The first time you meet with a lactation consultant might be as early as the day you give birth. You may not be used to taking off your shirt for just anyone, or having people inspect your nipples like they were some strange specimen from another planet. And even though you were the one who requested meeting with the lactation consultant, it still can be jarring when they make that first reach for your boob. You might have some things you'll want to say to your lactation consultant when they're grabbing your boob, too, although not all of them nice enough to say out loud.
I was pretty drugged out when I came out of the operating room from my emergency c-section for my first-born. My milk wasn't coming in easily (which tends to happen with c-section mamas) so when my son nursed, he was getting a whole lotta nothing, and it was frustrating for both of us. Even though he seemed to be latching, he was kind of lazy about it and I kept on losing his latch. I asked the hospital if I could meet with the lactation consultant who had held the breastfeeding class that I had attended on one of the days I was in the hospital post-birth (a thrilling enterprise, sitting in my thin hospital gown in a cold room smelling of baloney sandwiches while clutching my still tender surgery scar.)
I imagine choosing the right lactation consultant can be similar to choosing the right doula, OBGYN, or any other health care provider that might touch your private areas or your baby. My lactation consultant's bedside manner wasn't so great, but all-in-all, I have to admit that I learned some important things about nursing.
"Usually I Like A Little Foreplay (Just Kidding, I Make Jokes When I'm Nervous)"
When someone goes for your boob or any of your body parts in a non-romantic setting such as a hospital or health provider environment, you may feel like cracking a joke of the failed standup comic variety. Surely, your health provider will think it is hilarious and they will have never heard it before.
I believe I had said something to the effect of, "At least buy me dinner first!" after my lactation consultant asked me to remove my hospital gown. I don't believe she cracked a smile.
"I Didn't Realize You Were Going To Just Go There"
Despite the fact that your lactation consultant's title has the word "lactate" in it, giving you major clues that one of her big roles is to aid in your breast's ability to produce milk, you might still be shocked when she reaches out and touches your breasts without so much as a second thought. I realize that not every lactation consultant gets grabby without asking first, or preparing the new mama for what she is about to do, but like there are doctors with great bedside manner and doctors with not-so-great bedside manner, the world of lactation consultants is varied, too.
"You Know This Is Actually A Part Of My Body, Right?"
In a hospital setting, it can sometimes feel like you are not a real person with feelings, and that your medical practitioners are there to perform a job in a way that is safe and effective, but not with that much heart. It can especially feel that way after you've given birth via c-section, because of the somewhat disembodied way that the baby comes out of the stomach (since you almost don't feel anything).
My negative experience may have had something to do with the fact that I was seeing a lactation consultant in the hospital, and that she had many new mothers that she also had to get to. She probably didn't have time for "how do you do's" and all the niceties I would have preferred. And I get that she was trying to help me and my new baby get on the road to "feeding town" but I would have really loved if she could have approached this situation with a little more recognition that there was a person attached to the boob she seemed to be manhandling. My breast is not the equivalent of a baby bottle. I would have preferred that it not be twisted this way and that as if it were not attached to a human being (read: me).
"Oh, OK. I See What You Just Did There."
What you originally thought was grabby and a little harsh, you now realize was just the right amount of grab and pressure needed to get your breast and nipple into your newborn's mouth. Your breasts were so engorged, this was not something to be oh-so-delicate about. So maybe this lady knows what she's doing, right?
"Fine, I Guess I'm Cool With This"
A lactation consultant, aggressive or invasive as she may be, often possesses the ability to get a baby and newly lactating breast in the positions necessary for a successful breastfeeding session. She most likely will even be able to do this for you. Even if it is only for the time-being, you might forget the rude way she went about getting you there and simply be grateful that your newborn is happily sucking away at your engorged breasts because, damn, those babies were killing you!
"I Just Wish Someone Had Told Me What To Expect"
In the end, I was OK with how it all went down because the methods she showed me that day improved my nursing game in a big way, but I would have preferred if someone (a friend, my birthing class instructor, or the consultant) had let me know that this was something that could happen when you meet with a lactation consultant. I would like to think that if I had hired someone private to come to my home we would have spent hours together, and it would have been more personal and intimate, and felt less invasive.
Generally, I'm no fragile flower when it comes to being naked in front of strangers, but when it came to my newborn and a body part that was vital to his survival, I got a little protective when this woman came lurching for me. I wasn't expecting it, and it was a little off-putting. A simple, "Here, just so you know, this is what I'm about to do, is this OK?" would have been really great.
"How Did You Do That, Again?"
Once you've recovered from the initial shock of the first moments with your lactation consultant, you'll want to pay close attention to the special maneuvers she is trying to teach you. There are tricks of the trade that the experts know, from super secret holds to ways you can play with your newborn's mouth or jaw to make it easier for them to latch. You may want to focus now on what she has to teach you since you have her here. Maybe her style wasn't your cup of tea, but try to remember that her job is to support your breastfeeding goals, whatever they are.