A lactation consultant is an invaluable tool that you need in your breastfeeding resources.
Breastfeeding is far from an easy route to take, and I know I’ve asked myself several times why does breastfeeding have to be so hard.
I may have breastfed four children, but each time, my babies tossed me a curve ball, and I’ve had to ask a lactation consultant for some advice. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Throughout my journey, I’ve asked myself dozens of questions. Why isn’t my baby gaining right? Why does this hurt so darn bad? If breastfeeding is supposed to be natural, shouldn’t it not feel like the baby is going to rip off my nipple?
If you’ve found yourself in similar shoes, then you might understand why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that 60 percent of women don’t breastfeed as long as they want, and only half of the women that started breastfeeding their baby at birth still does by six months.
Let’s walk through everything you need to know about lactation consultants. A good lactation consultant is worth her weight in gold!
You might have heard people talking about lactation consultants and wondered what a lactation consultant is. Typically abbreviated to LC or IBCLC, an LC is a health professional that specializes in breastfeeding. That is her passion and target area that she knows everything.
Every LC has one goal – to help mothers learn how to breastfeed and to help them breastfeed for as long as they desire. They’re there to act as a vast support system and your learning library.
Becoming a lactation consultant requires a lot of schooling and training to require their certification to help moms. So, you can trust that they know what they’re talking. They’re trained to access your mental and physical state, to identify and correct improper latches, help you learn how to express breast milk, and even help you wean!
10 Benefits of a Lactation Consultant
I can tell you from experience that lactation consultants are tremendous helpers for breastfeeding mothers. Being able to sit down and talk to someone who understands all the problems you’re facing and how to fix them is enormous. I may have shed some tears with my LCs, but they also offer a shoulder to cry.
1. They Teach You Before Baby Arrives
Like anything else, the best time to learn about anything is beforehand, so learning about breastfeeding is best done before your baby arrives and you’re sleep deprived. By the time baby comes, you’re exhausted, sore, and emotional. Emotions are real after labor and delivery!
Contact an LC before you give birth for some training and tips. It will help decrease your stress and increase the chances that your breastfeeding journey will start on the right foot. You might also want to check to see if any local LCs are offering breastfeeding classes at local hospitals.
2. LCs Help With Goals
All mothers have different breastfeeding goals depending on their health, cultural, and personal preferences. I have a personal goal to breastfeed all of my kids until two years old, but some mothers want to breastfeed for the first six months or six weeks.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. An LC doesn’t pick your goals. Not all lactation consultants want to make you breastfeed for as long as possible. They’re humans as well, and they care about their personal goals. She will help you reach your goal, so you have the best experience.
3. They Know Baby’s Anatomy
Your baby’s mouth can cause a whole world of issues, and an LC understands a baby’s anatomy. Lactation consultants understand how to examine your baby to find any physical problems that might interfere with breastfeeding correctly.
For example, tongue and lip ties are common issues that can cause severe pain when breastfeeding. LCs are more skilled at detecting these ties than most pediatricians because this is their specialized area!
4. You Learn More About Your Body
You think that you understand your body before you give birth and start breastfeeding, but you don’t. Some of what is going to happen will be a total surprise. Lactation consultants understand how your body changes during breastfeeding; most of them have been right in your shoes as well!
5. Home and Family Life Matter to LCsy
Breastfeeding is a family affair, and your breastfeeding relationship will be significantly affected by your home and family life. They can help you take a look at your home and family to find things that might harm or benefit breastfeeding.
No, this doesn’t mean she will judge you. Instead, she will give you advice and tips!
6. Education is Paramount
While many lactation consultants are personally invested in breastfeeding in their personal lives, education is paramount when it comes to helping you. They focus on the latest scientific facts to help you improve your breastfeeding relationship, as well as understanding the fantastic benefits of breastfeeding. All of this is based on facts and education.
Lactation consultants can help you with whatever parts of breastfeeding you want to know. They can help you learn how to wean or how to determine if breastfeeding isn’t working for you.
7. You Will Learn How to Use a Breast Pump
Knowing how to pump your breasts is a useful skill even if you don’t need to return to work. Pumping allows you to leave your baby with a trusted family member or friend so you can do whatever you want.
Your LC can also help you pick the right type of breast pump for you, and she can show you how to use them effectively. You’ll learn how to store breast milk properly, which is so important!
8. LCs Work With Your Family
Just because your spouse and kids don’t have breast doesn’t mean that they can help. Breastfeeding is a unique experience for you and your baby, but your family can play a vital role. Your lactation can show your family how to support you properly.
One of the top reasons why women stop breastfeeding is that they lack the support needed. They can ensure you get the right help!
9. They Help With Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is more common than most people understand, and your lactation consultant can help support you during this time. They’re trained to help moms and families understand how to overcome postpartum depression. She can help you find local resources while making sure that you have access to breastfeeding safe medication.
10. She Will Stay As Long As You Need
Just because you met your lactation consultant works at the hospital doesn’t mean she wouldn’t love to help you more. You can use their services for as long as you need. Most lactation consultants either make house calls or have an office that you can visit for postpartum outpatient services. Don’t be worried about contacting them when you need help. That’s why they’re there!
When Should You See a Lactation Consultant?
Seeing a lactation consultant is never a bad idea. If anything, you can be reaffirmed that everything is going well and your baby looks great. That always feels great to hear.
However, you should seek out the help of a lactation consultant whenever you’re having breastfeeding trouble that you can’t figure out on your own. Here are a few situations when you should seek their help.
You can seek out the help of a lactation consultant for more reasons than just this! LCs can help you understand plugged ducts, fussiness, tongue and lip ties, gulping, and excess weight gain. Their training is extensive!
The Most Common Breastfeeding Issues
If you find yourself facing one of the most common breastfeeding issues, then you know you need a lactation consultant in your corner.
When your baby has a tongue or lip tie, they have a portion of their tongue or lip attached to their mouth. It makes it hard to latch on properly to your breast. It’s a lot more common than you might think; all four of my kids have a tongue, lip, or both times.
Don’t worry; ties can be fixed with a simple procedure!
Nipple issues can make breastfeeding difficult. Larger than average nipples are harder for your baby to latch onto, so you need help to show you how to help your baby latch on properly.
On the other hand, some women have flat or inverted nipples. It might make it harder for your baby to latch onto your nipple at all. Some babies are unable to get all or some of it into their mouth.
This one doesn’t have anything to do with anatomy. If your baby is fussy all the time, it’s harder to breastfeed. Part of this may be because you are missing your baby’s hunger cues, and he is getting upset trying to nurse when he feels starving.
You need to look for early hungry cues from infants:
- Rooting or fidgeting
- Sucking on lips, hands, or toys
- Opening and closing mouth
- Smacking lips
If you’re struggling to latch your baby on correctly, then you might end up with cracked or bleeding nipples. Despite what people say, cracked or bleeding nipples aren’t normal, and it can cause mastitis by allowing bacteria into your milk ducts.
A lactation consultant can help you find out why your nipples are bleeding or cracked. Also, they can help you heal up the injury so that nursing becomes more comfortable again.
How Can You Find a Lactation Consultant?
Depending on your location, some lactation consultants offer their services through hospitals, birthing centers, and physician’s offices. So, your first step is to call where you plan to deliver to see if they have an LC on staff. Many do, but many don’t, so it’s wise for you to find out ahead of your child’s birth.
If not, call your OBGYN or midwife to see if they have a recommended LC. After that, you can turn to your friends and online sources. Always ask your friends to see if they have LC recommendations. You might be surprised to see how many of your friends have used their services.
Next, look for a local chapter of the La Leche League. This group focuses on supporting local breastfeeding women, and they have branches throughout the United States. Find a chapter nearby, and you can receive mother-to-mother support.
Still can’t find an LC? Check out these two websites:
How to Pick the Right Lactation Consultant?
You found a few LCs and want to know what is a good lactation consultant. How can you pick the right one for you? You want to see someone who is qualified and an excellent fit for your family. Here are a few things to consider.
1. What Are Their Qualifications?
Look to see if you can find an international board-certified lactation consultant, called an IBCLC. IBCLCs go through very extensive training and need to pass a rigid certification exam to be able to have this title.
If you can’t find an IBCLC, then look for a certified lactation consultant, called a CLC. These women are trained to help you through all types of breastfeeding issues.
It’s important to know that the term lactation consultant isn’t trademarked, so anyone can use it even if they’re not certified. IBCLC IS trademarked, and they must be registered to use it. Only board-certified lactation consultants will have IBCLC following their name. IBCLC’s are considered the gold standard for evidence-based lactation support.
2. Their Experience
Don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience! Find out how long they have been an LC or an IBCLC. Find out where they did their training, and make sure to find out about their personal experiences as well.
3. You Feel Comfortable
Breastfeeding is intimate, so you have to be able to feel comfortable with her. Asking questions is essential, and you need to feel comfortable to ask her question. She will see your breasts, and if that makes you nervous or uncomfortable, then she might not be the right fit for you.
4. She Won’t Pressure You
She should never pressure you to do anything that you don’t want to do or feel comfortable doing. That includes breastfeeding for longer than you want or breastfeeding more often. She will educate you on the reasons why you should do this or that, but she must not make you feel pressured to do as she says. She is there for support.
The First Visit with a Lactation Consultant
The big day is here, and you’re finally ready to meet your lactation consultant. You might wonder what your first visit with her will be like. Here is the general process that most LCs use. Remember that your stay will depend on your needs!
Before you head to your appointment, figure out what you will meet. Some will come to your home, especially if you’re having trouble recovering after birth. Don’t worry about how clean your house is; you just had a baby! Some lactation consultants have an office for you to meet. Try to pick a time when you think your baby will want to feed, so your LC can see the issues firsthand.
1. Medical History
Before your LC does much, she is going to ask you some questions about your medical history and pregnancy. She will ask about your pregnancy and birth experience. She might ask about how your baby is meeting milestones and any pre-existing conditions that might cause issues with breastfeeding.
This part is fundamental and quick!
2. Check Over the Baby
Now, she is going to take the baby and perform an elementary exam. She might weigh your baby and take his measurements. Most importantly, wearing sterile gloves, she will examine their gums, lips, and tongue. This examination will let her know if there is any anatomical reason for your breastfeeding issues.
3. Check Over Mom Anatomy
This step may not be needed, but if you’re having any personal issues such as inverted nipples, she will want to perform an exam on you. This also applies if you have cracked nipples or mastitis.
4. Ask Questions
Now, your lactation consultant will ask you some questions to figure out the struggle. Some of the questions she might ask include:
Observation is the most critical part of the entire visit. She has to see what is happening to make a plan with you. When you and your baby are ready, you need to nurse your baby in front of your LC so she can observe what is happening. She can give you ideas on the spot to help, and this may involve trying different positions and working on your baby’s latch.
6. Make a Plan!
Many issues can be resolved with one visit, but she may want to see you again in a week or two. You two will come up with a plan to help and a routine to meet your goals. The plan will be written down for you, and she will provide you with any materials she thinks will be valuable for you.
What You Should Ask a Lactation Consultant?
Going to a lactation consultant can feel intimidating, especially when you’re sleep deprived and sore. It’s a great idea to write questions down ahead of time, so you don’t forget what you want to add. Here are a few suggested questions.
How Much Does a Lactation Consultant Cost?
Having a baby isn’t cheap, and you may not have thought about budgeting for a lactation consultant. Prices for an LC does vary based on where you are and their experience, as well as how many visits you need.
Many hospitals do offer lactation consultant services for free after your birth for a set period, so be sure to call them first to find out. Private lactation consultants can charge anywhere from $100 to $300 for an hour visit. Some only charge you for the first visit, while others charge for all of the visits. Be sure to ask ahead of time.
A lactation consultant is an invaluable resource when you want to breastfeed. With her help, you can fix any issues that you’re having and work towards meeting your breastfeeding goals.
Did you use a lactation consultant? Let us know about your experiences!