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When you have a newborn, you will find yourself the recipient of a boatload of unsolicited advice. This is even more true if you are a breastfeeding mom.
If you are struggling with nursing your baby, you will want to get the right breastfeeding help for your particular situation.
Getting lactation support from someone who is best qualified to assist you can make the difference between falling in love with breastfeeding and giving up. Bad advice can not only be unhelpful. It can make your breastfeeding problems worse.
If you want to know how to navigate all the different ways to get lactation support, keep reading. I’ll also give you the inside scoop on who you may not want to take breastfeeding advice from.
TYPES OF BREASTFEEDING HELP
Lactation consultants are an excellent source for breastfeeding help. But not every breastfeeding problem requires an in-depth lactation consult.
Not all lactation consultants are created equal. There are many ways a person can become a lactation consultant.
- There are a variety of different training programs.
- Consultants have different levels of experience.
- There are different types of certification. Each has varying requirements.
- Some lactation consultants have a medical background, while others do not.
I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC, which is considered the gold standard of certifications for lactation consultants. I am also a registered nurse (RN). When I initially became certified, I was required to have 2500 hours of experience providing breastfeeding support, have taken 30 hours of breastfeeding education within the previous three years. I also had to sit for an all-day certification exam. I have to recertify every five years. Every ten years, I have to take the exam again. These requirements ensure a minimal level of experience and education as well as continued education.
Lactation consultants provide breastfeeding help in a variety of environments.
- Private one-on-one consults in person.
- I offer breastfeeding help online through virtual consults.
- Breastfeeding support groups facilitated by a lactation consultant.
- Groups may provide support by answering questions to providing different levels of hands-on help.
- Group consults where a lactation consultant meets with several women at a time and spends a little bit of time with each one.
Mother to Mother Breastfeeding Help
Every mom who has ever breastfed will want to offer you support and tell you about her breastfeeding experience.
Having breastfed a child makes a woman an expert on breastfeeding her child, but not necessarily another woman’s breastfeeding experience.
Other moms are a wealth of information. But because everyone has a slightly different experience, sometimes the conflicting advice is overwhelming.
One friend tells you never to offer a bottle, or you will ruin breastfeeding forever. Your sister-in-law says you should supplement your baby with formula, or you will risk starving him.
This friend tells you that you should nurse on demand. But your cousin whispers that a strict feeding schedule saved her sanity.
Even grandma’s and aunts who didn’t breastfeed themselves will probably have an opinion.
It’s enough to make a new mama’s head spin.
That is just friends and relatives. Don’t be surprised if a total stranger wants to weigh in with their opinion.
Your Health Care Team
- Your OB or midwife
- Your baby’s pediatrician/Physician’s Assistant/Nurse Practitioner/Family Doctor
- The staff in their offices
- The staff at the facility where you give birth
Health care providers may know a lot about breastfeeding or not much at all. As a result, you may receive conflicting information.
The sad truth is that just because someone is a health care provider does not mean they know anything about breastfeeding.
A pediatrician’s education related to breastfeeding can range from the one-hour lecture she got in medical school to a comprehensive breastfeeding support course and ongoing continuing education.
I will never forget the pediatrician I worked with who was asked if he was going to send any of his office staff to a three-day training on breastfeeding. He replied, “What can there possibly be to learn about breastfeeding that takes three days?
I can tell you that I have been a lactation consultant for 26 years, and I am still learning new things.
Office nurses are often the first person you talk to when you call your baby’s health care provider with a question or concern. If they have not received any breastfeeding specific education, they may be relying only on what they learned in nursing school or their personal breastfeeding experience.
I have overheard nurses who have never had a baby and had never worked on a maternity unit give moms unsolicited breastfeeding advice.
Breastfeeding support is often a service that a doula will offer to provide. However, a doula may or may not have specialized training in lactation support.
I worked with a nurse who was a wonderful doula. She had even taken some breastfeeding education. She shared with me that she realized she needed much more training to be able to handle the more complex and challenging breastfeeding situations.
Breastfeeding Support Groups
Breastfeeding support groups are a wonderful place to connect with other breastfeeding moms. If an experienced lactation consultant facilitates the group, you can get general questions answered.
I encourage all moms to give breastfeeding support groups a try if she has access to them.
- Going to a breastfeeding support group gets you out of the house.
- It is enormously beneficial for brand new moms to talk to other moms who have struggled and come out on the other side.
- You also get to see how an older baby behaves when they breastfeed.
La Leche League holds meetings for breastfeeding moms. Leaders have to meet specific requirements (Source).
- Breastfed a child for 12 months or longer
- Waited to introduce complementary foods or supplements until the baby demonstrated a nutritional need for other foods: around the middle of the first year for the healthy full-term baby.
- Chose breastfeeding as the optimal way to nourish, nurture, and comfort her baby.
- Meets La Leche League’s organizational and personal skills requirements.
Facebook Groups and Other Social Media
There are many Facebook groups that focus on breastfeeding. Other moms can answer questions. The answers that you get can range from very helpful to contradictory to potentially dangerous.
I have a Facebook group for breastfeeding and pregnant moms. I invite you to check it out.
Breastfeeding is a popular topic for mommy blogs. Just remember that these are one mother’s experience.
There are blogs devoted entirely to breastfeeding, just like the one you are reading. I encourage you to determine what experience the authors have.
I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over 26 years of experience. I am confident that what you read on my blog is evidence-based in addition to being experience-based.
Breastfeeding support groups and blog posts can be helpful in certain situations. But there will be times that moms need more intense help to resolve breastfeeding problems.
SIGNS THAT YOU NEED HELP WITH BREASTFEEDING
Getting breastfeeding on the right track is always easier when you get help sooner rather than later. You don’t have to tough it out.
These are some situations when a mom can use some breastfeeding help.
- You are dreading feedings.
- You cry when your baby latches because it is painful.
- You constantly worry that your baby is not getting enough to eat from breastfeeding.
- You think your baby is eating too frequently.
- You think your baby is not eating often enough.
- You think you should get more when you pump.
- You are thinking about supplementing with formula.
- You are wondering if it would be easier to pump and bottle feed (aka exclusively pump).
- You are planning to go back to work or school.
- You are confused by the conflicting information you read or hear.
- You feel like breastfeeding should be easier at this point.
WHEN TO SEE A LACTATION CONSULTANT
While mother to mother help is invaluable for a breastfeeding mom, there will be times when you need the expertise and knowledge of a qualified lactation consultant.
You should call a lactation consultant if you are experiencing these breastfeeding problems and situations:
- Any nipple trauma: cracks, bleeding, bruises, blisters
- Nipple discomfort that is beyond what is expected.
- Unrelieved engorgement
- Concerns about milk supply
- Overabundant milk supply that results in discomfort for you or your baby
- Baby doesn’t stay latched
- Baby makes smacking or clicking noise when breastfeeding
- Using a nipple shield
- Triple feeding (breastfeeding, supplementing with a bottle, and pumping)
- Breastfeeding multiples
- Repeated clogged ducts
- Breast refusal
- You have a lot of questions and want her undivided attention.
- Poor weight gain in your baby
- A baby who is inefficient at the breast
- Feedings take longer than an hour
- You frequently have to supplement after breastfeeding
- Suspected tongue-tie
HOW TO FIND A LACTATION CONSULTANT
- In the US, you can check the United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) site.
- Internationally you can search the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) site.
- Ask your OB, midwife, family doctor, or pediatrician for a referral.
- The hospital or birth center where you gave birth may have a list of consultants they know and trust.
- Ask friends who they used and had a good experience with.
Remember, we are all different, and it is possible that you will meet with a lactation consultant who you don’t connect with. I encourage you to try another one if you don’t get the help you were hoping for.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A LACTATION CONSULTANT APPOINTMENT?
The order in which things happen can vary. But you should expect certain things to happen when you meet with a lactation consultant. What happens will also be determined by whether you meet in person or virtually.
- She should take a thorough history
- She should ask questions about your medical history
- Labor and birth
- Feeding history
- Talk about your goals for the consult
- Depending on the problem, she may do an oral suck assessment (put her finger in your baby’s mouth to feel his tongue, see how he uses his tongue and how he sucks).
- She will probably want to watch a feeding.
- She may weigh your baby before and after feedings to see how much milk he gets.
- Give you a detailed list of recommendations.
- Discuss what kind of follow up she will provide.
WILL I NEED MORE THAN ONE APPOINTMENT WITH A LACTATION CONSULTANT?
The number of sessions that you will need with a lactation consultant will vary depending on your problem and situation. Not every issue can be resolved in one meeting.
HOW MUCH DOES A LACTATION CONSULTANT COST?
A lactation consult cost can vary from free to hundreds of dollars.
The cost of lactation consult will vary depending on different things.
- Where you live
- Did the consultant come to your home?
- Does she charge travel time?
- Length of the meeting –
- Some consultants charge based on the length of the consult.
- Others have a flat fee.
- Where the consult takes place
- Some consultants work in a pediatrician’s office, and the consult is billed as an office visit.
- Some hospitals offer free consults for mothers who gave birth at the hospital.
- Other hospitals will provide lactation consultations for anyone who delivered within their hospital network.
- Some hospitals will provide free consults to anyone who shows up at their door.
- Many hospitals charge for lactation consultations.
While free consults may sound appealing, they are often not in-depth appointments.
Find out what follow-up is included in the cost of a lactation consult.
A very straightforward consult where the consultant can “fix” the problem may not require any type of follow up.
Ask if there is follow up by phone or email or if you need to book another consult.
DOES INSURANCE COVER LACTATION CONSULTS?
In the US, the Affordable Care Act states that lactation consults are to be provided to mothers with no cost-sharing. That means no deductible or co-pay. That doesn’t mean your insurance will cover anyone for an unlimited number of consults.
They may only cover specific consultants.
They will probably only cover a certain number of consults.
They may only cover consults for specific reasons.
Some lactation consultants will bill your insurance company directly. Others can give you a superbill to request reimbursement. There are consultants who do not deal with insurance at all.
Everyone’s insurance is different. Even the same insurance company may have different plans. Call your insurance and ask questions.
- Are lactation consults covered?
- Is there any limit to how many consults are covered?
- Under what conditions are consults covered?
- Are there any limitations to who I can see for a consult to be covered?
ONLINE LACTATION CONSULTS
In general, it is best to have a lactation consultation in person. However, there can be a variety of reasons to choose a virtual consult.
- You live somewhere that an in-person consult is not an option.
- You do not want to leave your home, and no consultants near you do home visits.
- You want a consult as soon as possible, and a consultant can do a virtual visit according to your schedule.
- You really like a consultant who you found online.
- Weather is not a factor.
If you are interested in my online lactation consultation services, you can get more info HERE.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON GETTING HELP WITH BREASTFEEDING
Breastfeeding can be really hard. The good news is there are lots of ways to get help and support. Sometimes you just need to be a little discerning about the type of help you access.
FOR BREASTFEEDING TIPS TO GET YOU THROUGH THE FIRST YEAR OF BREASTFEEDING CHECK OUT MY eBook – BREASTFEED LIKE A BOSS
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.