Breastfeeding is a perfectly natural way to feed babies, but the act of breastfeeding doesn't come naturally to everyone. Thankfully, there's a healthcare specialist who can help coach you through the whole process, and that is a lactation consultant. So what are the signs you need a lactation consultant, and how can these pros help you out?
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant is a healthcare professional who specializes in all aspects of breastfeeding, according to the International Lactation Consultant Association. They can help improve the breastfeeding experience for nursing people and babies everywhere with their knowledge and experience.
For anyone who has questions or concerns about breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can become your go-to resource for all things nursing. Plenty of new parents want to nurse, but they have a million questions about the best way to do it. (Of course there are many reasons why some people can't or don't breastfeed, and that's totally OK too.)
To learn more about these awesome services, Romper spoke with Rhona Yolkut RN, IBCLC, whose career has included over 30 years of experience in the field of birth, breastfeeding, and babies. She knows all about helping new parents successfully adapt to breastfeeding. In addition, Jadah Chatterjee, RN, IBCLC, LOOM's lead infant feeding educator, provided excellent insight as well. With the advice of these experts, you'll have a much better understanding of how lactation consultants help nursing people in all kinds of situations.
1. You Aren't Sure It Will Really Work & Doubt Yourself
If you don't have any friends or family who breastfed, then it can be kind of a foreign concept. For instance, Yolkut often works with people who have difficulty trusting that breastfeeding will really work. A lactation consultant can help reassure you that breastfeeding is a totally viable way to feed a baby.
The prospect of feeding another human being from your body can be daunting. Thankfully, a trained consultant can help boost your confidence. "In the same way that she has nourished her fetus and created a healthy and hearty infant, the process of lactation is simply a continuation of the system that created this baby," said Yolkut. Hey, you're already part of the way there just by gestating a baby.
2. You're Unable To Nurse Without Pain
Does nursing simply hurt? If breastfeeding causes pain, then your lactation consultant may help you and the baby find a more comfortable way to latch, according to KidsHealth. If repositioning doesn't help, then nipple injury or breast infection may be the cause, so don't hesitate to get that checked out. "I generally tell women that within two to three weeks nipple soreness/sensitivity should be better," says Yolkut. "If someone has particularly sensitive nipples in life (I have specific examples that I use with folks) it may be a bit longer." But if the nipples are cracked, bleeding, or abraded, then something is wrong and it's time to seek medical attention.
3. You Need Help With Formula Feeding
Breastfeeding isn't the only focus for lactation consultants, because they can help feed any baby. "Lactation Consultants support mothers and parents in establishing a comfortable feeding rhythm, whether it’s breast or chest feeding, formula feeding or an alternative feeding method," says Chatterjee. Basically, if you have a hungry baby, then the consultant can help out.
4. You Find The Breast Pump Baffling
Well, breast pumps do look kind of intimidating, to be honest. And if you're going to use one, the lactation consultant can help demystify the pump for you, as noted in Parents. Hey, those contraptions need their own troubleshooting guide anyway.
5. You're Concerned About Milk Supply
Practically every nursing person has wondered whether the baby is really getting enough to eat. That's where consultants can be especially reassuring. Lactation consultants are able to diagnose low milk supply, as noted in Medela. If it is low, then the consultant can also help find ways to boost your supply.
6. You're Expecting A Second (Or Third) Baby
Even if you're a pro at feeding your firstborn, subsequent babies can present their own challenges. "Every baby has a unique personality and relationship with feeding, which can be very different from the siblings that preceded them," says Chatterjee. "Lactation Consultants are infant feeding specialists and are very knowledgeable of newborn and child development. We can answer questions regarding transitioning older babies from the breast to make space for the newborn, and advise on approaches to tandem feeding if that is desired." As with most everything else related to babies, there are a ton of options for sibling feeding.
7. You Don't Quite Get The Logistics
There's a lot to know about nursing, but thankfully lactation consultants are all about educating people who are new to breastfeeding. "I have seen this first hand and it makes a great difference to actually understand a newborn and how their behavior can guide us through the beginning of the process of making human milk," says Yolkut.
8. You're Considering Extended Breastfeeding
If you're interested in more long-term breastfeeding, then the consultant can prep you for that journey. "We also help tackle any issues related to feeding - nipple pain, breast infection, low milk supply, pumping, transitioning back to work and extended breastfeeding beyond one year," says Chatterjee. The consultant will work with your family's particular needs.
9. You Don't Come From A Breastfeeding Culture
For plenty of people, breastfeeding just wasn't a part of their cultural background. In fact, it's common for lactation consultants to work with people who experience a cultural disconnect that makes breastfeeding something of a struggle, as Yolkut explained. However, with a little guidance from a trained and caring consultant, many people can learn to breastfeed their baby over time.
After a very frustrating first birth experience, this Deaf mother wanted a change. Will the help of two Deaf doulas give the quality communication and birth experience this mom wants and deserves? Watch Episode Four of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below, and visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes.