When I got pregnant for the 3rd time, I was very much determined to do exclusive breastfeeding early in my pregnancy. I started looking into lactation resources online and even joined breastfeeding support groups. I attended different lactation seminars because I wanted to succeed with breastfeeding this time around.
For some health reasons, my baby was left in the NICU and she did not breastfeed directly her first 2 days. I was asked to use a breast pump to stimulate my breast since my baby was not feeding just yet. I had no choice but to do breast pumping round the clock and mimic my baby’s feeding pattern. So it was expected that she wouldn’t latch on to me as soon as I was given the go signal. It was frustrating and it did not work the way I planned it.
I was advised to see a breastfeeding specialist. So I tried my best to do some quick research about lactation consultants and what they do. At that time, I was really focused on breastfeeding as our only feeding option.
I was so certain of myself even before giving birth. I practically knew the ins and outs of breastfeeding. I literally fed myself so much information, well, except for one detail I missed. It was the possibility that I would need a lactation consultant to address my breastfeeding issues.
What is a lactation consultant?
A lactation consultant is a medical professional that provides breastfeeding support and guidance. They undergo lactation consultant training to obtain a lactation consultant certification as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). This is the highest breastfeeding credential a medical practitioner can pursue.
It is best to have a certified IBCLC lactation consultant to help you out with breastfeeding. Being IBCLC certified means that your lactation consultant completed mandatory and specific lactation training and provided lactation support for about 300-1,000 clinical hours to earn her certification.
Aside from being IBCLC certified, you may also look for the following when you need to find a lactation consultant:
- Years of experience and other academic credentials.
- The proximity of her clinic, in case you needed to go for a quick visit.
- If virtual lactation consultations can be done in case you cannot make a visit.
- You should be on the same page when it comes to your points of view on formula feeding and supplementations.
- Find a lactation consultant you can be comfortable with.
What does a lactation consultant do?
Among some of the breastfeeding issues that a lactation consultant can help you with are the following:
- An inadequate milk supply: As a breastfeeding mom, you will suspect that your newborn is not getting enough milk, especially during the 1st few days when your milk supply is not yet established. Your lactation consultant can evaluate and observe you and your baby during one of your breastfeeding sessions. From there, observations will be made whether your baby is latching correctly and is taking enough milk to satisfy him. More often than not, latching needs to be adjusted so your baby can drain your breast to satisfy him and to prevent a sore nipple and engorged breast on your part.
- Trouble gaining weight or achieving an ideal weight: Breastfed babies may have difficulties gaining weight or even achieving the ideal weight for their age. If this is the case, your lactation consultant can check whether you are producing enough milk or if your baby can get sufficient milk from your breast. Supplementing through alternate feeding options may also be done. You will be recommended and taught to express your milk and feed by means of cup feeding, syringe feeding, or a tube system.
- Difficulty in settling with the correct breastfeeding position (especially for C-section moms): The 1st few days of breastfeeding your baby are challenging, especially if you are also recovering from your C-section operation. A breastfeeding consultant can help you with the proper breastfeeding positioning that can give you comfort and can ensure that your baby is latching well to get enough milk from you. Correcting the breastfeeding position can also resolve breastfeeding pains you may be feeling.
- Baby refusing to nurse: If your baby is on a nursing strike, it can be due to different reasons. It can be due to poor latching, an inverted nipple, or because your milk has really not come out yet. Your lactation consultant can check your baby and the reason behind the refusal. For newborn, skin-to-skin breastfeeding is highly recommended because it does not only promotes mother-baby bonding, but it also gives an initial “feel” of breastfeeding.
- Infant falling asleep while breastfeeding: It is natural for your baby to fall asleep while breastfeeding and this is because of a hormone called cholecystokinin. While falling asleep during breastfeeding is an indication that your baby is satisfied, you should also observe your baby’s behavior and his diaper changes. This will give you a clue as to whether your baby is getting enough milk or not. Your lactation consultant may be able to help by keeping your baby awake while feeding. Your lactation consultant can teach you some helpful tips so your baby won’t fall asleep, such as learning to distinguish your baby’s feeding cues, demonstrating lactating techniques like breast compression to encourage the milk flow and gentle stimulation.
- Cluster feeding that may exhaust lactating mothers: If your newborn is feeding non-stop, this may give you the idea that your baby is not getting full. But, don’t fret, your baby is helping you boost your milk supply. Remember breastfeeding’s law of demand and supply: The more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce. You can contact your lactation consultant to guide you on dealing with this crucial stage of your baby’s development and how to cope up with the exhaustion brought by your baby’s round-the-clock feeding. Your comfort during breastfeeding is very important and this should not take a back seat.
Lactation consultants provide the support you need as a lactating mother to succeed in your breastfeeding journey. They also give breastfeeding information to expectant mothers to help them prepare physically, emotionally, and mentally about the demands of breastfeeding.
How much does a lactation consultant charge?
A certified lactation consultant can charge anywhere from $150-$350 depending on your location. If you have health care insurance, check if they cover lactation consultant services.
You may also check free lactation consultant services given by different organizations. There are lactation consultants online who can assist you with your breastfeeding journey.
I personally think that with the help and guidance of my lactation consultant, I was able to pull through the most difficult phase of my breastfeeding journey such as managing the pain of having milk blebs and an engorged breast to the simplest ones such as how to wear a nursing bra or how to do massages to clear my plugged milk ducts. I know for sure that giving up on breastfeeding was not on my mind at that moment, but my lactation consultant surely made breastfeeding much easier.