International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)

April 5, 2021 Written by Mary Foley, RN, BSN, IBCLC

The Lactation College is delighted to welcome guest faculty member, Mary Foley, RN, BSN, IBCLC. Mary is the Lactation Program Coordinator for the Maternal and Newborn Service at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Massachusetts, USA. She has held this position for 20 years. Mary became IBCLC-credentialed in 1987 and has taken the examination three times! Her full bio is at the end of this post.

Many of you are here in The Lactation College because you are preparing for the IBCLC exam given by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). 

First, let’s be clear on what the initials stand for:

IBCLC

IBCLC = International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. This is the credential one receives when they qualify for and then pass the certifying exam. The IBCLC is “the only internationally certified healthcare provider with expertise in breastfeeding and human lactation.”1

As of February, 2021 the IBLCE reports there are 33,492 IBCLCs worldwide, with these ten countries accounting for 84.2% of all the IBCLCs in the world: United States of America 18,541 (55.4%); Australia 2,084 (6.2%); Canada 1,943 (5.8%); Germany 1,389 (4.1%); Japan 989 (3.0%); China 913 (2.7%); United Kingdom 666 (2.0%); South Korea 617 (1.8%); France 545 (1.6%); and Netherlands 517 (1.5%). IBCLCs worldwide There is no need to remember these statistics for the exam. They are presented for fun, and as a little more in-depth look into the world of IBCLCs.

IBLCE

IBLCE = International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Tip - if you are feeling confused about the initials, when you see the “E” at the end of the initial, you know that that is referring to the Board of Examiners.

Let’s take a look at just what it is that the IBLCE does. The mission of IBLCE is to establish the highest standards in breastfeeding care worldwide, and to certify people who meet those standards.

The IBLCE:   

  • Handles all aspects of the examination, and

  • Sets the standards of practice for IBCLCs.

It is important to note that the IBLCE DOES NOT license an IBCLC. Each country/state/territory/region has their own rules about licensing.

As a part of setting those standards, the IBLCE has three important documents which provide guidance to all IBCLCs on what level of care they can provide within the boundaries of their training. These three documents are:

  • Clinical Competencies for the Practice of IBCLCs

  • Code of Professional Conduct for IBCLCs

  • Scope of Practice for IBCLCs

In addition to you knowing the boundaries of your practice, these guidelines are developed to inform and protect the public. In fact, the “IBLCE was founded to protect the health, welfare, and safety of the public by providing the internationally recognized measure of knowledge in lactation and breastfeeding care through the IBLCE exam.”2 

Once you pass the exam and become an IBCLC, these documents will be the foundation upon which you will build your practice and become part of the care team for breastfeeding families.  They apply in every country, and in every setting.

IBLCE also has the responsibility to respond to any consumer complaints concerning an IBCLC’s conduct or practice. Complaints that are brought to the attention of IBLCE are carefully reviewed by the Ethics & Discipline Committee. If necessary, the IBCLC will be disciplined by the Board of Examiners according to the severity of any violations of the set standards.

So, as you can see, these are important documents for you to be aware of and you can expect there will be some exam questions related to them. We will take a look at them one at a time, starting with the next post on Clinical Competencies for the Practice of IBCLCs.

Bio: Mary Foley, RN, BSN, IBCLC

Ms. Foley is the Lactation Program Coordinator for the Maternal and Newborn Service at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital in Massachusetts, USA. She has held this position for 20 years. Previously, she worked in numerous maternity settings including: obstetrics, postpartum, labor and delivery, home care, and as a lactation consultant in private practice. In 2012, with Mary championing the cause, Melrose-Wakefield Hospital became the 4th Baby-Friendly hospital in Massachusetts and was re-designated in 2017.

Ms. Foley served as a faculty member for MotherBaby Summits held in West Virginia (2013, 2015), Detroit MI (2013), Traverse City MI (2013), and Louisiana (2014). She is a member of the Mother Baby Summit Mock Site Visit Team, a consultant for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Baby-Friendly Initiative, and a contributor to Bella Breastfeeding, a 3-hour training course for providers, on OPENPediatrics. Mary is also a contributor to the Community Health Training Institute Breastfeeding Training Tutorials and The Lactation College.

Ms. Foley is a BSN graduate of the University of Massachusetts.  

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1

Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition. Edited by Rebecca Mannel, Patricia J. Martens, and Marsha Walker. Chapter 1: The IBLCE Code of Professional Conduct for IBCLCs. Written by Elizabeth C. Brooks, Elizabeth K. Stehel, and Rebecca Mannel. Pages 5-37. Jones & Bartlett Learning. 2013

2

International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). Code of Professional Conduct for IBCLCs. 2015. Code of Professional Conduct