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Ready for a Lactation Certification Exam? 8 Questions to Consider

Questions to ask yourself before taking a certification exam.

You’ve heard me say it before: You must expose yourself to material to pass the IBLCE Exam. But exposure is just the first step! You must find multiple means by which to expose yourself to the many types of questions that are likely to show up on the certification exam. Before you take your certification exam, ask yourself these 8 questions.

1. How will they test my ability to do my job?

A certification exam is designed to test whether or not you’re safe to do your job. So what, exactly, will you be expected to do in a day?

Here’s broad list of what I see as possible roles and responsibilities: Teacher, counselor, advocate, information curator, data gather-interpreter, problem-solver, priority-setter, coordinator/collaborator, and doer of task-like skills (including using equipment). There may be others, but in my opinion, these broadly reflect most of what the IBCLC will do in a day.

2. Can I distinguish normal from abnormal?

If you don’t know normal parameters, how will you ever know what’s abnormal? And do you know what’s normal at different ages and stages?

3. What age groups have I worked with?

How much exposure have you had to breastfeeding infants/children during these time frames?

  • Prenatal
  • Preterm
  • Labor/birth
  • 0-2 days
  • 3-14 days
  • 15-28 days
  • 1-3 months
  • 4-6 months
  • 7-12 months
  • 1 year and beyond

If you have fewer than 150 or so hours dealing with clients in each of those timeframes, I suspect you may not have had adequate exposure to pass a certification exam.

4. Can I list the topics that crop up in each of those chronological areas?

I dare you. Really. Seriously. I dare you! Can you make a list of at least 50 topics that are likely to occur during each of those timeframes?

For example, let’s take the labor/delivery timeframe. Can you think of AT LEAST:

  • 5 diseases/disorders in labor/birth as they relate to lactation
  • 5 classical hormones (or hormonal disruptions) that relate to labor/delivering, or lactating
  • 10 commonly-used medications during labor/delivery for mother or newborn
  • 5 gut hormones in the newborn, especially stress hormones
  • 5 different newborn nerves that could be injured during birth
  • 10 common hospital birthing practices that later positively or negatively impact the breastfeeding and lactation, including those addressed by the Baby-Friendly program
  • 5 types of birth trauma that could impact positioning, latch, and swallowing
  • 5 consequences of a cesarean birth, as related to lactation

Okay, fast forward. The baby is 21 days old. What sorts of issues, questions, or problems might still be unresolved — or might arise — for either the mother or the baby? Or, what about the baby who is 6 months old? How will adding solids to his diet affect multiple aspects of the breastfeeding relationship?

Keep going. Try to list 50 specific topics for each chronological area.

I’m not trying to scare you. But if you can’t identify the most salient topics, you can’t study for them. Honesty, you won’t be asked to answer questions on ALL of the topics you identify. Trouble is, you don’t know which ones you will get!

5. How well do I remember basic concepts from the health sciences?

Most students slog through their biology, anatomy, physiology, growth and development, nutrition, and ethics courses. They groan at taking statistics or research courses. (Psychology, sociology, anthropology, communication or cultural sensitivity courses aren’t quite so brutal.)

These courses may feel like hurdles to be jumped. They are not. Rather, they form a strong basis for clinical expertise. Do not be surprised if you need to answer questions on your certification exam related to infant developmental milestones, psychological theories, legal or policy compliance, ethical tenets, and more. All of these and more are “fair game.”

6. Could I write a paragraph on 10 broad topics that bore the daylights out of me?

People often leap-frog over the topics they find dull or boring. Using our handy terminology list, identify 10 “boring” topics and force yourself to write at least one paragraph on each, addressing the who-what-where-when-where-why-how. If you can’t write a paragraph about such topics, you might be in trouble.

7. Have I availed myself of all learning opportunities?

No one course, no one book, no one clinical rotation will be enough to prepare you to pass a certification exam. YOU are the best person to identify the holes in your knowledge base, and plug them. No one can do that for you.

8. Do I FEEL ready?

If you don’t feel ready for your certification exam, you probably aren’t. Try to think about why you don’t feel ready. Is there are a particular area you need to study up on? Do you know your terminology cold? If you know why you don’t feel prepared, you can take steps to overcome those obstacles.

If you’re a first-time IBLCE test-taker, the best step you can take is let me take the pain out of plugging all of your weak areas alone. Sign up for my all-online course today!

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