What Does a Lactation Consultant Do and How Do They Help New Parents?
Wondering if teaming up with a skilled lactation professional to help you along your breastfeeding journey is ideal for you and your baby? Learn all about lactation consultants, what they do, and how they help you provide your baby with breast milk for as long as you choose.
What are Lactation Consultants?
Breastfeeding your newborn baby can be a wonderful, intimate experience that helps support the amazing, unbreakable bond that you have with your little one from the moment they arrive. Though breastfeeding is a truly beautiful experience with numerous proven benefits for both you and your baby, it doesn’t always come immediately or easily – and that is totally normal, mama! While breastfeeding is natural, it is also a learned behavior. That means that getting the hang of breastfeeding sometimes requires a little time and a lot of patience as you learn together and establish a strong nursing relationship. Working alongside a lactation consultant – whether just in the beginning or throughout your breastfeeding journey – can provide much-needed support, expertise, and encouragement as you navigate what many informally refer to as the “fourth trimester”.
Traditionally, you may think of a lactation consultant as the person who supported you in the hospital or birthing center with instruction and advice on latching, nursing positions, and breast milk volume. They may have provided helpful information and recommendations for breast pumps and other supplies while answering any questions you may have had before going home with your new bundle of joy.
While this is incredibly important expertise that lactation consultants provide, these healthcare professionals are more than initiation and latching specialists. Their knowledge and accessibility actually often extends beyond those first few days after your little one is born – rather, lactation consultants are truly infant feeding experts that can support you through your entire breastfeeding journey! There are different levels of training and certification for these professionals, including Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS), Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC), and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), as designated by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. These are sometimes used interchangeably under the umbrella terms of “lactation consultant” or “lactation specialist”, but if you see these letters in their title then it means they have been specifically trained – and received official certification – as a breastfeeding specialist.
What Does a Lactation Consultant Do to Support Breastfeeding?
For new moms, having support is crucial in the early days and weeks after your baby is born. Even after a solid breastfeeding relationship is established, parents who are planning to return to work after maternity leave will have very specific postnatal breastfeeding needs. Whether your little one is a full-term baby, arrived early and required a NICU stay, or there are special nursing considerations (such as if you’ve had previous breast surgery or your baby has a tongue tie), a knowledgeable lactation consultant can address your breastfeeding questions and concerns no matter what they may entail, so don’t be shy when asking for their advice or help. In fact, lactation consultants have likely helped many other new moms in similar situations and the goal is always the same: to support you and baby, and help you both breastfeed for as long as you choose!
For all expecting parents, lactation professionals can also help with any overall infant feeding questions too, such as how partners can help support feeding needs in their expanded family and how they can help establish these new and important routines. No matter what your unique situation may be, teaming up with a trained lactation professional can make a significantly positive impact on the transition to parenthood.
What to Expect From Your Lactation Consultant
The below list is just a small sample of what lactation professionals can provide and the benefit they offer to you as a new parent:
- Educating prenatal parents on the importance of skin-to-skin contact and early initiation after their baby is born.
- Liaising with other health professionals on your care team to help you and/or your baby with complications related to birth, how this may impact your breastfeeding journey, and solutions to overcome any early nursing obstacles.
- Supporting you and providing feeding advice if you’re having latching difficulties or if you are concerned about your baby’s weight gain.
- Providing insight and guidance if your baby has a medical condition that is affecting his or her ability to latch or eat.
- Working with your pediatrician on any unique situations that require special dietary considerations.
- Teaching partners and support people how they can best help with feeding needs and routines.
- Helping parents introduce solid foods at the appropriate times in their breastfeeding journey.
- Addressing common challenges related to spit-up, gas, bowel movements, breast milk production, mastitis, introducing pumping into the breastfeeding routine, refrigerating and/or freezing pumped milk, soreness or pain during breastfeeding, how your diet may impact your milk, and much more.
- Assisting with planning and starting the weaning process when you and your baby are ready.
Every breastfeeding journey is different. Though it can be a rewarding experience, it may also come with challenges – and having a lactation consultant to help you work your way through some of these common hiccups can help you achieve your unique breastfeeding goals. To consult one-on-one via e-mail with a board-certified lactation consultant today, reach out to our complimentary Ask the LC service. We look forward to helping you through each step of your breastfeeding journey.