Marie's Outlook

Clinical Hours for IBLCE Exam Eligibility

Over the years, the Breastfeeding Outlook staff members have fielded many calls about the clinical hours requirement for taking the IBLCE exam. Our first step is always to recommend the IBLCE candidate check the IBLCE site but if they are still confused, we do try to help. I thought I’d “heard it all” but last week a potential IBCLC called with a new problem. She had misinformation about how to calculate the required clinical hours and whether a shortage of clinical hours would bar her from getting her 90 lactation-focused education hours.

Her role, her involvement
The caller was a certified nurse midwife (CNM) who has been in practice for more than 25 years. She works part-time in a clinic, doing what you’d expect any CNM would do: diagnosing (including lactation-related conditions), prescribing medications (including medications for such ailments as mastitis), counseling mothers about breastfeeding, determining whether the breastfed baby is making adequate weight gains and meeting developmental milestones, and more.

The caller thought she would be ineligible for the IBLCE exam in July, because someone had told her she did not have enough clinical hours. I listened carefully to her story, and I couldn’t reach the same conclusion.

Calculating her hours
I’m not a CNM myself, but I imagine that a CNM in the clinic setting would spend at least 50% of her time with breastfeeding mothers. (In the state where she works, breastfeeding rates are high.) Using rough numbers, I calculated that if she worked 25 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, she would have accumulated over 1200 work hours in one year. Even if she spent only half of her day helping breastfeeding mothers or couplets, she would have accumulated about 600 hours during one year, and 1200 hours in two years. That would easily exceed the IBLCE’s requirement, stated as a “minimum of 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice that was obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to applying for the IBLCE examination.”

I was stumped, so I asked: “What makes you think you don’t have enough hours?”

Some pesky 10% number
Someone in her city had told her that only 10% of the hours worked in a clinic counted as “breastfeeding” hours. I had never heard that. I’d never read it before. A thorough search of the IBLCE’s web site did not produce such a rule. (If you’ve heard it before, please comment below with where you heard it!)

Somewhere in this discussion, the caller said she had been denied admission to an education course because of her lack of clinical hours. That led me to believe that she might have confused an academic institution’s admission requirements with exam requirements. Those are two different things.

Over the years, we have admitted many, many IBLCE exam candidates to our Comprehensive Lactation Course. Perhaps some other educators have clinical hour requirements, but we do not. In fact, some candidates have come to the course even though they have accumulated no clinical hours whatsoever.

Lessons to be learned
There are a few lessons to be learned here:

– First, requirements for admission to a course and requirements to sit for the IBLCE exam may be very different. (And requirements vary between Pathways 1, 2, and 3 as well; we know it can be confusing!)

– Second, it’s best to go to the primary source for information; a friend, colleague, or other person might unknowingly mislead you.

– Finally, don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions–even if you think you’ve been stopped in your tracks. We’re here to help you land your dream job.

Leave us a comment (or give us a call) if you’ve been confused about IBLCE exam requirements.

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4 thoughts on “Clinical Hours for IBLCE Exam Eligibility

  1. Anna Utter

    Marie is right. There can be a lot of misinformation out there about IBLCE eligibility requirements. The best sources for the correct information about IBCLC certification requirements are the IBLCE website and the IBLCE staff.

  2. Renee P. Lomax

    Hi, I am a LPN working in an outpatient clinic, and I am a CLC. I received my training for LPN in the military, 20t years ago. I have taken over the past 15 years, several Lactation courses. My concern is that I don’t have all of the coruses, like maternal child and health and chemistry. I assist, on a daily basis, several moms with breastfeeding. I need help in deciding what college courses I need to take. Thank you.


      1. Marie Post author

        Maybe. It all depends on your pathway. I’m assuming that if you are wanting to accumulate 1000 hours, then you are going Pathway 1, right? If you are on their list of Recognized Health Professionals, then you can go Pathway 1, do your “regular” job, and get your 1000 hours without any special documentation. They ask you to take a best estimate. I’ve addressed that on a YouTube video if you are still confused.

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