This resource will help you prepare to take the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) exam from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLE). As you read on, you’ll see information that will help you, including details around test registration, the exam costs involved, what to expect on the day of the exam, the types of questions the test will included and more.  

What is the IBCLC

The IBCLC exam is an important method of certifying that you have the prerequisites education and knowledge needed to support new mothers and their babies. This exam represents a consistent and ongoing effort to ensure a high level of quality care for patients everywhere.

Who is Eligible

There are three paths for eligibility that you must complete before you’ll be allowed to sit for the IBLCE exam. In general, these paths make sure that those taking the exam have been educated in health sciences and have received at least 90 hours of lactation-related education, plus appropriate clinical experience. For a complete review of these three pathways, visit www.IBLCE.org.

When and Where to Register

You’ll be able to register for the IBLCE exam and get more testing time and location information online at www.IBLCE.org.

Costs of the Test

Depending on which area you live in, your fee to take the exam will range from $255 to $660 and are payable in U.S. dollars only. You can pay using a credit card or prepaid credit card carrying the MasterCard®, VISA®, American Express® or Discover® brands. See www.IBLCE.org for complete details.

When to Arrive

It’s very important that you arrive at your designated testing location at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late for your test, you will not be allowed to take the exam, and the testing fees you’ve paid will be forfeited.

Test Duration:

You’ll have four hours to complete your exam.

What to Bring:

You’ll need to bring two forms of original identification with you on test day. One form will be your primary ID, which is a government-issued document showing your name, photo and signature. Your second form of ID only requires your name and current photo be shown.

What Not to Bring:

Electronic devices of any kind, including phones, Personal items such as bags, Paper, notes or books, Any kind of food or drink

What to Expect During Your Exam:

Format/Number of Questions: This is a computer-based test made up of 175 multiple-choice questions.

Areas of Content

The IBCLC exam consists of seven primary areas of content. Here’s an overview of these seven sections, along with the approximate number of test questions each area has as part of the 175-question total.   

  • Content Area 1: Development and Nutrition (26 Questions) — This section includes elements related to infant care, including feeding behaviors by age, food allergies, anatomy and oral challenges, complementary foods, low birth weight, milk banking, normal behavior, nutrition, pre-term development and growth, skin tone, reflexes and muscle tone, development and growth and growth charts. This section also includes maternal elements such as breast development and growth, breast surgery, human milk composition, maternal anatomical challenges, nutrition and nipple structure and variations.
  • Content Area 2: Physiology and Endocrinology (24 Questions) — This portion of the test covers topics such as diabetes, infertility, metabolic and hormonal disorders, autoimmune disorders, multiples, hypoglycemia, relactation and stooling and voiding.
  • Content Area 3: Pathology (31 Questions) — This area of the exam reviews knowledge of infant allergies, ankyloglossia, cleft lip and palate, congenital anomalies, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hyperbilirubinemia, acute disease, neurological disabilities and gestational age. This section also looks at maternal issues, such as abscess, milk ejection reflex dysfunction, maternal acute disease, maternal chronic disease, disability, mastitis, milk supply issues, nipple and breast conditions, nipple pain and trauma, post-partum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia.
  • Content Area 4: Pharmacology and Toxicology (13 Questions) — This section includes elements such as alcohol and tobacco, contraception, drugs, galactogogues, gel dressings and nipple creams, medication and medicinal herbs.
  • Content Area 5: Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology (21 Questions) — This area of the exam includes topics such as parenthood transition, birth practices, foods to eat or avoid, returning to the workforce, family lifestyle, support networks, mental health, psychological and cognitive issues, mother-baby relationship, safe sleep, weaning and cultural competency.
  • Content Area 6: Techniques (25 Questions) — This section covers techniques such as effective milk transfer, first hour, latching, managing supply, milk expression, positioning, refusal of bottle or breast, skin-to-skin care and test weighing.
  • Content Area 7: Clinical Skills (35 Questions) — This section reviews equipment and technology elements such as feeding devices, handling and storage of mile, nipple devices, pacifiers, pumps, scales, communication technology and websites. In addition, this area of the exam looks at education and communication, including active listening, anticipatory guidance, care plan development and sharing, documentation, educating mothers and families, educating professionals, peers, and students, extending the duration of breastfeeding, emotional support, empowerment and group support. This section also reviews legal and ethical issues such as public breastfeeding, clinical competencies, code of professional conduct, confidentiality and WHO code elements. In addition, the test also looks at research and public health and advocacy topics.

Required Score Needed to Pass:

To receive a passing mark, you must score 67% or better on the exam. Your test score will be communicated to you within a couple months after you take the exam.

How Can I Prepare for the IBLCE Test?

That’s a great question.  We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.

  1. Do yourself a favor and study.  Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try.  Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
  2. Take care of yourself.  Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping.  All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance.  If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
  3. Get a study guide or set of flashcards.  Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them.  We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam.  Below you’ll see links to both!

Study Guide



Last Updated: June 27, 2019