IMPORTANT UPDATE: I got my results and I passed the exam! I am now an IBCLC!
On Tuesday, October 3rd I wrote the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) Exam that (if I pass) will qualify me as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I have been immersed in this world for a very long time, so the letters (IBLCE and IBCLC) tend to roll off my tongue, but I know many people (my loving husband included) have no idea what they mean so I thought I would explain a bit here.
According the IBLCE website,
'International Board Certified Lactation Consultants function and contribute as members of the maternal-child health team. They provide care in a variety of settings, while making appropriate referrals to other health professionals and community support resources. Working together with mothers, families, policymakers and society, IBCLC certificants provide expert breastfeeding and lactation care, promote changes that support breastfeeding and help reduce the risks of not breastfeeding.' (www.iblce.org)
so basically, an IBCLC is a breastfeeding expert.
Contrary to popular belief, not all IBCLC's are nurses. A great many are, but I'm not, so hopefully that's at least one who isn't!
In most cases, IBCLC's that work in hospitals are nurses, but not everyone that works in labor and delivery or even postpartum is an IBCLC. Getting these special letters after your name takes knowledge and skill.
Qualifying for the exam takes a lot of work. It's a little confusing but basically you follow one of three pathways. They all require you to complete 90 hours of lactation specific education and at least 500 hours of clinical practice.
(want to read about my journey? http://www.jandyberesford.com/musings/sothis-is-a-blog)
There are also 14 health science courses that you need to have completed (things like nutrition, human biology, statistics and child development), but these can been done at any time prior to writing the exam. (I did most of mine in university and only had 3 to complete prior to writing).
Once you've done all of that, you submit your application and they (IBLCE) will tell you if you qualify to write the exam.
You need to do this about 6 months before the exam itself, so I applied in early May and wrote in October. Once you've written the exam results will come about 3 months later.
Here's the other piece you need to know. Just like in any profession,
NOT ALL IBCLC's are created equal.
Those 500 hours of clinic practice? There isn't a lot of regulation on where you do them. Nurses that work in labour and delivery can complete those hours relatively quickly since each shift could probably count, provided certain stipulations are met. Doing that though, means that the experience would be with primarily new babies. Great news if you're having trouble with a newborn, but what if baby is 4 months old and things go down hill?
On the other side of that, I completed my training at a breastfeeding clinic. I saw lots of babies with lots of problems at lots of different ages, but the earliest I saw babies was at least a few days after their delivery.
Does that mean I can't help a newborn, or an IBCLC in the hospital can't help a 4 month old? Absolutely not!
Does it mean that you should ask questions, do your research and keep trying until you find someone who gives advice that makes sense and that works for you and your goals? YES!
I hope to be that person for lots of you, but I'm not going to be it for everyone. If we can't find an answer, I will help you find one - even if that means helping you find someone else who can help.
The exam is administered all around the world. In 2012 it was administered in 55 countries and territories and in 17 languages. Currently (prior to the October 2017 exam), there are 1777 IBCLC's in Canada.
Fingers crossed for at least 1 more!