In movies and TV, new moms meet their babies for the first time and effortlessly begin to breastfeed. Things may go that perfectly on screen, but in the real world, new moms and their babies sometimes need assistance in establishing their nursing routine. That's where lactation consultants come in.
What is a lactation consultant?
A lactation consultant is a health professional who helps mothers and their babies develop a healthy breastfeeding relationship. Most lactation consultants have extensive education in lactation and breastfeeding. A International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) has the highest credentials and has passed a set of rigorous exams to demonstrate their proficiency.1
How can a lactation consultant help me and my baby?
Lactation consultants can provide information, coaching, and support around breastfeeding—helping with common issues such as creating proper latch and nipple soreness, but also advising on bigger challenges such as establishing supply or breastfeeding with medical problems.2
How do I know if I need a lactation consultant?
Breastfeeding is natural but getting started can be challenging for some moms and babies. That's why many pregnant women contact a lactation consultant even before their babies are born; a professional can help you understand the basics of feeding, from positioning to pumping.
Once your baby is born, a breastfeeding consultant can help identify and solve any challenges that may arise. For example, if it hurts when your baby latches onto your breast, a lactation consultant can show you how to guide their tiny mouth. Other common reasons to contact a lactation consultant include problems with milk supply, issues with your baby not gaining weight, or simply questions about the process.
How can I find a lactation consultant?
Finding a lactation consultant is as easy as calling on your prenatal and postnatal support network. If you give birth at a hospital, a lactation consultant may check in with you after your baby is born. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss any breastfeeding plans or goals, to ask questions, and to receive guidance on positioning your newborn for optimum feeding. Additionally, your obstetrician's office may have a lactation consultant on staff, or it may refer you to a lactation consultant whose services may be covered by your health insurance.3
Breastfeeding peer counselors, such as volunteers with organizations such as La Leche League and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, can provide one-on-one support from other women who have breastfed their babies—but do note that they're not able to give clinical help.4
Remember, breastfeeding is a healthy and unforgettable practice for you and your baby—and lactation specialists are here to help. Every new mom can benefit from a support system, so even if you may not think you "need" a lactation consultant, a specialist can help make breastfeeding a rewarding relationship for you and your baby.
Should you choose to formula feed or need to supplement with formula, it’s a great idea to learn about your options ahead of time here. You can explore the entire range of Enfamil infant formulas or you can join Enfamil Family Beginnings to try free samples.