How a Lactation Consultant Can Help Your Family

Updated: June 21, 2021
A lactation consultant provides lactation services and breastfeeding support to families. They can be an incredibly helpful resource for breastfeeding moms and their families. We've put together a guide to help you decide whether you need a lactation consultant and how to choose one.
Lactation Consultant

If you plan to incorporate breastfeeding as part of your motherhood journey, it can be very helpful to take the time to inform yourself about resources that can assist you. Although new moms may plan to breastfeed and expect such a natural feeding process to be easy, that is not always the case. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn about breastfeeding and to receive help. Our guide will take you through what you need to know about lactation education, and, specifically, how a lactation specialist or consultant can help your family.

More: Role of the Father in the Breastfeeding Family

What is a lactation consultant, and what do they do?

Lactation consultants are also sometimes called lactation specialists or lactation counselors. A lactation consultant may also be a registered nurse or doula, but that is not a requirement as long as they receive accreditation from The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

A lactation consultant provides lactation services and breastfeeding support to families. They can help by providing lactation education before your new baby actually arrives so you can feel empowered and more knowledgeable from the very start. If your baby is born in a hospital, there are often options to attend a session with a lactation consultant before you even leave the hospital. You can also request that a lactation consultant visit you in your room to help you with feeding. Although there may be doctors, nurses, midwives, and other healthcare professionals who are there and who are available to help, asking for the help of the consultants who specialize in breastfeeding support can make a world of difference.

Signs You May Need a Lactation Consultant

There are many reasons you may want to request the services of a lactation consultant, and it is not only necessary if you are having breastfeeding problems. Just like with anything new, the more you know, the better you feel about it. Educating yourself with breastfeeding classes in advance about everything related to feeding your baby will help you feel more confident, calm, and aware. It is also very helpful to have a partner or support person take the time to learn along with you because the more education and support you have, the better.

Besides general breastfeeding education, it is also extremely helpful to have hands-on assistance with learning how to use a breast pump. Just like with anything, pumping becomes easier the more you do it, but in the beginning, it can go a long way for someone to show you exactly how to do it. There are many reasons you may want to pump including storing and freezing extra milk for when you can’t be with your little one in person and to relieve discomfort and pressure that you may experience if you are producing excess milk at times. TIP: Be sure to check with your medical insurance to see if breast pumps are covered. You may be entitled to a free breast pump at the hospital which is a significant expense to avoid if possible!

Another reason to utilize a lactation consultant is if you are having issues with milk supply. This can feel very stressful in the early days of your baby’s life if you are having an issue with producing enough milk. Milk supply issues can also happen later on in your journey due to stress, schedule changes, and baby growth spurts.

In addition, there are various breastfeeding challenges that can arise such as sore nipples and issues with latching. There are so many ways that lactation consultants can help, and there is never any harm in asking for help. You may be able to visit them in the office, have them consult with you while you are still in the hospital, have them visit you in your home, or even provide consultation via video.

Lactation consultants can also set you up with resources for continued support. Organizations like La Leche League provide public health support groups which can be incredibly helpful. Having the companionship and camaraderie of other moms and babies in addition to healthcare professionals, educators, and an international board certified lactation consultant can enhance your motherhood journey tremendously.

How to Choose a Lactation Consultant

  • Make sure your lactation consultant is an IBCLC: The first thing is to make sure you find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. This means your consultant will have had thousands of hours of clinical experience before helping you.
  • Get referrals: Getting referrals from friends, fellow moms in parenting groups, and doctors or midwives is always helpful. You can also reach out to your local La Leche chapter, WIC, or the international lactation consultant association for recommendations as well.
  • Interview potential lactation consultants: Take the time to interview lactation consultants as your experience with them will be more intimate than not. You want to feel comfortable with the person who will be helping you on this important journey. Be sure to also ask them questions about their experience, their availability, and any more specific situations that might apply to you like multiples, low milk supply, busy schedule, prematurity, or high needs babies. You should also plan to discuss your breastfeeding goals with them and ask them out their experience with typical breastfeeding outcomes in their experiences with situations like yours.

Tips for successfully working with a lactation consultant

  • Be open and honest with your lactation consultant. Do not hold back on sharing what’s working and what’s not working. If you don’t agree with something or have questions, make sure to be open about these things. The more your lactation specialist knows, the more helpful she can be.
  • Start your journey with a lactation consultant as soon as possible. More women than not have difficulties with breastfeeding in the first week or two of their baby’s life. Without proper assistance and support, many women give up on trying to make it work. While breastfeeding may not be the best choice for all women, if it is something you would like to do, you should have the support you need to make it happen.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to a lactation consultant much later in your breastfeeding journey. Many women assume that lactation services are only for the immediate postpartum time and the early days of motherhood, but that is not true. You may benefit from support later on when changes occur like returning to work, starting your baby on solid foods, having different pumping needs, or needing to increase your supply of breast milk and milk production.

If breastfeeding is something you decide is right for you, it can be a rewarding, albeit sometimes frustrating, experience. Such a unique and meaningful time in both you and your baby's life can be commemorated with Our Favorite Breastmilk Jewelry Gifts for Mom.