Selwyn & Christchurch

Becoming an IBCLC

IBCLC – International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

My own breastfeeding journeys were a combination of determination, some bumbling along, oblivion, and probably a lot of luck when I look back on them. As a Childbirth Educator, I learned more about what can influence a woman’s breastfeeding journey, rather than only having my own experiences to draw from. I enjoyed upskilling my knowledge in this area the most, and briefly looked into becoming an IBCLC around 2010. There was no obvious route into the field and in hindsight, I had no idea what the role really entailed.

Fast forward to 2016. Taking every breastfeeding education opportunity that I could find, I attended a postnatal services workshop and discovered that I could train to become a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and volunteer at groups that offered free support to families in our community. The training was comprehensive and I launched into helping at a group on their roster, usually alongside another volunteer and an IBCLC that sometimes attended to meet mothers that had appointments. Next thing I knew I was also volunteering at a second group that started up in my area. Then I went to cover at another group for a volunteer who had recently given birth, and I never left.

So, three groups later and a permanent fix every week alongside my rostered peers, I found the idea of becoming an IBCLC had returned. If you’re thinking of becoming an IBCLC, the best thing you can do is to become a volunteer with any group in your own community that supports breastfeeding families. It isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.  Sometimes there is skin missing, bewilderment, and teardrops. You will help mothers the most by listening and just being there for them, getting the tissues, making them a cuppa, and going back to basics. This is a major part of being an IBCLC, so when it’s time, you can proceed with a realistic understanding of the role.

There are three pathways available to becoming an IBCLC, which can be found here IBLCE. You can also request information from the New Zealand representative through here NZLCA or get in touch with me.

I took Pathway 3. As a non-health professional, this meant that I had to complete eight major and six minor health sciences education requirements, a minimum of 90 hours of lactation specific education, at least 500 hours of mentored clinical experience, and sit the 4-hour international examination that has a pass mark of around 75% (which is calculated from the mean result of all candidates and varies with every exam). In New Zealand, the vast majority of IBCLC’s qualify through Pathway 1 as an existing health professional, usually midwives, paediatric staff, and Well Child nurses.

I attained a Diploma in Science and Technology on my journey to completing the major health sciences education which took me a year by distance through a university, in a mixture of full-time and part-time study. I am lucky my other ‘jobs’ provided the flexibility to do this. It took another year to complete the minor health sciences education, the mentored hours, and the lactation specific education (I chose a 120-hour distance learning package). I also had to demonstrate the core competencies that formed part of the Pathway 3 application submitted for approval before this all began. I then had to apply to sit the exam at least 5 months before it was scheduled, and was selected for random audit to confirm that I met the requirements to do so.

My exam was scheduled for late March 2020 and was canceled 2 weeks beforehand due to Covid-19. Being an international exam meant that there were months of uncertainty about the next step, as much of the world was struggling with the pandemic. Finally, in September 2020 I was able to sit the exam that I was rescheduled into and following a nail-biting 14-week wait, I received news that I had passed – three years since I made the decision to become an IBCLC.

I am forever grateful for the support and guidance from my mentor and my cheerleader from the sideline, and their continued interest in my future.

feed the infant – protect supply – nurture the mother