Breastfeeding is often viewed as natural and thus, assumed to be something that should come effortlessly to all mothers. However, many new mamas (like myself) were surprised when they experienced challenges and setbacks in their breastfeeding journey and needed some assistance. If you are expecting and hope to breastfeed for any length of time, you may want to familiarize yourself with benefits of connecting with a lactation consultant.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
Generally, a lactation consultant is knowledgeable and experienced in assisting mothers who are breastfeeding. If possible, you’ll likely want to look for an IBCLC (International board-certified lactation consultant), as they have the broadest range of training and must follow the most rigorous standards to be certified.
Postpartum doulas also often have experience assisting new mothers in getting started with breastfeeding. LaLeche League (LLL) is an organization made up of mothers who have breastfed their children and who offer support to other breastfeeding mothers. They have local chapters with which you can connect.
What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?
A lactation consultant will usually first ask you some questions regarding what you are hoping to gain from her services. She will observe carefully you as you feed your
baby. She will watch how the baby latches, what his lips are doing while he feeds, how he swallows, and how he is positioned. She can show you different positions to hold your baby while feeding him and help you use pillows or other props to get in a comfortable position for both you and baby.
A lactation consultant can help you troubleshoot if your baby
is having trouble latching, isn’t gaining weight properly, and she can check to see if your baby may have a physical difficulty, such as a tongue or lip tie. She can support you if you desire to exclusively breastfeed, exclusively pump, or offer a combination of breast milk and formula.
Lactation consultants often have tools, such as very accurate scales, so you can do a weighed feeding to determine how much milk your baby is drinking in a nursing session, if milk transfer or weight gain is a concern. She can offer strategies if you are suffering from mastitis, thrush, or other recurring breastfeeding related ailments.
How Can I Connect with a Lactation Consultant?
· Ask for recommendations from your mom friends
· Ask your OB/ Midwife for recommendations
· Ask your pediatrician’s office for recommendations
· See some of the other resources below
Locally, check out the Breastfeeding Center of Northern Virginia for classes, connecting with a lactation consultant, and other resources. This website offers some additional information about different kinds of breastfeeding support.