One of the most amazing things that new moms experience after birthing their baby is breastfeeding. It can be extremely daunting, especially when they don't know how their bodies work or what the first steps are when it comes to feeding their baby. Luckily, there's good news! Lactation consultants are here to save the day. They answer questions, give advice, and assist with troubleshooting problems that arise while breastfeeding. New parents who are graced with the presence of a lactation consultant are always grateful and sing their praises, especially after the birth of their first child. Let's take a look at what they do in more depth.
What is a lactation consultant?
A lactation consultant is a professional who works with you to help you understand your breastfeeding goals. They help you create a plan and answer any pressing questions you have when it comes to your baby and your boobies. Lactation consultants work closely with you as a new mother by observing your baby feeding or watching you pump to make sure you have the right suction going on.
These individuals have completed lactation-specific education and what sets them apart from many other lactation support is that they have completed collegiate-level science and health courses. They have also completed several hundred clinical hours directly supporting patients and have passed the IBCLC exam. They are pretty amazing human beings.
Are lactation consultants worth it?
Families who actively seek the help of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant reap all of the benefits that new mothers can find. These gurus offer insane amounts of knowledge and expertise in an area you may not understand yet. The female body is extremely complex (or so it seems sometimes), but these amazing healthcare professionals make everything seem a little more doable!
By equipping yourself with amazing lactation counselors and health professionals, you will be given the very best support available when it comes to you, baby, and your boobies. Your breastfeeding journey will simply be a little easier of a pill to swallow. You will be able to detect and solve your breastfeeding problems with the help of experienced lactation consultants.
If your goal is to increase milk production, they can point you in the right direction. If you need emotional support while you figure out your body, they will guide you. They can also identify tethered oral tissue (aka tongue and lip ties) in your baby, something that not all pediatricians are trained to find. They are knowledgeable in many important skills and you will be grateful to have their brain working with you.
What are some tasks performed by lactation consultants?
Lactation care includes providing a safe and family-centered plan of care for the mother and baby. The consultant will develop a healthy breastfeeding relationship with both mother and baby, assess plans made, implement them, and evaluate for changes on a regular basis.
Here are some other amazing ways lactation consultants can help you:
- Support you in learning how to use your pump
- Conduct an assessment of the mother, baby, and the breastfeeding relationship.
- Provide education to normalize breastfeeding behaviors.
- Help troubleshoot any challenges you are facing whether that’s a supply dip when returning to work, an issue with latch, and so much more.
- They can help you get to the root cause of low supply or recurring mastitis or other breast infections and create a plan to increase and/or maintain your supply.
- Give you support to manage engorgement and identify when it’s pathological.
Where should I go to a lactation consultant?
Most hospitals have a lactation consultant on staff or who works in conjunction with the birthing department. One will often stop by your room once after the new baby is born to give you a few pointers. If you wish to seek additional help from a lactation specialist, you can set it up within the hospital, the pediatrician's office, or through local private practices. Ask your OB, midwife, or doula for recommendations. They will be able to direct you to someone that’s skilled and most likely within your budget.
You can search online for lactation consultants in your area or join breastfeeding support groups on social media. Many of these platforms know of amazing lactation support you can utilize online or in your community.
What happens during a lactation consultation?
If your consultation is the first time you are meeting the lactation consultant, they will ask you some questions about your health and the health of your baby. They may also inquire about how the birth went and if there were any complications. This will give them insight into what may be going on inside your breasts at the time.
The lactation consultant will most likely do some of the following:
- May do a weighted feed where they weigh the baby before and after feeding. Just remember, this is just one data point and like all other humans, babies don’t eat the same exact amount at every meal.
- Note your baby's color and behavior
- Examine your breasts and nipples
- Watch you and baby as you breastfeed (or watch the pump if you are pumping)
- Check for an adequate latch, suck, and swallow, and to make sure the baby is breathing properly while feeding
- They will help correct any breastfeeding issues if they notice any
- Give information for the next session and point you in the right direction for local support groups if you wish to visit any
When To See a Lactation Consultant
There are a few times during your pregnancy and the fourth-trimester journey that you may want to see a lactation specialist. The short answer is, see a lactation specialist whenever you would like. Some of these times include:
Before giving birth - If you want to breastfeed from day one, attending breastfeeding classes will be super helpful. You will learn tons about your own boobies, how milk is makde, and everything else you need to know when baby arrives. You can also learn how to harvest colostrum by hand expressing your milk before birth (this is only recommended after 37 weeks so as not to induce pre-term labor).
In the hospital - Depending on the hospital and your individual situation, a lactation specialist may visit your room to make sure you are doing alright with feeding.
After you leave the hospital and early on - Many new mommas leave the hospital before their milk transitions from colostrum to mature milk. This can lead to not knowing about engorgement and what to expect when having issues down the line.
When issues come up - Once home, you may experience difficulties and frustrations from time to time. This might be a good time to reach out to a consultant for help. You may need to make adjustments in positioning, and pumping, there may be a lip tie that went unrecognized, and maybe the baby seems too gassy or doesn't latch well. These are all valid concerns to seek the help of lactation professionals. Support of a lactation consultant in these areas will put you at ease, so you can focus on the baby and healing.
RECOMMENDATION: Identify your IBCLC WHILE pregnant. That way on day 5 when you’re already home, should you have issues, you know exactly who to reach out to. You will know where to get support and won’t be burdened with calling around the insurance companies last minute while trying to care for a newborn.
A lactation professional may advise that you wear a comfortable nursing and pumping bra to avoid mastitis and to feed the baby efficiently. Try browsing The Dairy Fairy Bras for optimal comfort. Not only are they comfy, but they're adorable!