What to Expect From a Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding mother with a lactation consultant

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There are so many situations in which a breastfeeding mother (or a mother-to-be) will need a lactation consultant. It goes without saying that breastfeeding is arguably the best beginning for a baby (and for Mom). However, questions or breastfeeding issues may come up, and problems that weren't there at the beginning may suddenly appear. It's not surprising that you may feel overwhelmed and in need of support from outside of the home. You should never feel alone in the process. A lactation consultant is an ideal person to call on in these cases.

Where to See a Lactation Consultant

You may see a lactation consultant in various venues. While you're pregnant, you might take a prenatal breastfeeding class with a lactation consultant. You may be seen by a lactation consultant in the hospital after your baby is born. There may be a lactation consultant on staff at your clinic or doctor's office. Or, you may be seen privately in your home.

Why Not Just Wait Until Your Baby Is Born to Learn Breastfeeding?

It is always recommended that mothers-to-be take a prenatal breastfeeding class so that they go into breastfeeding with the utmost confidence and the knowledge of what is expected once the baby is born. It is to your advantage to know, for example, how to tell when your baby is hungry and wants to breastfeed.

A prenatal breastfeeding class should go over:

Will You See a Lactation Consultant In the Hospital?

You may or may not see a lactation consultant while you're in the hospital. It depends on your situation and the hospital. Some hospitals have large lactation staffs, and others have none. Some mothers are automatically seen daily during their stay while others have to request to be seen if they're having difficulty. In any case, labor and delivery nurses are wonderful at helping a mother start breastfeeding.

If lactation visits are not part of the daily routine of your hospital, your nurse can request one. A lactation consultant can help you with a feeding, give a breastfeeding "checkup", and answer your questions. If your hospital does not have one on staff, you can feel free to hire a private lactation consultant to visit with you during her stay.

What About Clinic, Office, or Private Visits? 

In an initial phone call to the lactation consultant, you will be given an overview of what to expect during the consultation. The lactation consultant will also ask for information about you and your baby's health. She will want to know your baby's birth weight, any follow-up weight checks, and your family health history. She will ask about your pregnancy and the delivery. She will want to know how the baby has been breastfeeding, how many wet diapers your baby is having each day, information about your baby's bowel movements, and any specific concerns that you have.

Whether the visit is in a clinic, office, or private home, it is important that you feel comfortable with the visit. As a patient or client, you have rights just as you do when visiting a doctor. The lactation consultant should:

  • Consult with you in private
  • Give you a positive feeling about the situation
  • Be empathetic
  • Tell you exactly what she is doing with every part of the examination
  • Ask you to remove your shirt

Clinically, the lactation consultant will:

  • Observe your baby's appearance and behavior
  • Examine your breasts and your nipples
  • Watch your baby as she's breastfeeding and adjust your breastfeeding position if need be
  • Check whether or not the baby is latching on, sucking, swallowing, and breathing properly
  • Correct any breastfeeding problems that she finds
  • Give you written instructions or protocols to follow
  • Explain how to get in touch with her for additional help or questions
  • Give you information about local breastfeeding support groups.

Following Up 

You should not hesitate to contact your lactation consultant for any reason. If you have problems that do not go away or don't get better, you need to get in touch with your consultant immediately. It's important to address any breastfeeding problems early on. The sooner you can treat and resolve breastfeeding issues, the better it will be for you and your baby.

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