Acquiring Clinical Practice Hours

What is the best way for you to gain clinical practice hours? Where will you acquire  your experience? For someone who already has a degree in a health related field  such as a dietician, nurse, or physician, it should be relatively easy to gain  access to hospitals, home health agencies, clinics, or physician offices to practice. For those who do not have a health-related degree, it may be a bit  more difficult, but certainly is not impossible. Many of the leading LCs in the  field are non-nurses or do not have a previous health degree. Finding places to gain needed experience will require some creativity and ingenuity, as well as a strong degree of determination.

Clinical Hours Sources

  • Supervised experience with an experienced IBCLC covering all  facets of lactation education.
  • Completion of the suggested experiences in Blueprints in conjunction with the  lactation competencies listed with IBLCE with a qualified instructor is an  excellent beginning, and will lead to broad-based preparation as an IBCLC. As  you are in a student capacity during this time, you need to expect to be  charged by the instructor for this service. Look at Pathway 3 on the IBLCE  website.  
  • Participation in one or more of the following mentorship/clinical instructor programs:   

La Leche League (LLL) or  Nursing Mothers' Council (NMC)
As a qualified leader, the IBLCE will grant a  credit of 500 practice hours for each year you are actively practicing as a  leader or counselor. If you can document more than 500 hours, then those hours  will also be considered. 

WIC/Public Health  Breastfeeding or Peer Counselor

Many WIC agencies are eager to hire people to  work in their clinics counseling women about breastfeeding if they have  completed a lactation consultant preparation course and have had personal  experience breastfeeding. This is a  great way to get your practice hours for the exam. 

Physician Office

Approach one  of the physician groups in your area - OB, Family Practice, Pediatric - and negotiate with them to provide lactation helpfor their clients, perhaps on a  volunteer basis while you are fulfilling your clinical practice hours requirement.  Take along a copy of Blueprints so they can see what you would like to accomplish.


Approach your local  hospital and volunteer your services as a breastfeeding counselor or patient  educator. Consider making rounds on all the breastfeeding mothers, providing outpatient  lactation services on a limited basis, follow-up phone calls, pre- and/or  postnatal breastfeeding classes, or a postnatal breastfeeding support group. 

Home Health Agency

Contract with a home health agency to see mothers with lactation problems. You may be able to make home visits with the nurses as they are seeing postpartum women and do the lactation assessments and counseling at that time.


Our Recommendations

Determine your own strengths  and weaknesses in the experience you already have. If you are a maternity  nurse, and have a lot of experience with normal newborns up to about three days  of age, you need to get experience with preterm infants, older breastfeeding  infants and toddlers as well as conditions mothers experience beyond the  immediate postpartum period. If your experience is primarily through LLL or  Nursing Mothers' Council, you need to work with more newborns and sick children. If you have mostly pediatric experience, you need to work with newborns, healthy infants, and mothers with a variety of problems. Blueprints is designed to help you focus on which experiences you need as you complete your hours towards your  IBCLC candidacy.

Note: If a hospital or physician's  office permits you on site as a volunteer to obtain your breastfeeding consultancy hours, you will be required to sign a form regarding respect for patient confidentiality (HIPAA). You may be required to have certain  immunizations, a TB test, drug screen, and criminal background check. 

If you have any further questions that  haven't been answered here, please don't hesitate to contact us. You may find more  suggestions on the IBLCE website.