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You are here: Home > Baby > Breastfeeding

How to Choose a Lactation Consultant

by Katlyn Joy | July 29, 2013 12:00 AM
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While nothing may be more natural than nursing your baby, that doesn't mean that you won't have difficulties along the way. A lactation consultant is someone who can aid you with any nursing challenges or questions, whether you are just getting started or encountering issues later on with nursing.

Most hospitals work with lactation consultants, but you can also get a recommendation from your ob-gyn office or local health department. Many lactation consultants are board certified, which means specialized training in lactation services. One such organization that can certify lactation consultants is the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners or IBLCE.

Having a certification such as this means they have received specialized training and education credits in the field of lactation consulting.

6 Reasons You Might Need a Lactation Consultant

1. While still pregnant, you can have a session with a lactation consultant to help you prepare for nursing. You can get advice on how to prepare, what types of equipment you might find handy as a nursing mom and what items you should skip, if you need to do anything in advance to prepare your body for nursing, and what to expect in the hospital after baby is born.

2. In the hospital, lactation consultants are often available to help new moms with initial nursing sessions. They can help guide you through those shaky first tries and help you know you are getting baby latched on correctly. They can give you advice and support on whether the hospital should supplement your baby with formula or whether you should offer baby a pacifier yet.

3. Once home and your milk supply gets established, you may encounter nursing challenges such as sore or bleeding nipples, a baby who doesn't seem to be gaining enough weight, or who falls asleep at the breast.

4. Your baby is a preemie or is born with special needs that make breastfeeding more challenging. Perhaps you gave birth to multiples and you wonder if you can manage to nurse your babies or if you need to supplement or switch to formula altogether.

5. You get ill or have a breast infection such as mastitis and need help and encouragement to keep nursing.

6. You need help with the weaning process.

What to Look for in a Lactation Consultant

When you want to find a lactation consultant, you should start with people whose opinion's you value. Ask your physician or the nurses at your ob-gyn. The maternity staff at the hospital will probably have recommendations as well. Ask new moms who have used lactation consultants for their recommendations.

Ask for certification or education credentials. Where did she learn about this service? How many mothers has she helped? What is her philosophy of nursing and how does she work with clients; in her home, in yours?

Talk to moms she has worked with in the past to get recommendations from them. Did they find her services helpful?

Meet with the lactation consultant and get an idea of how comfortable you feel with her. After all, you will be needing to be pretty at ease in her presence as you have to expose your bare breast in front of her most likely. If her bedside manner leaves you cold, that probably would be an uncomfortable experience.

Ask the lactation consultant how she confronts some common nursing complications such as a baby who won't latch on properly, babies who go on nursing strikes, and nursing through illnesses.

If you will be returning to work later, and need some guidance on pumping and storing milk, ask her about her connections with equipment rental and advice on what to buy and when. Does she seem at ease with the plan you have in mind for your long term nursing goals? If she seems to wince at your ideas, is it because you are in over your head or is it that she and you are just not a compatible match? You need to assess this as best as you can. You need to find someone who is supportive of your nursing goals and plans.

Find out how you will be charged for her services. Is this something you can afford and feel comfortable with? Few lactation consultants are covered by insurance, but ask just in case. Some work through the local hospital or WIC office.

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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