Breastfeeding can be hard for new parents. It can sometimes also feel like a lonely journey. In many cases, even with the help of family, friends and trained medical personnel, there are still obstacles that can arise that make breastfeeding a struggle. Lactation Consultants provide the support you need to navigate these challenges.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
Lactation consultants are experts on breastfeeding and lactation management who provide one-to-one support to parents and families in their breastfeeding journey. They are typically certified lactation consultants, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC), or healthcare professionals such as Registered Nurses, Midwives or Doulas. They also have extensive knowledge and experience working with pregnant women and new parents.
Who needs a Lactation Consultant?
Lactation consultants work with families experiencing breastfeeding challenges. They can also work with new and expecting parents who are preparing to breastfeed. They are experienced and skilled professionals who are knowledgeable in the latest research on lactation, infant nutrition, breastfeeding techniques, pumping and storage of breast milk, maternal nutrition, and other related topics. In addition, lactation consultants offer personalized advice that helps mothers overcome all types of breastfeeding challenges and work to support families meet their goals.
Are breastfeeding challenges common?
Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding challenges are very common. Over 70% of new mothers report experiencing some degree of difficulty. But experiencing challenges doesn’t mean breastfeeding should stop. Working with a professional such as a lactation consultant can help improve the simplest to most complex issues. They help educate parents and families how to manage life with a new baby who needs to be fed, ways to support or improve milk production, or how to use a breast pump.
What kind of challenges do lactation consultants help with?
● Latching difficulties– Latching difficulty happens when it’s hard for a baby to latch onto the parent’s breast. It makes it difficult for the baby to get enough milk. Latching difficulties can also be hard on the parent. Many women report feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and helpless. Lactation consultants are skilled in assessing and resolving latching difficulties. They start by taking a detailed history of the breastfeeding experience, feeding history, health of the infant and the parent, review feeding goals, and then use their specialized skills to tailor support to make sure both, the baby and the parent, are supported and thriving.
- Sore nipples– Sore nipples can be a difficult and even painful experience for new mothers. According to the American Pregnancy Association, this issue impacts almost 90% of new mothers. Sore nipples go beyond making women feel uncomfortable, tender, and painful while breastfeeding. It can cause a low milk supply and lead to further issues with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants use various techniques to help relieve and resolve nipple discomfort. These include addressing the latching position, helping the mother adjust the way she is holding her baby, providing breastfeeding education, proper flange fitting for pumping and more.
- Low milk production– Low milk production is another breastfeeding challenge that often makes moms feel frustrated or helpless. When a mother is not producing enough milk, it can lead to issues and concerns that babies are not getting enough food and sustenance. Fortunately, lactation consultants are well-versed in helping mothers solve this issue. One technique they may employ is called breast compression, in which the lactation consultant gently squeezes the mother’s breast while she is nursing to help stimulate milk production and keep the milk flowing for longer periods.
- Mastitis – Mastitis is a condition where the mother’s breast becomes painful, swollen, and infected. It happens to about 10%-20% of mothers who are breastfeeding. Lactation consultants provide advice on effective strategies to relieve and soothe pain, such as frequent feedings, warm compresses, and the use of therapeutic herbs.
These are just a few of the challenges that lactation consultants can help with. If you’re having difficulty breastfeeding or if you simply want to be better prepared for your feeding journey, hiring a lactation consultant near you may be an invaluable resource.