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Pathway 3 to Get Your IBCLC: Questions to Ask

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In my last post, I described reasons why Pathway 3 might be the best fit for you. But everyone’s circumstances are a little different. Before you decide completely, ask yourself a few more questions if you’re considering Pathway 3 to get your IBCLC®.

Should I take my 95-hour course before or after getting my clinical hours?

IBLCE does not specify the order in which candidates meet their requirements. Candidates must complete these requirements:

This is true for all candidates, regardless if qualifying through Pathway 1, Pathway 2, or Pathway 3 to get your IBCLC certification. However, the question, as stated here, is not what IBLCE® requires! The question is: should you take the 95-hour course before getting your clinical hours! Those are two different questions. 

You may find that some mentors, or some clinical settings, will not even consider having you function in a clinical setting until you have completed your 95 hours of lactation focused education. (They may have other prerequisites, too, for example, they may ask you to hold a CPR card, have your immunizations up to date, have a background check, or any other number requirements before you are in contact with clients in the clinical setting.)  Pathway 3 to get your IBCLC is certainly an option, but before pursuing this pathway, it’s important to ask yourself these questions and be familiar with what the pathway entails.

How does Pathway 3 compare to the other pathways?

You should compare the requirements for Pathway 1, Pathway 2, and Pathway 3 before you decide which pathway would be a best fit for your set of circumstances. Reviewing the Candidate Information Guide will help you make your decision.

Will it cost me more to qualify through Pathway 3?

You’ll incur several expenses that candidates qualifying through Pathway 1 or Pathway 2 also encounter. You’ll still need your academic education for both the lactation-specific and the non-lactation courses. Plus, you’ll need to pay for the exam itself.

If you are pursuing Pathway 3 to get your IBCLC, you should be prepared to shell out money for two additional expenses: paying a mentor for their time and services, and a Pathway 3 application fee. And, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll need more resources to study from. If you’re pursuing Pathway 3, you must have a mentor. Many mentors require payment for their services. Be pleasantly surprised if your mentor does not ask for or accept money for the time that she spends teaching you. You may find that this costs several hundred dollars, so be aware of other fees, aside from the required fees.

Do I need a pre-approved plan for Pathway 3?

Yes. You need to download the Pathway 3 Plan Guide. With the help of your mentor, you’ll need to complete and submit this plan to IBLCE for approval. 

Are you pursuing Pathway 3 to get your IBCLC, or have you already done so? How did you determine if it was the right choice for you? Lastly, what are/were your experiences? Tell me in the comments below!

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  1. Luvisca Payne

    I’m thinking that I may qualify through Pathway 1 0r 2 because I’ve worked with Women Infants & Children for a number of years now, although just deciding to do this. I’m in regular contact with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as a Nutritionist not only because of the education I received but I’ve attended a number of work shops about breast feeding to empower women to do the thing that is supposed to be most natural way to feed their/our little ones. I’ve taught both nutrition and breast feeding classes, assist with nipple shields, SNS, how to use a breast pump. So how do I show proof of what I have and is doing on my job? I’ve already purchased the 90 hour lactation course and working through it. Thanks in advance for your response.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Hi Luvisca, thank you for the question. This does not sound in any way like you’re pursuing Pathway 2. Not at all. Pathway 2 involves enrolling in a “program” of study where you get a “degree” in lactation. I put “degree” in quote marks, because pretty much, if you are in the US, that’s what it means. (Other countries have something similar, but apparently the word is not “degree.”) But you get my point; it’s enrolling in a formal course of study from top to bottom. So yes, it sounds to me like Pathway 1 would be a good fit for you. You should look at the IBLCE’s requirements. They say, “Clinical practise hours can be earned through independent practise as a licensed/registered healthcare professional in non-healthcare settings.” The key here is the word RECOGNIZED. All of this is to say, I can help you to walk through this a bit (and it’s hard to figure out, huh?) but you need to make sure you read and understand the primary source, that is, the IBLCE. I hope this helps. Reading the Candidate Information Guide for requirements is critical. Thank you for enrolling in my 90-hour course! This, together with your past (and presumably, ongoing) clinical work should help you enormously! On “proving.” Honestly, I don’t entirely know the answer to this, because I’m no longer a “newbie” so I don’t have to prove it! But the Candidate Information Guide has information beginning on page 19 about how to prove hours should you be audited. I hope that provides a little guidance.

  2. Savannah

    Hi I have a question about what it means to be “Pre approved With the help of your mentor, you’ll need to complete and submit this plan to IBLCE for approval”. Does that mean I need to be pre approved before starting Marie Elite package or does that mean pre approved for the hours with your mentor.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Hi there! Thank you for asking, Marie here, hoping to give you some clarity. The short answer is, no, you don’t need pre-approval for anything in order to start and/or complete your 95 hours of lactation-specific education. Only the clinical experience (with your mentor) needs to be pre-approved, and only if you’re planning on Pathway 3. Your question, however, makes me wonder if you could benefit from my free webinar in which I unravel many of these types of questions. I will personally answer any and all questions LIVE (via Zoom) for anyone who attends. I’d love to see you there, so sign up today to save your seat!
      “8 Steps to Making Your Goal a Reality: Becoming an IBCLC” on: Apr 23, 2024 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada). Webinar Detail Link:

  3. Savannah Gossett

    Hi there it’s Savannah, I have a question so I asked about pathway three about being pre approved to do the clinical 500 hours how do I submit my pre approval plan with my mentors to get started on doing the 509 hours. Because I’m wanting to do my hours soon but I don’t know how to submit a plan to get approved or where do I submit my plan at?? Is there a link or something to do so, thank you!

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