Lactation Management Training: From Novice to Expert

Goals for 2021: Planning Your Path to the IBCLC

Goals to become IBCLC 2021
Ask 10 different Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants to tell you how they got their certifications, and you’ll probably hear 10 very different stories.
Some people pursue a relatively straight-forward course.
Others—many others—fall in love with the world of lactation and work their way toward the IBCLC over years.
They keep going, around the births of their own children, family needs, life demands, and job considerations. Barriers are met, navigated, and overcome. The trail disappears and reappears.
At last, they hold their IBCLC certification in hand. One journey—the road to certification—ends, and another begins.
Where are you on your journey to becoming an IBCLC? No matter where you are, 2021 can be a year of solid progress toward your goal!
Introducing Goals for 2021: A Series
In this blog series, we talk with Angela Love-Zaranka, BA, IBCLC, RLC, Program Director at Lactation Education Resources (LER). Love-Zaranka served on the IBLCE Board from 2006 to 2012 and sat on IBLCE committees until 2015. She has seen every aspect of the process, including helping to write the IBCLC Exam.
Whether you’re just starting to explore the field or sitting for the exam in 2021, this series will help you set clear, doable, exciting goals for your journey in the year ahead.
Goal Number One: Evaluate Where You Are Now
Planning any journey begins with knowing your starting point.. So get out your map—we’re about to help you identify your current position, see your end goal, and plan your trip.
It’s a process Love-Zaranka calls “operationalize your passion.” Let’s get started.
Step 1: Be sure it’s what you want. Before we consult the map, are you sure you want to take this trip?
“The IBCLC is a health care profession like being a physiotherapist, a speech pathologist, or a nurse,” Love-Zaranka says. “If you see yourself being a healthcare provider, offering comprehensive support on all aspects of lactation, the IBCLC is for you.
“Sometimes people expect the path to certification to be quick,” she continues. “But just like becoming a nurse or physiotherapist, it takes time. Start off by understanding that it’s a big investment.”
Step 2: Understand the requirements. There are multiple pathways to qualifying for the IBCLC Exam. But everyone who sits has to do three things.
  • Complete a list of required college courses
  • Complete 90 hours of breastfeeding-specific education
  • Collect contact hours helping lactating families.
One critical detail: All three requirements must be met before you can apply to take the Exam—and the window to apply closes months before the actual exam occurs.
Step 3: Know the key dates. Will you take the exam in 2021? Or do you need more time?
The best way to decide is to start from the exam date and work backward.
The first 2021 exam will happen in April. However, the application window for that exam has already closed. If you have not applied to take it, you will need to look to the next 2021 exam.
That exam will take place September 15 through 24, 2021.
Applications to sit the September 2021 exam will be accepted from April 19 to May 28, 2021.
To apply to take the September 2021 exam, you will need to have all your requirements met by May 28, 2021. Keep track of all the IBLCE deadlines - including changes that may occur - at their website here.
Step 4: Target your exam date With that information, is there still time? There might be, according to Love-Zaranka.
“If you have your college coursework done and are already fulfilling your clinical hours, and all you need is a 90-hour course, you might be able to sit in September 2021,” she says.
It’s time to do some math.
Getting through a 90-hour breastfeeding-specific course takes a bit more than 90 hours. We’re in February, which means there are about 12 weeks until the application window closes.
The magic number: If you can work on a 90-hour course about 13 hours each week, you can finish in time.
However, Love-Zaranka cautions, it will take discipline and focus—and planning for contingencies.
“Get out your calendar and add it in first each week,” she advises. “If you don’t, it’s not going to happen. And make sure you budget in time for unexpected things that come up—family difficulties, or if you get ill.”
If this is you—if you are applying for the exam and ready to start studying—look for our upcoming blog on planning a successful study strategy. Or catch our session on planning for the exam. The free session is available for download here.
Step 5: Planning a longer journey. What if you’ve realized you can’t take the exam in 2021? Don’t get discouraged. Get strategic.
“You can get there if you develop a planning mindset,” Love-Zaranka says. “It is like building a walkway one rock at a time, and you need to find your rocks. What pieces do you still need? How are you going to get them?”
Where should you start?
“If you have to start with one piece, pick breastfeeding education,” Love-Zaranka says. “Become a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS) or start on a 45- or 90-hour course.”
Digging into the breastfeeding education can help you be sure you really want to be an IBCLC, prep you for a mentorship or clinical hours, and help keep your passion alive on the journey.
Step 6: Love the journey. It’s a popular sentiment: Life’s about the journey, not the destination. When it comes to the IBCLC journey, it really is true.
That’s because your unique pathway to becoming an IBCLC will ultimately give your unique practice its wonderfulness and depth.
“Your journey is what is going to make you a really great lactation consultant,” Love-Zaranka says. “It can feel like a long road, but this is not the time to rush it. The journey brings with it wisdom. Every step is enriching your eventual practice.”
Look for more blogs in our 2021 Goals series! We’ll go in depth with how to get your breastfeeding-specific education, college courses, and clinical hours, as well as how to prep for the exam. We’ll also give you tips for how to keep your passion alive while you pursue your goal.
Goals to become IBCLC 2021
Ask 10 different Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants to tell you how they got their certifications, and you’ll probably hear 10 very different stories.
Some people pursue a relatively straight-forward course.
Others—many others—fall in love with the world of lactation and work their way toward the IBCLC over years.
They keep going, around the births of their own children, family needs, life demands, and job considerations. Barriers are met, navigated, and overcome. The trail disappears and reappears.
At last, they hold their IBCLC certification in hand. One journey—the road to certification—ends, and another begins.
Where are you on your journey to becoming an IBCLC? No matter where you are, 2021 can be a year of solid progress toward your goal!
Introducing Goals for 2021: A Series
In this blog series, we talk with Angela Love-Zaranka, BA, IBCLC, RLC, Program Director at Lactation Education Resources (LER). Love-Zaranka served on the IBLCE Board from 2006 to 2012 and sat on IBLCE committees until 2015. She has seen every aspect of the process, including helping to write the IBCLC Exam.
Whether you’re just starting to explore the field or sitting for the exam in 2021, this series will help you set clear, doable, exciting goals for your journey in the year ahead.
Goal Number One: Evaluate Where You Are Now
Planning any journey begins with knowing your starting point.. So get out your map—we’re about to help you identify your current position, see your end goal, and plan your trip.
It’s a process Love-Zaranka calls “operationalize your passion.” Let’s get started.
Step 1: Be sure it’s what you want. Before we consult the map, are you sure you want to take this trip?
“The IBCLC is a health care profession like being a physiotherapist, a speech pathologist, or a nurse,” Love-Zaranka says. “If you see yourself being a healthcare provider, offering comprehensive support on all aspects of lactation, the IBCLC is for you.
“Sometimes people expect the path to certification to be quick,” she continues. “But just like becoming a nurse or physiotherapist, it takes time. Start off by understanding that it’s a big investment.”
Step 2: Understand the requirements. There are multiple pathways to qualifying for the IBCLC Exam. But everyone who sits has to do three things.
  • Complete a list of required college courses
  • Complete 90 hours of breastfeeding-specific education
  • Collect contact hours helping lactating families.
One critical detail: All three requirements must be met before you can apply to take the Exam—and the window to apply closes months before the actual exam occurs.
Step 3: Know the key dates. Will you take the exam in 2021? Or do you need more time?
The best way to decide is to start from the exam date and work backward.
The first 2021 exam will happen in April. However, the application window for that exam has already closed. If you have not applied to take it, you will need to look to the next 2021 exam.
That exam will take place September 15 through 24, 2021.
Applications to sit the September 2021 exam will be accepted from April 19 to May 28, 2021.
To apply to take the September 2021 exam, you will need to have all your requirements met by May 28, 2021. Keep track of all the IBLCE deadlines - including changes that may occur - at their website here.
Step 4: Target your exam date With that information, is there still time? There might be, according to Love-Zaranka.
“If you have your college coursework done and are already fulfilling your clinical hours, and all you need is a 90-hour course, you might be able to sit in September 2021,” she says.
It’s time to do some math.
Getting through a 90-hour breastfeeding-specific course takes a bit more than 90 hours. We’re in February, which means there are about 12 weeks until the application window closes.
The magic number: If you can work on a 90-hour course about 13 hours each week, you can finish in time.
However, Love-Zaranka cautions, it will take discipline and focus—and planning for contingencies.
“Get out your calendar and add it in first each week,” she advises. “If you don’t, it’s not going to happen. And make sure you budget in time for unexpected things that come up—family difficulties, or if you get ill.”
If this is you—if you are applying for the exam and ready to start studying—look for our upcoming blog on planning a successful study strategy. Or catch our session on planning for the exam. The free session is available for download here.
Step 5: Planning a longer journey. What if you’ve realized you can’t take the exam in 2021? Don’t get discouraged. Get strategic.
“You can get there if you develop a planning mindset,” Love-Zaranka says. “It is like building a walkway one rock at a time, and you need to find your rocks. What pieces do you still need? How are you going to get them?”
Where should you start?
“If you have to start with one piece, pick breastfeeding education,” Love-Zaranka says. “Become a Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS) or start on a 45- or 90-hour course.”
Digging into the breastfeeding education can help you be sure you really want to be an IBCLC, prep you for a mentorship or clinical hours, and help keep your passion alive on the journey.
Step 6: Love the journey. It’s a popular sentiment: Life’s about the journey, not the destination. When it comes to the IBCLC journey, it really is true.
That’s because your unique pathway to becoming an IBCLC will ultimately give your unique practice its wonderfulness and depth.
“Your journey is what is going to make you a really great lactation consultant,” Love-Zaranka says. “It can feel like a long road, but this is not the time to rush it. The journey brings with it wisdom. Every step is enriching your eventual practice.”
Look for more blogs in our 2021 Goals series! We’ll go in depth with how to get your breastfeeding-specific education, college courses, and clinical hours, as well as how to prep for the exam. We’ll also give you tips for how to keep your passion alive while you pursue your goal.
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