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When to Seek the Help of a Lactation Consultant

Katlyn Joy |16, June 2010


When to Seek the Help of a Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding may be the most natural act in mothering, but that does not mean it always goes smoothly or easily. While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of life or longer, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates mothers nurse their infants at least one year, only 13.6 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed until six months of age.

Research has shown that mothers who receive more support when breastfeeding difficulties arise are more likely to continue nursing, while those who do not receive support typically wean their babies.

Off to a Good Start

A good time to talk to a lactation consultant is right before or after giving birth. Being prepared for what to expect and how to deal with normal starting problems can be a tremendous help to novice nursing mothers.

Lactation consultants can give mothers tips on how to prevent sore nipples, promote healthy milk production and aid their babies in proper latch-on. Many hospitals have lactation consultants on staff to visit all new nursing moms before they are discharged to go home. This is an ideal time to have someone help with positioning and any questions the new nursing mom may have. While a mother may read plenty of breastfeeding brochures or even books, and looked at countless illustrations displaying techniques, hands-on help is invaluable.

Sore Nipples and Engorgement: Early Weeks of Nursing

Lots of nursing difficulties commonly crop up in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Sore nipples are a typical complaint for new nursing moms. Many times this can be attributed to improper positioning or latch on and can be very easily corrected.

While your milk supply is becoming established, it's not unusual to experience times of engorgement. Learning how to avoid this and the co-problem of leaking nipples, is another lactation consultant specialty.

Milk Production and Weight Issues

It is not unusual for nursing mothers to worry about their milk supply and whether they are feeding their infants frequently enough, or if baby is getting enough milk at nursing sessions. Lactation consultants can help mothers evaluate how well their babies are doing with the nursing relationship, and what signs indicate a potential problem.

Pumping, Bottles and Thrush: Later Problems in Breastfeeding

Many breastfeeding mothers seek out a lactation consultant to help her plan a return to work. Knowing how to deal with a new nursing schedule that may involve pumping breastmilk or supplementing with formula can be overwhelming. Additionally, many lactation consultants can help nursing moms pick a good breast pump or possibly rent them, as well.

Another problem that can crop up later in nursing is thrush or mastitis, infections common to nursing mothers. Neither is cause for quitting nursing, but medication is often necessary. Nursing through the infection is important, but lactation consultants can help mothers know how to best deal with the infections and how to prevent them from reoccurring.

Special Circumstances

Lactation consultants can also be of special help when unusual health or family situations are present such as baby being premature, having multiples, a child with a medical problem or disability such as Down Syndrome, or even in the case of an adopted child. These situations can make breastfeeding considerably harder work and the support and advice of a professional lactation consultant can be invaluable.


Breastfeeding mothers may have as many questions about stopping nursing as they did at the beginning when they first nursed their babies. Knowing when to stop and how to do it correctly for both baby and mother's best interests are topics a lactation consultant is skilled in.

Finding a Lactation Consultant

To find a certified lactation professional, mothers should ask their ob-gyn or baby's pediatrician, or the nurses at the maternity center or a childbirth educator. You can also contact the International Lactation Consultant Association for area consultants, or your local La Leche League leader for referrals.

Katlyn Joy is a freelance writer, and just graduated with a Master's of Arts in Creative Writing. She is mom to seven children, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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