Why is breastfeeding so hard?
For many mothers around the world, this is the question at the forefront of their minds as they struggle to provide nourishment for their child. This struggle brings with it a host of physical, mental, and emotional woes that can be hard to work through.
As a mother, isn’t it my job to take care of my child? Why can’t my body do what it is supposed to do? Is there something inherently wrong with me as a mother?
If these are the sorts of questions you ask yourself, don’t despair. More women struggle to breastfeed than you likely realize.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60 percent of women do not breastfeed as long as they intend to. While over 80 percent of women start off breastfeeding, barely half continue to breastfeed past the sixth-month mark with only 22 percent of women exclusively breastfeeding for that time period. (source)
What is a struggling mama to do? One of the underutilized tools to help women find success in breastfeeding is the use of lactation consultants.
Throughout this helpful guide, we will walk you through everything you need to know about lactation consultants and how they can help you on your breastfeeding journey.
What Is A Lactation Consultant?
A lactation consultant is a health professional who specializes in the science of breastfeeding. Their ultimate goal is to help mothers learn how to breastfeed effectively. Lactation consultants go through intensive schooling and training to become certified so they can help mamas in need.
Once certified, lactation consultants can help assess a mother’s physical, mental, and psychological states, identify and correct improper latches, teach mothers how to express breast milk by hand or with a pump, and even help mothers and babies wean from breastfeeding (source).
Lactation consultants can offer their services privately or be contracted to work in hospitals, birthing centers or physician’s offices.
10 Benefits Of Lactation Consultants
Lactation consultants offer a wide variety of services encompassing the entire spectrum of experiences breastfeeding mothers may face. Here are just a few of the benefits of using a lactation consultant.
1. They Can Help Even Before The Birth.
Even before you give birth, you can contact a lactation consultant for training and tips. Save stress and start your breastfeeding journey with confidence by learning about breastfeeding tips and tricks to try beforehand.
This includes attending breastfeeding classes through your local hospital or community center.
It is also a great way to build a relationship with your lactation consultant before the hustle and bustle of bringing your baby home.
2. They Care About Your Personal Goals.
Every mama is different. Women often deal with religious, cultural, health, and personal preferences when considering how to best incorporate breastfeeding into their role as a mother.
Lactation consultants care about your personal breastfeeding goals, whatever they may be. They want to work with you to reach your goals and to make sure you have a positive, enriching breastfeeding experience.
3. They Understand Your Baby’s Anatomy.
Whoever thought such a tiny little mouth could cause so much trouble? Lactation consultants know how to evaluate your baby’s anatomy to determine if there are any physical problems preventing your baby from breastfeeding properly.
By taking a look at your baby’s mouth, your lactation consultation can also suggest specific breastfeeding techniques to suit your baby’s unique needs.
4. They Understand Your Anatomy.
As a new mom, you will experience many changes. Some you may anticipate and some may be a complete surprise! Lactation consultants understand how your body changes during breastfeeding and can find solutions to problems, including mastitis, cracked nipples, and engorged breasts.
5. They Understand Your Home And Family Life.
So many things impact your physical health. Your ability to breastfeed can be affected by your surroundings, your relationships, and more. A lactation consultant will take a look at how your home and family life may be benefiting or harming your breastfeeding chances.
This will happen without judgement. Instead, you will receive helpful tips and advice on effective changes you can make.
6. They Focus On Education And Facts.
Lactation consultants are not driven by emotional arguments to get mothers to breastfeed. They focus on the latest scientific facts on how to improve breastfeeding for both you and your baby while helping you understand the benefits of breastfeeding based on concrete information.
As long as you want to know more, lactation consultants will continue sharing their knowledge and training on whatever aspects of breastfeeding you would like to know more about, including how not to breastfeed if things aren’t working out for you.
7. They Will Help You Use A Breast Pump.
Breastfeeding is more than just the natural act between a mother and child. It can also involve supplementing feedings with breast milk expressed through a pump.
Learning to pump is especially important for breastfeeding moms who return to work and want to continue breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants will recommend the best types of breast pumps for you to use and teach you how to use them effectively. They will also work with you on understanding how to store breast milk properly.
8. They Will Work With Your Family.
While breastfeeding is definitely a special bonding experience for you and your baby, your other family members can definitely play a role. Your lactation consultant will work with your family on what they can do to support you.
This not only includes how to lighten your load, but on things they can do to help your baby, such as avoiding pacifiers and how to help wake up a sleepy baby for feedings.
9. They Can Help With Postpartum Depression.
One natural effect of giving birth for many women is the arrival of various mood disorders, including postpartum depression. Your lactation consultant is another caring resource to use during these times.
Lactation consultants are trained to help mothers and families find ways to overcome the challenge of postpartum depression and find local resources to help them with this fight.
10. They Will Stay As Long As You Need Them.
Sometimes, new mamas meet with a provided lactation consultant in the hospital right after giving birth and never think to reach out to them again. You can utilize the services of a lactation consultant for as long as you need.
Some may do home visits while other have postpartum outpatient services – so don’t hesitate to contact them and have all of your questions answered. Your breastfeeding journey can quickly change without much notice. There is no timeline you need to worry about.
When To See A Lactation Consultant?
You should see a lactation consultant whenever you face a breastfeeding problem you feel you cannot solve on your own. However, there are a few specific situations when you should reach out to a lactation consultant for help:
- Latch Issues: Latch refers to how your baby is able to attach their mouth to your nipple and breast during feedings. If you and your little one constantly struggle with latch issues, a lactation consultant will be able to help solve your issues.
- Milk Supply Issues: Do your breasts become engorged, and feel hard and painful? This often occurs when you don’t let down effectively, meaning your milk is not easily released. Or perhaps your supply is low and you need ideas for increasing it – a lactation consultant can help you figure out what’s causing the low supply and what to do about it.
- Breastfeeding Fears: If much of your struggles with breastfeeding come from psychological or emotional fears and concerns, a lactation consultant will be able to work with you to overcome them.
- Infections: Some mothers may experience constant infections while they breastfeed. While serious cases may need a trip to the doctor’s office, lactation consultants can get to the root of the problem and help correct bad habits that may be leading to your infections.
Other common concerns and complications that lactation consults can help identifiy and fix are breastfeeding pain, inadequate weight gain, excess weight gain, gulping and choking during feeding, plugged ducts, vasospasms, and unexplained fussiness.
Lactation consultants provide a wide variety of services. If you struggle in any way with breastfeeding and do not feel satisfied with home remedies, consider learning more about what your local lactation consultants offer.
How To Find A Lactation Consultant
Do you want to find a lactation consultant? You have multiple options!
First, check with your doctor and local hospital. Many have lactation consultants to recommend. This is often a good option because you can use this lactation consultant throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Online sources are the next best thing and great for mamas farther along in their breastfeeding journey. Here are two sites you can use to locate lactation consultants in your area:
Finally, talk with other mothers. They can recommend a lactation consultant they really loved working with. You can ask questions, hear their stories, and gain invaluable advice on finding a lactation consultant.
5 Signs Of A Great Lactation Consultant
As you start looking for a lactation consultant, you may wonder when you have found someone who is not only qualified, but also a good fit for you and your family. These five things are signs of a great lactation consultant:
1. They Have The Right Qualifications.
Look for an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). This means they have gone through extensive training and have passed a certification exam to help moms in need (source).
To ensure your lactation consultant has the minimum amounts of training and experience, they should at least be a certified lactation counselor (CLC). These counselors will be able to help you with basic breastfeeding issues.
2. They Have Experience.
Ask your lactation consultant about their experience. This is especially important if you already have a sense of what is wrong and what you need help with. An experienced lactation consultant has seen and treated a variety of breastfeeding issues and will be confident in helping you.
3. They Understand The Big Picture.
A good lactation consultant will look at all of the factors that may be affecting your ability to breastfeed. This includes your home situation, skin-to-skin contact, sleep patterns, and more.
If you have a lactation consultant who simply focuses on your breast anatomy and milk production, they may be missing an important step to helping you.
4. They Make You Feel Comfortable.
You should feel comfortable talking to your lactation consultant about the intimacies of breastfeeding. Asking questions is so important. If you do not feel comfortable asking questions and being physically exposed around your consultant, they are probably not a right fit for you.
5. They Won’t Pressure You.
Your lactation consultant should never pressure you to do anything you do not want to do or do not feel comfortable doing. This includes the pressure to breastfeed more often or for a longer period of time.
While a good lactation consultant will definitely educate you on the importance of breastfeeding and its many health benefits, they will focus on helping you reach your personal goals.
Questions To Ask Your Lactation Consultant
During visits, your lactation consultant will likely ask if you have any questions they can address. If you do not know where to start, consider asking a few of these based on your needs:
- How long should I aim to breastfeed my baby?
- How much should my baby be eating each day?
- How much milk should I be producing?
- What can I do to increase milk production?
- What does a good latch look like?
- What are some different breastfeeding positions?
- What is a good diet to support healthy breastfeeding?
- What breast pumps do you recommend?
- How do I use a breast pump effectively?
- How do I properly store breast milk?
- What should I do if I want to supplement with formula?
- How do I prevent my nipples from cracking?
- What are some signs my breast are infected?
- How can I cope with a difficult nursing session?
- Should I wake up my baby to breastfeed?
- Is breastfeeding a good form of birth control?
Never be afraid to ask your lactation consultant a question. That is what they are there for!
The Cost Of A Lactation Consultant
Expenses after the birth of a child change dramatically. Budgeting for a lactation consultant is not always considered and many mothers wonder if they can afford it.
Prices for lactation consultants vary depending on who you contact them through, their experience, and how many visits you need.
In general, the price will depend most on if you use a lactation consultant through your hospital or if you use a privately contract one.
Many hospitals offer lactation consultant services for free for a period of time, normally up until your baby is one year old. However, you will need to visit the hospital and may have limited access to your consultant.
Privately contracted lactation consultants generally charge anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars for a one-hour visit (source). Some will only charge you for the initial visit, while others will charge each time. It is completely up to your lactation consultant.
By: Mom Loves Best