International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam

The International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) exam is designed to test the knowledge of those who wish to become certified lactation consultants, per the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). Test takers must demonstrate specific knowledge and clinical aptitude for breastfeeding and lactation consultations, proving that they can provide competent and evidence-based care in the field.

What Do I Need To Do To Be Eligible For The IBCLC Exam?

IBCLC Study Guide

In order to take the IBCLC exam, hopefuls must already be a clinical professional in one of nine IBLCE-recognized health roles, such as midwife, nurse and occupational therapist, or complete coursework in the 14 health science subjects covered in IBCLE’s health science education guide.

Applicants must also have a lactation-specific education that includes at least 90 hours of learning in human lactation and breastfeeding within the last five years before taking the exam. This can include a range of learning options, from in-person presentations to online education.

Finally, applicants must accrue lactation-specific clinical experience. This can be 1,000 hours of experience gained in a supervised setting of recognized health professionals or breastfeeding support counselors, graduation from an IBLCE-verified academic program with at least 300 hours of directly supervised clinical experience or 500 hours of hands-on experience accrued under the supervision of certified lactation consultants. Like the lactation education requirement, these hours must be accrued within five years of taking the exam.

IBCLC Flashcards

What Topics Does The IBCLC Exam Cover?

Content on the IBCLC exam is broken down into seven main sections, some of which has several subsections. The content is broken down as follows:

Section One: Development and Nutrition (26 items)

Infant Subsection:

  • The feeding behaviors of children at different ages
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • The anatomy and anatomical and/or oral challenges of infants
  • The introduction of complementary foods
  • Low birth weights
  • Formal and informal milk “banking”
  • The nutritional requirements of preterm infants
  • The development and growth of preterm infants
  • Reflexes, skin tone and muscle tone
  • Term growth and development
  • World Health Organization growth charts and gestational age adjustments

Maternal Subsection:

  • Development and growth of breasts
  • Breast surgery
  • The composition of human milk
  • Potential anatomical challenges
  • The nutritional status of mothers
  • The structure and variations of nipples

Section Two: Physiology and Endocrinology (24 items)

  • Diabetes
  • Issues with infertility
  • Metabolic and hormonal disorders that affect maternity, such as thyroid issues and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Multiples
  • Newborn hypoglycemia
  • Breastfeeding while pregnant
  • Relactation
  • Voiding and stooling

Section Three: Pathology (31 items)

Infant Subsection:

  • Allergies
  • Ankyloglossia
  • Cleft palate and cleft lip
  • Congenital anomalies in gastrointestinal, cardiac and other areas
  • Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Hyperbilirubinemia
  • Infant acute disease
  • Neurological disabilities in infants
  • Infants who are small or large for gestational age

Maternal Subsection:

  • Abscess
  • Dysfunction in milk ejection reflexes
  • Acute diseases for mothers
  • Chronic diseases for mothers
  • Maternal disabilities
  • Mastitis
  • Over- or under-abundance of milk supplies
  • The conditions of nipples and breasts
  • Pain and trauma in nipples
  • Postpartum hemorrhages
  • Post-eclampsia and pregnancy-induced hypertension

Section Four: Pharmacology and Toxicology (13 items)

  • Issues with alcohol and tobacco
  • Contraception
  • Drug abuse
  • Galactogogues
  • Nipple creams and gel dressings
  • Prescription, over-the-counter, diagnostic and therapeutic medications
  • Medicinal herbs

Section Five: Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology (21 items)

  • The transition to parenthood
  • Birth practices
  • The foods to avoid or encourage for lactation
  • Returning to work
  • Family lifestyles
  • Support networks
  • The mental health of mothers
  • The psychological and cognitive issues of mothers
  • Relationships between mothers and babies
  • Sleeping safely
  • Weaning
  • Cultural competency

Section Six: Techniques (25 items)

  • Transferring milk effectively
  • First hour techniques
  • Latching
  • Managing supplies
  • Positioning
  • Refusals to breastfeed or bottle feed
  • Skin-to-skin care
  • Test weighing

Section Seven: Clinical Skills (35 items)

Equipment and Technology Subsection:

  • Feeding devices such as syringes, cups and tubes
  • The handling and storage of milk
  • Nipple devices
  • Pacifiers
  • Pumps
  • Scales
  • Communication technology
  • Websites

Education and Communication Subsection:

  • Active listening
  • Anticipatory guidance
  • Development and sharing of care plans
  • Documentation
  • The education of mothers and families
  • The education of professionals, peers and students
  • Duration of breastfeeding extension
  • Emotional support
  • Empowerment
  • Group support

Ethical and Legal Issues Subsection:

  • Public breastfeeding
  • Clinical competency
  • Code of Professional Conduct
  • Confidentiality principles
  • World Health Organization codes on advocacy and policy

Research Subsection:

  • Applying research into practice
  • Appraising and interpreting results of research
  • Using research to develop policies and protocols

Public Health and Advocacy Subsection:

  • Advocating for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • Advocating for compliance with the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes
  • Developing breastfeeding-related policies

How Is The IBCLC Exam Administered?

The IBCLC exam is offered in April and October every year, though the April exam is offered only in English. While paper and pencil exams are available under extraordinary circumstances, the vast majority of tests are taken via computer. The test is administered in a morning and afternoon session, taking approximately four hours in total. In the afternoon session, some of the questions will include images. All questions are multiple choice.

The test is available at a wide range of testing locations around the world, but some may be up to 250 miles away from a given home. These centers provide all of the equipment an applicant will need in order to take the test.

How Can You Perform Exceptionally On The IBCLC Exam?

The IBCLC exam is well known as a technically-intensive and experience-based test. With such an exam, it is always critical to work closely with a proprietary and content-focused study guide, written by test experts. Additionally, it’s recommended that those preparing for the exam spend time drilling with IBCLC-focused flash cards, as this can help you ingrain the fact-based knowledge many of the exam’s questions require.

IBCLC Study Guide

Explore our free IBCLC review provided by Mometrix. Check out our premium IBCLC study guide to take your studying to the next level. If you benefit from these materials, just click the link below! To compliment our IBCLC book, we also offer extensive IBCLC flashcards for even more IBCLC test prep help. We hope you enjoy our products! Your purchase helps us make more great, free IBCLC certification content for test-takers just like yourself.

by Enoch Morrison | Last Updated: March 11, 2019