBCLC, so that I can sit for the exam?

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Brittanie, first, “Medical Assistant” is not on IBLCE’s list of recognized healthcare providers. Only those how are on that list can “count” the hours of counseling, care, etc. that occur during their usual work day. Meaning, since Medical Assistant is not on that list, you’d need to have direct supervision by an IBCLC through Pathway 2 (earn a degree in lactation) or through Pathway 3. Few people want to earn a degree in lactation (Pathway 2), although that is certainly an option. Most likely, you would want to pursue Pathway 3, which means you cannot accumulate hours that “count” unless and until you are working with a mentor through a formal agreement. I don’t know if this will answer all of your questions about Pathway 3, but this is a start: You should also take a look at this post, too: Thank you for the question, let me know if I can be of further help.

  17. Brittanie Sutton

    I am unsure as to why that would be, I have been told they would count, I am just unsure as to how they would transfer over. I am also certain that hours as a Peer Breastfeeding Counselor count as well?

  18. Socorro Almario Ay

    I am interested in becoming an IBCLC. I am a BSN graduate and an LPN and RN in New York but in a private practice nurse (Baby Nurse) for more than 7 years. I will appreciate any input on how will I start to process to become IBCLC.

    Thank you.

  19. Marie Biancuzzo

    Socorro, thank you for letting me know what you need. You have come to the right place! We are here to help you, and others like you. Most people we have a rough time trying to figure out the process. Here is a blog post that will help you understand the basic requirements. But also, we are launching a few short videos soon (like early next week.) I think you would gain some great insights into that, but i can’t sign you up from here. Please send a note to and say that you want access to the new free videos, and we can put you on the list. Also, if you’d rather, feel free to call our office. Since COVID, our hours are a little less regular because we are short-staffed, but pretty much, we answer the phone from 8:30 to about 2:30 each day. If we don’t answer, please leave a message and someone will get back to you shortly. We are absolutely committed to your success! We would be happy to help you. –Marie

  20. Marie Biancuzzo

    Socorro, I found your email address. I notified our customer service team in the office. Someone should be able to get you on the list for the free video which i believe will be up next week. But if for some reason something falls through the cracks, please email us at or call us at 703-787-9894.

  21. Eva Minotti

    Loving all these posts. I was a breastfeeding peer counselor for WIC. My youngest child was 2 when I started working for WIC she was my 11 child (I birthed all 11 but breastfed 14), my total years of breastfeeding was 30years. So I was pregnant over 100 months of my life and breastfed over 238 months.

    I also helped with baby cafe, mothers support group, and educated pregnant moms for OBGYN at the same hospital I was a counselor for 6 years. I am a non-nurse and acquired some of my education through MOOCS. All my experience breastfeeding, lactation training, and counseling continued to inspire me to become an IBCLC. Taking my experiences breastfeeding, counseling moms, and education in lactation really solidified my reality as after the fact it all made sense and helped me become IBCLC

    I never had any help with breastfeeding and didn’t come from a breastfeeding family. My family believed breastfeeding was weird and cows were the only viable milk producers. My love for empowering moms and sharing my knowledge to help moms succeed in their breastfeeding goals are never-ending. Prior to all this I was a stay at home mom, lived in the middle of a mountain in the middle of a field. Knowing I can save moms a ton of time from what I have experienced and have been educated on to help them succeed has driven me to having my own business. I am just starting to get set up. I know I have to be licensed. I need help with ins. comp. Now I have a world of new information I need to succeed~ is there any help for this? Or anyone I can talk to?

    The IBCLC exam was definitely hard. I took it in about an hour and never looked back at the questions and passed. It honestly was one of the worst most rewarding days of my life. You see I was super sick the night before and couldn’t quit throwing up. That morning of the test I was so dizzy I couldn’t sit up and barley made it to the last question. On my way out of the testing room, the guy said WOW you must have been in quite a hurry. I realized later It was probably to my advantage to not reread because I have a tendency to overthink the question. My strategy that day was to not throw up on the keyboard and mess my pants.

    My best advice is to use Marie Biancuzzo’s site and her programs. It honestly will take the guess work out of passing by studying what you need to. You have to know how to interpret photos. You need to know specifically what to study and it will cost a lot less money here than doing it all on your own.


    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Eva, you made my day! You made my day! Indeed, yes, I try very hard to “take the guess work out of passing…” because I see so many people study stuff they don’t need to study, and NOT study stuff they should study! And, you are totally right, the photo interpretation makes up about half (or in my case, once it was well over half!) of the exam. Thank you for your positive feedback. It shows me that others see that I do my best to make good on my promise. So thank you, you made my day!

  22. Angel

    I enjoyed reading the responses relating to IBCLC. What I find interesting is how IBCLC has attached it’s certification with RN, if you want to work in hospitals. The truth of the matter is I have worked in the breastfeeding field for over 15 years as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and it has been so rewarding!! I have helped and encouraged so many prenatal moms breastfeed their babies and counseled so many postpartum moms as well.
    Hospitals are so overwhelmed and understaff that postpartum moms who need help with breastfeeding after their baby is born don’t receive the help from “RN-Lactation Consultants” while in the hospital. The truth is: I have a BA In the Arts and my minor is Health Education and Promotion and as I mentioned I have 15 years in lactation! I’m also a writer, my first book which was number one on Amazon in titled “Smart Moms Breastfeed.”
    Truth be told, I have more experience and education in the field of lactation than any IBCLC that I have ever came into contact with and I mean no disrespect. I’m simply stating facts.
    Being a lactation consultant working in hospitals should be less about a nursing degree and more about passion and willingness to help postpartum moms with getting breastfeeding off to a good start before leaving the hospital.
    I love demonstrating how to properly latch a baby on to the breast and telling them what to expect when their breastfeeding. It is so rewarding to seeing a mom exclusively
    breastfeeding her baby and knowing you had a hand in making that possible.
    I have spoken to so many RN/LC who work in hospitals who say they simply don’t have the time to help moms properly latch their baby on to breast. But, that’s where Breastfeeding starts! Right! It’s important for a mom to latch the baby on properly so that she get BF off to a good start from inception so she doesn’t get discouraged. Right?
    I believe breastfeeding peer Counselors should be in the hospital helping those moms bf their babies because they are just as qualified and they want to help these moms get breastfeeding off to a good start.
    Telling someone they have to be a nurse in order to work in hospitals as an LC is disingenuous to the postpartum moms needing these services.
    Furthermore more I think we need to look at the demographics of women who aren’t BF and look at the affects their decision not too plays on the health of their children as well as their community. Breastfeeding is a public health issue. Specifically for moms living in low income communities where the data shows a high percentage of infant mortality rates. We need to help. But, we have people in society that set up road blocks that does nothing more than prevent help from getting to the ones who really need it.

  23. Leena M.

    I am a Medical Assistant Specialist (a gained an Associates Degree in that) does this consider pathway 1? I have taken all the health and science courses etc. I am now on baby number 5 and breastfeeding (I have breastfed all of my children). So with that being said my family and friends have come to me for help in this area. I have been overly joyed and decided to pursue becoming an LC. Looking forward to your reply.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      The short answer is that Pathway 1 doesn’t seem like the best fit for you to qualify. Why so? Pathway 1 is best suited for someone who is already a healthcare professional as defined by IBLCE. That list does not include Medical assistant. Check to make sure you have all of the healthcare sciences courses that IBLCE requires, there’s a bunch. I’d strongly urge you to view the short video series that I have created. It will save you a ton of time. If the video series doesn’t completely answer your questions, let me know, but I think it will help you enormously. People get so easily confused by this stuff. I want to make sure you don’t make assumptions that aren’t true, or pay for stuff you don’t need.

  24. Leena M.

    Hi Marie, Thank you for responding. I will watch the videos pronto! I do have 7 out of 8 of thes courses that I completed at Community College due to taking pre-requisites for nursing school. I did not finish nursing school due to personal reasons and becoming a mother a multiple and moving abroad. Which is what inspired me to become a LC. I believe the only course I did not take was intro to clinical research. So with that being said should I do Pathway 3?

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Hold on! People seem to get messed up with what’s what. All 14 of the Healthcare Sciences are required for all 3 pathways. The only thing that makes them “feel” different is that most Pathway 1 people completed those courses ages ago and do not need to repeat them. IBLCE doesn’t say this, but to me, it’s easier to get your head around this “pathway” stuff if you think about the Pathway as being the major vehicle for meeting your clinical requirements. Pathway 1 applicants don’t need to be supervised by an IBCLC, because they are acquiring clinical hours by practicing on their own license. (For anyone who is outside the US, I don’t know if “license” is the right word, but I believe it’s some sort of government-issued recognition of your healthcare profession.) So the short answer is, yes you need to complete all 14 healthcare science courses (my video will help to explain this) and yes, it sounds like Pathway 3 would be the best fit for you. Remember, anyone can do any pathway, but with 5 children at home, it seems like going back to a formal institution of higher learning isn’t very realistic for you. And, you have the added benefit of having completed some nursing courses which I am sure will be to be to your benefit. So that’s why it sounds to me like Pathway 3 would be your best fit.

  25. Stephanie


    I have been a NICU nurse for 18 years and would like to get my certification. I am curious if, as a nurse, I will be able to get a hospital job even though I have never had any kids myself, and obviously have never breastfed and I am in my early 40’s. I do not see on the boards website that this is a requirement but I am curious about anyone’s knowledge if this is something that will hold me back from working in this field of lactation nursing. Any information would be great as I am looking to change the second half of my career and this is what I am most passionate and really hope that not having a physical child myself will not limit my career aspirations.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Of course you can get a job if you’ve never had a baby and never breastfed! Could get a job on an oncology unit if you’ve never had cancer? Or course. And by the way, how many patients have you been assigned to take care of who have diabetes (or a CHF or whatever) but you’ve never had “it” yourself? I’ll go you one better! The only substantial health issue I’ve ever had is that I had a broken ankle when I was 13 years old, followed by a phlebitis. And believe me, no one would want to have me as an orthopedic nurse! Having “it” or doing “it” does not qualify any of us. Furthermore, you have no obligation to tell your future employer your own health history. Be forewarned, however, that you may get some flak from you colleagues, so don your flak jacket in the early days! Let me know how it goes. I’m 101% in your corner here!

  26. Emily Lyons

    Hi could you clarify, I’ve looked all over the IBCLC website and don’t see a definitive answer. If I am currently working as an LPN. And I have completed some college courses, though 10+ years ago, am I eligible to go pathway 1? Or do I have to be an RN or finish taking all the Healthcare course.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      No, you do NOT need to be an RN. You are a “nurse” and that’s it! To make you feel better, though, I will tell you that I’ve had many LPNs enroll in my courses prior to their 5-year or 10 year recertification course, so I feel confident that there are “real” LPNs walking around the world and I feel fairly sure they qualified through Pathway 1. These are real LPNs who ask questions in the class, chat with me in the restroom, and more. These aren’t just people I “hear” about. Have confidence!
      As for the healthcare sciences “rules”, keep in mind a few facts. First, IBLCE is clear in saying that anyone on that “recognized healthcare professionals” list doesn’t need to provide proof of having completed the healthcare sciences courses. On that list is “nurse” and it doesn’t specify the exact credential of the “nurse” or the dietitian or anything else. The second fact to keep in mind, however, is that having a strong background in the healthcare sciences will put you in a better spot for the exam. I always caution people: What you need to do to “sit” for the exam is one thing; what you need to do to “pass” the exam is something else!Let me know what you think!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.