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5 Confusing Requirements for IBCLC Exam-Takers

Woman confused over requirements

I’d give a cookie to know how many people apply for the IBCLC® exam but aren’t allowed to sit for it. In plain English, you will not be allowed to sit for the exam unless you meet the eligibility requirements. It seems to me that these 5 are the most confusing requirements for IBCLC exam-takers.

Yes, you must meet the requirements before you apply

Please, please understand. You must meet all of the requirements before you apply for the exam, not before you sit for the exam!

There are two types of exam applicants. In this post, I’ll refer to those who have

  • never been certified as “newbies” and
  • previously earned their IBCLC as “recertifiers.”

Yes, there are requirements beyond the lactation specific hours

For sure, yes, if you’re a newbie, you need to complete those 90-hours of lactation specific education within 5 years of applying for the exam! But do not let that requirement confuse you, you need more than that. Before you apply for the IBCLC exam you must have completed:

  • 90 hours of lactation specific education
  • 5 hours of education in communication
  • 14 health science courses
  • hundreds of hours of clinical experience. The number of hours required depends on the pathway you choose to qualify. 

Yes, it will take you 95 hours to complete your 95 hours

I’m serious. About once a week, someone asks, “How long will it take me to do your 95-hour comprehensive course?” Um, 95 hours.

We use a scientifically-proven formula to calculate the number of minutes/hours the average learner needs to complete the assignments. Furthermore, we ask course attendees to report how long it took them so that we have a reality check. The vast majority take somewhere between 80 and 100 hours. True, there are outliers. You could be one of them.

More to the point, though, I think newbies are actually asking how many weeks/months they need to complete the 95 hours. That depends on how much time is available each day. I’d guess that most people could complete my 95-hour course in about 2-3 months.

If you’re feeling a little behind, here are my suggestions on how to streamline the time you’ll need to complete the assignments.

Yes, it’s true you need 5 hours of Communication

This is a new requirement for newbies taking the 2021 exam.   

The Communication requirement does not necessarily need to be lactation-specific. But since the IBCLC exam hits fairly hard on communication skills, I would suggest you learn communication as it relates to lactation. My 95-hour Lactation Education Course includes the required communication hours.

Yes, you must complete the health science courses, but …

All newbies must complete the health science courses. It’s just that people whom IBLCE recognize as a healthcare professional are presumed to have completed these courses as part of their basic education.

The health science courses have no “good-til” date. It doesn’t matter if you took your health science courses 5 days, 5 months, 5 years, or 5 decades ago. They still “count.”

It is my understanding that if you are on that list of Recognized Healthcare Professionals, you will not be asked to provide proof of completing those 14 courses. Yet, since I’m no longer a newbie, I can only rely on what I read on the IBLCE site, and what recent newbies have told me.

You’ve heard me say it before, but I’ll repeat: I’m an independent educator, not a spokesperson for the IBLCE.

If you need more detail on the confusing requirements, get my free short video series, How to Become a Lactation Consultant.  

If you’re still stuck after watching the videos, call my office at 703-787-9894 or email us at — we’d be happy to help!

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  1. Dian Alicia Morris Byrde

    Good evening, thanks for your suggestion on the variety of study habits.
    I am having problems viewing the questions at the end of the discipline when required, as in QID 2070, 1202, 1204, 1207, 1208 1209. Am I allowed to continue with other disciplines then return to these questions or do I need to answer them before continuing. thank you.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Dian, yes, you may. We recommend you do them at the end, just because it’s fresh in your mind. But you may continue if you wish. From your note, I cannot determine what course you are enrolled in (we have many) a the test item may be attached to one or more courses. I try not to handle course-related questions on the blog, but rather, I encourage course attendees to send email to and say what course you are enrolled in. State which questions you’re having trouble with, and, it would be helpful to mention if you are a first-time test-taker or if you’ve failed before or if you are re-certifying. I can say with reasonable certainty that the “answers” to those questions are all in the required course content, so first try to go back to the content and see if you’re overlooking the information that would help you to answer the questions.

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