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Where Can I Work as an IBCLC?

A hospital building

You took all of your courses, fulfilled all of your requirements, and sat for the IBCLC exam. And then you waited. Waited for your test scores to be posted — you passed! Or maybe, you’re thinking about becoming an IBCLC and wonder what kind of positions you might be able to hold. In either case, you might be asking yourself, “Where can I work with my IBCLC certification?” or “Where can I work as an IBCLC?”

Hospital or healthcare facility

Naturally, one of the first places one would expect to find a position to work as an IBCLC would be at a hospital. And that’s certainly true!

Perhaps the real question is whether you can get a job in a hospital you have only an IBCLC certification. The short answer is, Yes. It is entirely possible. Is it common or likely here in the United States? No. Is it easy to do here in the United States? No.

While you do not need to be a nurse in order to become an IBCLC, it is very common for hospitals to employ IBCLCs who are also RNs, or hold some other kind of credential.

I realize that IBCLC-only individuals feel that they have been slighted because the hospital hired an RN. But as someone who has worked in hospitals for decades, I urge you not to take this personally.

There are many complexities which you would not understand. The IBCLC is performing some nurse-like duties, yet she isn’t a nurse. Trust me on this, having spent a little time in a high-level nursing administrative position, I know there are legal issues, structural issues, financial issues, compliance issues and more that create complexities in hiring and retaining a non-RN IBCLC.

Job satisfaction

Another question is: Do you think you’d enjoy a job in a hospital if you’re not a nurse. You may find that being in such a medically-oriented environment feels suffocating. Honestly, I miss the hospital every day of my life. But I don’t miss the medical mindset, the politics, the bureaucratic baloney, and the fact that progress moves at a snail’s pace. So, if you’re a non-nurse, think about it.

Your role in the facility

However, if you are a nurse, you may still wonder about what your role is, now that you have your IBCLC certification. Honestly, it’s different for everyone. My job did not change one iota after I got my IBCLC certification. Even now, people tell me that’s their story, too.

Yet, others tell me that getting their certification helped them land a bigger job, or a better job or just a different job. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. 

And by the way, I don’t know about places outside of the US.

Community-based clinics and settings

IBCLCs may also work in pediatric offices, women’s health outpatient clinics. Similarly, some Some IBCLCs worked as peer counselors prior to gaining their certification. A WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor does not need to be an IBCLC, and sometimes gaining employment as a peer counselor after gaining the IBCLC certification can be create some role confusion, but it is certainly possible.

IBCLCs may also work in public health clinics. The possibilities are endless.

Private practice

Starting your own business can sound daunting and overwhelming, but it is an option for many people. Working in private practice does not necessarily mean that you must start your own business from the ground up. You might prefer to join an existing private practice, or work at a private physician’s office providing breastfeeding support to patients.

I’ve described only the tip of the iceberg here. There are a variety of opportunities available to IBCLCs, with possibilities beyond what I’ve mentioned here. If I haven’t already given you an idea for your dream job, be sure to tune in to a special IBCLC Day podcast later today featuring IBCLCs sharing their own personal stories.

Are you already working as an IBCLC? What kind of position do you hold and where are you based? If you’re starting on your IBCLC journey, have you given thought to where you might like to work? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Jean W Bonnyman

    Thank you for addressing the issue that I find so frustrating as a non-RN IBCLC. It was helpful to read your words about the administrative “back story.” However, I have seen how it CAN work in hospitals. For my Pathway 3 clinical hours, I had an internship at a Baby Friendly Hospital in Charlotte, NC. Of the 14 IBCLCs in the lactation department, only 2 or 3 were RNs. They all worked well within the healthcare team, and had excellent collaborative relationships with the mother baby nurses. I wasn’t sure I would like working in a hospital, but I found that I loved it! Now I live in Knoxville, TN, where there are no non-RN IBCLCs in hospitals and no IBCLCs in doctors’ offices. The only option for employment is private practice and work is scarce. My dream is to work in a pediatrician’s office and I plan to make a way. But I’ll admit it, it’s lonely forging new paths by myself. Realistically, I probably should have gone to nursing school first.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Jean, thank you for your very insightful comment. You helped me to prove one of my points, namely that indeed it *can* work, but one should not count on it working and also—I usually verbalize this but did not write it here—each state or location is different. And believe me, yes, I get it that forging new paths alone can be lonely. I’ve truly been there, done that, and while I don’t regret it now, it was very difficult at the time (even as a nurse!)

  2. Marla Miller

    I began my lactation consultant journey as a WIC Peer Counselor. I got my CLC, then my IBCLC within 18 months (your course in Atlanta was phenomenal!). After a few years, I chose to take a job in a rural hospital as head of their lactation department as they worked towards becoming Baby Friendly. I loved working in the hospital setting! My family has since relocated to another rural area, and I have been unable to find a position here as a Lactation Consultant without having the RN credential. I do not plan to go to nursing school, so for now I am not practicing. However, I read that the IBLCE are changing the requirements for renewing the certification, and will now require a certain number of hours in either working or volunteering in order to remain certified. What are your thoughts about requiring active practicing hours in order to maintain the certification?

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Marla, you thank you for doing such a good job of providing proof for what I tried to explain in the post: In some places a non-RN can get a job, and in some places, she can’t! And thank you for your high praise of my course! (I have strengthened it substantially since I met you in Atlanta!) On my thoughts about the “new rules” from the IBLCE, two thoughts come to my mind. (1) As you can see from what happened in 2019, the IBLCE doesn’t always stick with their original decree; how it ends up may turn out to be a little different than how it was originally presented. (2) I want to see a much, much clearer definition of “practice.” I see a very flakey definition in their original statement.

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