Are you hoping to breastfeed your baby? A lactation consultant could be very helpful following the birth of your little one. While breastfeeding is intuitive for some mothers, it involves a steep learning curve for most—after all, your baby is learning how to feed for the first time, too!
Even if it’s not your first child, each breastfeeding experience is different. It may have come easily with your first and your second is more challenging (or vice versa). Some mothers may choose not to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and if that’s you, we wholly support you and your decision! Contrary to popular thinking, feeding a child is a process that’s oftentimes not linear. Regardless of how your baby’s being fed, what’s important is your physical and emotional health and your baby is well-fed. A healthy and supported mama = a healthy baby.
A lactation consultant (LC) is board-certified professional who’s trained to help mothers on their breastfeeding journey. LC’s carry the title International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC) which indicates that they have completed the hours of training, coursework, and certification required to be an official lactation consultant.
What is the difference between a lactation counselor and an IBCLC?
A lactation counselor simply has a bit less training, therefore, she is on a different tier than an IBCLC. IBCLC completes more hours and has additional testing to be licensed. Most hospitals employ lactation counselors, who also often double duty as nurses, in the maternity ward. Both are wonderful!
Many hospitals employ lactation counselors or consultants on the maternity floor. If so, following the birth of your baby, a lactation consultant or counselor will visit and see how breastfeeding is going. She’ll watch you breastfeed and suggest various positions and latching techniques as well as send you home with breastfeeding literature. Additionally, many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes. If you can, utilize the lactation consultants as much as you possible, because they’re free during your stay!
Once you’ve returned home, you may find that you’re struggling with breastfeeding. Perhaps you never felt like you caught on in the hospital or your baby is latching differently than he or she was at birth. This is all totally normal! You’ll want to enlist the knowledge of a lactation consultant; she’ll be able to address any concerns or issues you’re having. Common problems are:
To be a professional lactation consultant, you must be certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) through the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). This entails 90 hours of lactation coursework, 1,000 hours of supervised clinical hours with mamas and babies, an exam, and keeping up with continuing education requirements. We highly recommend seeking out an International Board of Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC) to ensure you’re getting the most comprehensive care.
We recommend contacting a lactation consultant as soon as you begin having difficulties breastfeeding. You can meet with one at any point in your breastfeeding journey, as frequently as you need. Some women meet with a lactation consultant just once while others need 1-2 visits a week.
We highly recommend identifying the lactation consultant you would like to use prior to delivery and having her information easily accessible. It can be challenging to do the research at the time that you’re actually in need of a lactation consultant’s expertise! You can even reach out to a few, chat briefly, and learn if they’re covered by your insurance.
Absolutely! A lactation consultant is trained to help you with those decisions. She will talk through your options with you, whether it’s stopping breastfeeding, supplementing with formula, exclusively pumping, or a blend of all three. Together you’ll come up with a plan that supports your physical and emotional health as well as your babe’s.
Note that with premature babies, breastfeeding can be more difficult (a baby’s latch functionality isn’t fully developed until he or she is full-term). A lactation consultant can walk you through this journey as well.
There are many lactation consultants who do home visits. When you find someone you want to use, ask if she does home visits and if so, what the fee is. Other lactation consultants work at pediatrician offices, hospitals, and at lactation support groups.
It varies by lactation consultant, but most charge between $150-$350 an hour. Many insurance companies cover all or most of these visits (as well the cost of breast pumps!), so make sure to check with your provider.
Yes! We highly recommend KellyMom, a comprehensive site that provides information on all things breastfeeding and pumping. In the event that you’re having any breastfeeding issues though, we highly recommend seeking out the personalized support of a lactation consultant. All mamas and babies are different and it’s invaluable to have a professional’s personalized attention and advice when things are challenging.