We've all been there - anxiously navigating the whirlwind of new motherhood. As you cradle your newborn during those late night feedings, you may feel overwhelmed and underprepared for the journey ahead. Know that you are not alone. All new moms could use an extra hand during this transition. That's where lactation consultants come in.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
A lactation consultant (LC) is a trained breastfeeding specialist with expertise to provide guidance, education, and support for nursing mothers. LCs are certified by accredited organizations like the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. They have extensive knowledge in lactation science, breastfeeding techniques, and counseling methods.
Many LCs start out as nurses, midwives, doulas, or other maternal health professionals before pursuing the additional LC training. Their medical background allows them to address both physical and emotional breastfeeding hurdles. LCs can work in hospitals, clinics, private practice, or as independent consultants.
The Role of a Lactation Consultant
LCs serve as part of a critical support system for breastfeeding success. Here are some of the vital roles an LC plays:
- Assesses breastfeeding challenges: An LC can observe a feeding session and identify any anatomical, physiological, or technique issues causing problems. They'll make recommendations to help overcome obstacles.
- Provides hands-on assistance: An LC will demonstrate proper latch techniques, breast massage, use of pumps/nipple shields, and varied nursing positions. Moms gain confidence in their ability to nurse successfully.
- Shares informational resources: LCs educate moms on the science behind breastmilk production, the impact of supplements or medications, storing breastmilk, and optimal nutrition for nursing. Knowledge is empowering.
- Offers encouragement: LCs listen with empathy to emotional difficulties breastfeeding. They build maternal confidence with motivational counseling and reassurance. You can do this!
- Troubleshoots breastfeeding problems: LCs help moms problem-solve common issues like low supply, sore nipples, engorgement, mastitis, or a baby's poor latch. They have tried-and-true tricks to get breastfeeding back on track.Related solution: the benefits of breast pump
- Provides follow-up support: LCs often schedule multiple visits, calls, or online chats over weeks or months to adjust guidance as needs evolve. Breastfeeding is a journey.
In essence, lactation consultants equip new mothers with the knowledge, skills, and support network to feel empowered in their breastfeeding experience.
Building Confidence and Success as a Nursing Mother
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always come naturally at first. Having professional guidance in those early weeks can make an enormous difference in exclusive and continued breastfeeding. Here are some of the key ways an LC empowers new moms:
- Increases self-efficacy: With an LC's training, reassurance, and feedback, mothers gain confidence in their ability to sufficiently nourish their baby. Finding your rhythm gets easier.
- Provides personalized guidance: Every mother-baby pair is unique. An LC assesses your specific situation and shares customized techniques for optimal results.
- Encourages reaching out: LCs emphasize that challenges are expected and you should always seek assistance when needed. You and baby will get the hang of it together.
- Fosters a judgement-free zone: LCs create a safe, supportive environment for mothers to discuss concerns without fear of criticism or shame. Feel at ease as you navigate this journey.
- Helps establish realistic goals: LCs discuss your hopes and circumstances to set achievable breastfeeding goals. Small victories fuel continued progress.
- Offers access to support groups: Many LCs connect new moms with peer support groups, other nursing mothers, and community resources. You've got this - but you don't have to do it alone.
More nursing info:
- Moms Should Start Nursing the Right Way
- What Nursing Pillow Does a C-section Mom Need for Best Recovery?
With an LC's expert training and compassionate approach, mothers can gain the mindset, strategies, and support essential for breastfeeding success.
When to Consult a Lactation Specialist?
Ideally, make an appointment with a lactation consultant within the first 2-3 weeks after birth. Seeing an LC prenatally or in the hospital shortly after delivery can also be valuable.
You should also reach out to an LC for assistance with any breastfeeding difficulties, such as:
- Poor latch or milk transfer
- Low milk supply
- Baby refusing breast
- Sore/cracked nipples
- Engorgement or plugged ducts
- Mastitis or yeast infection
- Special circumstances like prematurity, anatomical variations, or medical conditions
An IBCLC has the clinical expertise to help develop a customized plan to get breastfeeding back on course. Why struggle in silence when specialized help is available? More info about breastfeeding questions.
How Can a Lactation Consultant Help Moms?The bottom line is an LC can provide new moms the confidence, knowledge and support needed to meet their personal breastfeeding goals. LCs can play an invaluable role in supporting new mothers throughout their breastfeeding journey. By providing expert guidance, LCs help ensure breastfeeding gets off to the best possible start. Some of the key ways LCs assist include:
- Observe breastfeeding sessions and provide tips on proper latching techniques, positioning, use of pillows etc. to make nursing more comfortable and effective.
- Offer advice on establishing and maintaining milk supply. They can suggest methods like breast compression, pumping, supplements if needed etc.
- Provide information on normal newborn behavior and feeding cues so you learn when baby is hungry versus tired or just fussy.
- Suggest remedies for issues like sore/cracked nipples, engorgement, plugged ducts, mastitis so you can continue breastfeeding.
- Act as a source of encouragement and reassurance during what can be an emotionally difficult time. Sometimes just having an expert tell you "you're doing great!" makes all the difference. Why are post-birth emotions important
- Serve as a valuable resource for any questions you may have about breastfeeding techniques, pumping, storage of milk, return to work, weaning etc.
- Help create a feeding plan tailored to you and your baby's needs. Not everyone's breastfeeding journey will be the same.
- Provide access to support groups and other lactation consultants for additional help. Breastfeeding takes a village!
Accessing a Lactation Consultant
- Ask for referral. Ask your obstetrician or pediatrician for a referral to lactation consultant in your location. Most health insurance plans also cover LC appointments.Many hospitals have LCs on staff to assist patients during maternity stays. You can request to meet with the LC for guidance before discharge.
- Reach out through your network. Reach out to your local La Leche League chapter to connect with LCs who host support groups or do home visits. Independent LCs in private practice are another option for personalized, ongoing support.
- Check online. Thanks to online platforms, you also have access to virtual consultations with International Board Certified Lactation Consultants or . Get professional support conveniently through video chat or messaging.
- Momcozy provides help! For the meantime, Momcozy understands the important role that lactation consultants play in supporting new mothers. However, some mothers may face barriers to accessing this help directly.To address this issue, we invited Dr. Wiseman, a leading lactation consultant based in Los Angeles, California, to provide a free webinar on the basics of breastfeeding. Dr. Wiseman is a specialist in Breastfeeding Medicine. She is board certified in Internal and Emergency Medicine, having completed medical school at the University of Chicago and a five-year residency program at UCLA. The webinar, called "Breastfeeding 101: Tips And Tricks for New Moms", aims to give all mothers valuable breastfeeding information and advice. Moms will learn directly from Dr. Wiseman's expertise during this Zoom session. Momcozy's goal is to help more mothers benefit from lactation support, even if in-person visits pose a challenge. We hope this webinar can play a role in empowering new moms on their breastfeeding journey. You can click Breastfeeding Support Live Chat to join in.