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Topics to Expect on the IBCLC Exam in 2022

Are you taking the IBCLC exam for the first time? Or, are you recertifying by exam? In either case, you might be wondering what new topics could appear on the exam this year. Or, maybe you’re wondering if there are new answers to familiar topics. Here are some ideas or possible topics to expect on the IBCLC exam.

Certainly, there are always some topics you can count on, like mastitis, breast reduction, solid foods, and other issues that are the everyday situations that we face.

But what topics might crop up that you hadn’t thought about?

1. General communication skills

In the past few years, IBLCE has stepped up the emphasis on communication skills.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Communication is foundational to any type of caregiving, consulting, or counseling.

What might come as a surprise is the breadth of knowledge needed for good “communication.” It’s not just one-to-one interaction with another individual. It very well could be communication with groups.

Here are the 10 subtopics which IBLCE lists on their Detailed Content Outline.

  1. Active listening
  2. Anticipatory guidance
  3. Care plan development and sharing 
  4. Documentation 
  5. Educating mothers and families 
  6. Educating professionals, peers, and students 
  7. Extending the duration of breastfeeding 
  8. Emotional support 
  9. Empowerment 
  10. Group support

When looking at these topics, consider:

  • What are the most common myths or mistakes related to that subtopic?
  • What’s the “new” answer to this, whereas 5 years ago it was the “old” answer?
  • What would be the MOST important (or any other qualifier) actions related to this subtopic?
  • What approach would be best in one situation, but totally inappropriate in different situation?
  • What is within or outside of the IBLC’s Scope of Practice with this subtopic?
  • What’s the priority? What’s the sequence of what should happen first, second, last?

I’d strongly urge you to try my 7 Discipline Drills or my practice exams before taking the real exam.

2. Documentation

I am fairly convinced that documentation will be a topic to expect on the IBCLC exam this year.

Documentation is becoming more and more important. I’d encourage you to see my post on documentation skills, and think about how that could become a test question of some kind.  

3. Communication mistakes

One of the easiest ways for a test item-writer to concoct a good question is by asking the test-taker to recognize examples of mistakes.

Note I didn’t say that it would be “knowing” common mistakes. Instead, the test item would require the candidate to know the basic principles of good communication, but then be able to recognize examples. Meaning, it’s an application-level question, not a straight recall question.

Before you go to the exam, take a good hard look at common communication mistakes that can derail the therapeutic relationship.

4. Relactation

There are about 6,800 natural disasters that occur throughout the world each year. Reliefweb.int reports, “In 2021, a total of 432 catastrophic events were recorded, which is considerably higher than the average of 357 annual catastrophic events for 2001-2020.”

To me, then, that says there’s a high likelihood of an increased need for relactation.

Supply chain issues and formula recalls have also caused issues, and at least for me – the need to respond to parents about relactation. Therefore, I’m betting these could be topics to expect on the IBCLC exam.

In situations where formula is not acceptable, affordable, feasible, sustainable or safe, relactation might be the best option for feeding an infant or young child.

Again, I’ll repeat. I’ll be stunned if this topic is not on the exam this year.

5. Donor milk

Some 20 years ago here in America, “donor milk” was scarcely on anyone’s radar. Now, it’s more widespread.

That said, I wouldn’t spend much time prepping for a question about milk banks. Milk banks are located throughout the world, and standards vary somewhat from country to country. Hence, it might be tough to make a test question that would be fair for candidates from around the globe.

Just as importantly, in some religions, using the milk of another woman is strictly forbidden. Again, this is a reminder that the IBLCE is highly unlikely to generate a test item dealing with something that someone isn’t likely to see in their particular part of the world. As I’ve explained earlier, the IBCLC exam takes a global perspective.

6. Rusty pipe syndrome

Look, here’s the truth. Multiple people, parents or professionals, have asked me questions about so-called “rusty pipe syndrome” for years. I’ve got to believe that if it’s such a big deal in my small world, it could be one of the topics to expect on the IBCLC exam.

7. Autoimmune disease

I’m encountering questions from more and more parents and professionals who have questions about autoimmune disease as it related to breastfeeding and lactation.

8. PCOS

If there’s one thing that no one seems to agree on, PCOS would probably be it. The existing evidence is weak, and conflicting. So, in one breath I want to say, don’t sweat it, they won’t put that on the exam.

In the next breath I want to say: Get at least some basic knowledge under your belt. Here, I think I’ve created some clarity on the topic of PCOS as it relates to breastfeeding and lactation.

9. SIDS

I can almost guarantee that SIDS or related issues will be topics to expect on the IBCLC exam this year.

You can quickly spiff up on SIDS by reading this short post.

10. Being alone giving birth

My mind immediately goes to all of those who were forced to give birth alone because hospitals would not allow visitors during the COVID pandemic. (However, keep in mind that there are other circumstances when birthing occurs because a partner is deployed, or some other reason.)

I posit that just about any question could be answered if you have the knowledge in my quick guide to giving birth alone.

11. Aromatherapy, Essential oils

I’ve never seen an IBCLC exam item that addresses aromatherapy and/or essential oils. You could say, “Oh, Marie, it could have appeared, and you just don’t remember!”

Nope, not likely. I remember those sorts of things.

But it’s entirely possible that such a topic appeared on the exam on a year when I wasn’t testing.

More and more, young families as well as older people (like me!) are using aromatherapy. We have an entire online learning program that addresses essential oils and breastfeeding.  

What topics do you expect the IBCLC exam will have this year? Get our Online Lactation Exam Review will demystify exam content and get you ready!

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