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4 Reasons Why Pathway 3 Might Be Right for You

Three pathways to choose from in a forest

You’ve already decided you want to get your IBCLC credential. Now you have to decide which pathway is the right option for you. Anyone may qualify for the IBLCE Exam through Pathway 1, Pathway 2, or Pathway 3, but often, one pathway is a better “fit” for some people than for others. Here are 4 reasons why Pathway 3 would work well for you as you pursue getting your IBCLC credential.

1. You don’t have regular contact with mothers and babies

As you think about what makes a good fit, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is: do you currently have regular contact with pregnant or lactating women?

What is regular contact? Well, it’s more than just helping the mother to latch her infant — although that is certainly an important function!

But, if you are regularly teaching a parenting class on breastfeeding, answering a breastfeeding hotline or warm line, counseling mothers about issues such nutrition during pregnancy or breastfeeding, demonstrating how to use an electric pump, discussing how to find the right nursing bra, or any other number of activities, you’re already in contact with breastfeeding mothers.

Some people have a healthcare or allied healthcare background, but they sometimes choose to go Pathway 3. Examples include:

  • medical transcriptionist
  • occupational therapist
  • dental hygienist

When I’ve asked those people why Pathway 3 was their choice for exam eligibility, they’ve often told me this: They have had little or no regular contact with pregnant or breastfeeding mothers/babies.

Conversely, individuals who already have regular contact with pregnant or lactating women tend to avoid Pathway 3. They already have what I refer to as “a captive audience” in their regular jobs.

2. You don’t have a background in healthcare

Rest assured you can become an IBCLC even if you do not have a healthcare background. And, as I’ve said before, you do not need to be a nurse in order to become an IBCLC.

Some of my students have had no healthcare background whatsoever, and they have chosen to qualify through Pathway 3. Okay! But you might wonder who they are, or why Pathway 3 was their best bet. Examples include:

  • attorney
  • chef
  • elementary school teacher
  • engineer
  • librarian
  • model
  • (more)

Not having a healthcare background often goes hand-in-hand with having little, if any, regular contact with breastfeeding mothers. The reason why Pathway 3 is chosen by the people in the above-mentioned list is that their need for a situation where that contact is possible.   

3. Getting a college degree isn’t on your wish list

I can just hear you saying, “Marie! What about Pathway 2?” I’ve bumped into many people who do not understand that Pathway 2 involves getting a degree or formal higher-education diploma in lactation. They confuse getting their healthcare sciences courses with qualifying through Pathway 2.

Think of it this way:  Completing your healthcare sciences courses means using a checklist to attend and successfully complete several non-lactation healthcare-related courses (anatomy, physiology, etc.).

All candidates must complete the healthcare sciences requirement. Qualifying through Pathway 2 means enrolling in a structured program that is likely to take about a many-months or many-years commitment.

Let’s say you’re not a healthcare professional (as recognized by IBLCE) AND you don’t want to become one, AND you don’t want to attend a school of higher learning If so, Pathway 3 is probably the best fit for you.

4. Mentorship is important to you

Mentorship is required for Pathway 3. Right off the bat, you can see where, if you have no healthcare background, it makes sense to go Pathway 3 and get your clinical experience while being supervised by a mentor.

That being said, I have seen registered nurses, although seemingly well-suited to qualify through Pathway 1, instead qualify through Pathway 3. They felt that they needed a mentor. There’s nothing wrong with that. The key word here is “requires.” Pathway 3 requires a mentor; Pathway 1 does not. But there’s nothing stopping you from working with a mentor if you choose to do so.

Those are some reasons why Pathway 3 might feel right for you. In the next post, I’ll address some of the how-to questions that people ask about Pathway 3, so stay tuned!

Have you decided that Pathway 3 is right for you? Do you have other questions about Pathway 3? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Erica P

    I’m a registered Massage Therapist in Ontario, Canada. I’m considered a healthcare professional in Canada, I have a health science background, studied for 2 years, registered with my college, but I’m not considered one according to the exam. Nor is there any lactation consultant programs in Canada for me to take. So I feel like Pathway 3, is my only option.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Erica, try not to take it personally. As you say “healthcare” I’d say that even here in the US, I would consider someone who is a massage therapist as “healthcare.” So this is an IBCLE thing. Try to understand, though, they have to make a list. And that list has to stop and end somewhere. No one “must” go one pathway or the other, but truth be told, after having helped thousands of people who are preparing for the IBLCE exam, I can tell you, there’s almost always a best “fit.” So let’s assume that your best “fit” is Pathway 3. Check this out, it’s free: or you could also come to my free live session. Mondays with Marie!

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