I’ve come across a lot of families who when they hear about the cost of an IBCLC they are surprised at the cost. An average cost is around $100 an hour for a consultation, with variations depending on location, length of consult, and other factors.
I thought I would put together a running total of what was my personal cost of becoming an IBCLC. This number varies, because some have their employers pay for partial/all costs or they get some of their education from their undergrad/masters programs for their careers and is just one account of one path to becoming an IBCLC.
I chose Pathway 1 (go here for complete info on how to become an IBCLC and the different pathways) to complete the requirements for sitting for the exam. I chose this because I have enough hours through La Leche League being a leader to complete Pathway 1.
The requirement (right now, this can always change) is if you aren’t in a health sciences profession (nurse, doctor, chiropractor, etc) then you have to fulfill health science course requirements. I obtained most of these requirements in my undergraduate degree, or when I went to massage therapy school. I had to complete 2 courses, Nutrition and Human Growth and Development.
Nutrition: I took this at UCSD Extension because my local CC was hard to get into for their online class, I always seemed to miss the deadline. This course cost me about $450 with the course, renting the Kindle edition of the text book, and purchasing the code for the software we needed for the course. There is no CLEP exam for this course, so I needed to take the actual course.
Human Growth and Development: I took and passed the CLEP exam for this course. I bought a test prep book and the CLEP exam guide from them to study from, as well as the test itself. Cost of all those, $120
The next requirement is 90 hours (yes, you read that right) of lactation specific education. There are many programs that have 90 hour courses to get this requirement. I used Health-e-Learning, and while we couldn’t/didn’t want to plop down $1000+ right off the bat for all of the 10 courses (you only need 9 of their courses but if you purchase the pack they give you a slight discount) we opted to buy the courses as we could, and as I needed to. Each of those cost $129 a course, for a grand total of $1,161 for my 90 hours. I stretched this over the course of the year, and we tried to budget in 1-2 courses a month since some of the months we were moving or having some things going on.
The final requirement is contact hours, or hands on experience, you need 1000 of these before you can sit for the exam. Being a La Leche League leader gives me 500 hours per year provided I’ve led meetings, and helped moms outside of meetings with phone calls, emails, etc. While to me, there was no cost, there is a time commitment to being a LLL Leader.
So far we’re up to $1,700 just to prepare to sit for the exam. Now what? You apply! And give them $660 to sit for the exam.
Now you have to prepare for the exam, because honestly, you have to study to the test. While a lot of the information you should/do know, the test has a lot of stuff that you would just look up or use references for in your everyday practice. Exam prep is another animal. Here are the things I plan to purchase. Some can be purchased in older editions or used, but I’m going to try to buy as new as possible since the information in this field is constantly changing and evolving.
Health-e-learning Exam Prep course: $89
Lactation Education Resources Exam Prep: $80
Photo ID Quiz (lots of photos on the exam): $20 for 2 exams
Supporting Sucking Skills: $60
Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, and study guide: $130
The Lactation Consultant in Private Practice: $65
Breastfeeding Atlas: $70
Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice: $65
Comprehensive Lactation Consultant Exam Review: $65
Grand total for study materials: $650
Leaving us with a total from beginning of realizing I want to be an IBCLC to exam time of $3,000. This doesn’t include my time spent (which IS worth something) and what I spent on massage school and my undergraduate courses, which bumps this number up much much higher.
It doesn’t stop there though. Providing you’ve passed the exam and don’t work in a hospital, or clinical setting and want to go into private practice of your own there are other expenses. I’ll try and list as many as I can here, but I know there will be more since I haven’t ventured into it yet. But these are the things that I plan on using in my private practice.
Liability Insurance: Some may have this, and some may not. I’ve never heard of an IBCLC being sued, but it is something to take into account when having a private practice. Premiums annually run between $65-$100 on average. Again, this is just an average and dependent on coverage amounts and state.
Baby Scale: I think most IBCLCs who are in private practice would say this is a definite need. A good baby scale new can run $800+ . This is important to get the most accurate change in baby’s weight when doing test feeds. You pay for accuracy.
Forms: Intake forms, medical history, etc are crucial to get a good picture of what is going on with mom and baby. These can be paper or online. Either way I think most private practice IBCLCs end up tweaking forms to their own. Form packs can be purchased but sometimes don’t fit what you want. There is also a new product called “Mobile Lactation Consultant” which is an iPad based intake form that I plan on using that is customizable. This is going to be $20/month.
Medical supplies/consumables: Gloves, paper towels to put down on the baby scale, a small supply of nipple shields, etc etc can add up. I’m guessing these probably run around $50/month or more depending on how many clients you’re seeing.
Business Start-up: Again, depending on location a business license and getting tax stuff started takes time and money. I will be waiting until we find out where we’re moving next March to get all of that information since there is a possibility we would be going overseas.
Business supplies/consumables: Business cards, paper, fliers, web hosting, and other business needs. $50-$100 a month, maybe more depending on your business. Again, I’m just guestimating here as I’m not in business yet and I really am not sure of actual costs.
CERPS: To maintain your certification you need a certain number of CERPS every 5 years. Some CERPS can be free or low cost, but collecting 75 CERPs in 5 years does add up. You can chose to recertify via examination but you’re spending $660 again and have to again, take the time to study to the test. Unless you’re up for your 10 year recert, in which case you have to recert via exam.
Other random costs: Car payment/gas/insurance/wear and tear if you’re seeing clients in their own homes, babysitter if you have young children and need to see a client if your partner isn’t around, if you decide to rent pumps you’ll have the cost of obtaining and maintaining the pumps.
I know I probably haven’t covered everything, but if you look at everything a single private practice IBCLC has to account for and pay for, you realize in the long run how little they’re making after recouping the money put out just to become an IBCLC.
One thing is for certain. For me, and for many other IBCLCs (IBCLC candidates) we aren’t in it for the money. Some do need the extra income, and want to do something they’re passionate about, but so many of us go into this just wanting to help moms avoid the issues that we’ve had. Avoid the heartbreak we went through, to know what the bond of breastfeeding is and how amazing it can be.