What is an IBCLC?

I am often asked about the different terms for lactation support professionals. There are a lot out there, but they are not equal in training and requirements within our profession.  I’ve attempted my best to break down the different titles available for those interested in supporting women and breastfeeding.


An IBCLC, which is an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant, is the gold standard of lactation professionals. To become an IBCLC, an individual must have at least 90 hours of breastfeeding specific education at the post secondary level. They are required to work under an IBCLC mentor to complete 500-1000 hours of supervised hours. If the candidate is not already a healthcare provider, there are numerous post secondary courses they must complete before applying to write the exam. After fulfilling all requirements and being accepted to write, they will sit through a 4 hour board exam.

Once an IBCLC, they are required to continue their education regularly to retain their certification. The regulatory board for IBCLC’s is actually more vigorous than that for RN’s. Over a five year period, we must complete 75 continuing education credits as well as rewrite  the four hour exam every 10 years. If we do not uphold these requirements, our title is removed and we can no longer work within the scope of an IBCLC.

CLE (Certified Lactation Educator)

To obtain this certification as a CLE,there is a 20 hour course required  to prepare individuals to educate women and their possible support  on normal breastfeeding and management. Their role is to provide unbiased, non judgemental education and encouragement to those interested in learning more about breastfeeding. You will often find CLE designation alongside a doula or childbirth educator.  Assessments, advice and treatment plans are not within the scope of a certified lactation educator.

Lactation Counsellor/Infant Feeding specialist

There are quite of few of these titles popping up everywhere these days. The training to become one of the various “counsellors” ranges in length, but usually it is a few days, with the content being mixed with other parenting topics. These women are equipped to provide education and information, but once again, assessments, advice and treatment plans are out of their scope.

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