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Ten Top Myths about Becoming a Lactation Consultant

A woman wonders about the myths about becoming a lactation consultant.

Over the years heard plenty of myths about becoming a lactation consultant. Some are understandable; others are outlandish. From people all over the world, here are some myths I want to dispel about becoming a lactation consultant.  

1. You have to be a nurse to become an IBCLC

No, no, no, a resounding NO! You do not need to be a nurse to become an IBCLC. I don’t know the number or percentage of IBCLC candidates who are not nurses, but there are plenty — I’ve met hundreds of them!

2. You can take the exam any time

No, that’s not possible. IBLCE offers the exam only twice a year in the United States, and only once a year in some other countries. This means that you need to plan ahead.

Some people think they can just go online and sign up tonight and take the exam a few days later. No, it’s doesn’t work that way at all!

I don’t work for IBLCE, so I can’t read their minds or their future calendars, but typically, the deadline for applying for the exam is mid-May and mid-November. Check at ibce.org as you begin planning.

3. You only need to complete your requirements before the exam, not before you apply

Oh, I hear this all the time. But no, that’s not true.

You must complete all requirements before you apply for the exam. Since the time between when you apply and when you take the exam is usually around 5 months, you need to plan ahead.

Let’s say you want to take the exam this coming October. You’ll need to apply for the exam before May 15.

4. To be eligible, you must take a LEAARC-approved course

Sadly, no. The Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Committee (LEAARC) has created strict criteria for course content. The student should think of this as a “seal of approval” that she will learn all that the LEAARC has deemed to be necessary for safe practice. But anyone who has racked up 90 hours of breastfeeding training — of any kind — is eligible to sit for the exam.

As I’ve said so many times, no one wants to “sit” for the exam. But everyone wants to PASS the exam!  

5. You can complete your requirements in less than 6 months

Well, maybe! It depends on how much of the requirement you’ve already met when you decide to pursue the credential!

For example, when I decided to earn my IBCLC certification, I had already accrued thousands and thousands of hours while taking care of breastfeeding mothers and babies. And, I had already completed all of my health science courses. So, the only thing I had to complete was my lactation-specific training.

6. You need to have an IBCLC mentor when accruing your clinical hours

Maybe. If you are qualifying through Pathway 1, you do not need to have an IBCLC supervise your hours.

7. To become an IBCLC, you just need to be able to help with positioning and latch

This is a giant myth!

When people call and tell me they’ve failed the exam, they explain how shocked they were that the exam was more than just positioning and latch for well babies! They were in no way prepared to answer questions about pharmacokinetics, biochemistry, environmental toxins, and various other issues that happen around the globe.

Lesson to learn: Whenever you take ANY exam, know the depth and breadth of what will be covered. To me, the only way you could possibly have a glimpse of that is to take a comprehensive lactation course.

8. You get your 90 hours, and you’ll pass the IBLCE exam

It’s not quite that simple. You certainly do need to complete your 90 hours of lactation-specific education. But will that be enough? Maybe. But I have found that most IBCLC candidates need to study before and after they earn those 90 hours. That’s why we offer study packages, online courses, and live courses.    

9. You can pass the test if you’re a clinical expert in your field

I distinctly remember a woman who said, “I’ve been a mother-baby nurse for 27 years. I’m sure I don’t need a comprehensive course.” She failed the exam.

I’ve heard similar stories, many times.

10. Once you’re an IBCLC, you’ve learned nearly all you need to know

Oh. Not so. I’ve been an IBCLC for more than 25 years, and I learn something new almost every day! While I have a voracious appetite for reading research, I’ve also learned a ton from guests on my podcast.

There are probably more myths about becoming a lactation consultant, but these are the ones I’ve heard most frequently. In addition to knowing the “myths,” I’d like to suggest that you generate some critically important questions.

Becoming a lactation consultant takes some planning and hard work. But it absolutely can be done! Let me know what else I can do to help you start your journey to becoming a lactation consultant. 

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