Should You See a Lactation Consultant?

By: Morgan Annandale 

Whether you are in your third trimester, have a newborn, or have a six-month-old baby…do you know when it is time to ask for help with your breastfeeding plan and reach out to a professional?

In my experience, I waited way too long to ask for help. I definitely could have received advice from a certified lactation consultant during prenatal care, and avoided uncomfortable and unnecessary issues while nursing my son. I did not have the slightest clue that lactation consultants were utilised during prenatal care. Looking back, its seems obvious that as with every other plan a pregnant woman makes, that a breastfeeding plan should be one of them. However, I just figured “it would happen naturally” and that “my body and baby will know what to do.” YEAH RIGHT!

 Photo by  Dave Clubb  on  Unsplash

Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash

My mum did not breastfeed me, nor did my grandmother breastfeed my mother. There was an even more negative stigma regarding breastfeeding back in their days than there is now. They told me that formula was simply the norm when it came to feeding your baby. I believe because of this, many new mums are surprised when they realise breastfeeding can be extremely challenging and nothing like you imagined.

I ran into numerous problems while breastfeeding my son for the beginning of his life. It took me six agonizing weeks to finally reach out to a certified lactation consultant for help. Six weeks of battling infected milk ducts, not enough milk being produced at times, and of course, the wretched bottle refusal issue (the top baby bottles were deemed beneath my son, who only wanted the real deal 100% of the time). I was desperate for someone to tell me what in the world was going on with both myself and my baby. So, I made the appointment to see a lactation consultant that was certified by the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC). 

 

Prenatal is NOT too early

When speaking to my lactation consultant (LC), I quickly realised that meeting with a LC is not uncommon to do during prenatal care. She told me it does not happen as often as she would like to see, but that many issues and challenges of breastfeeding can be avoided if expecting mothers looking to breastfeed meet with a LC prior to giving birth.

According to a lactation consultant in Santa Barbara, there are also many risk factors a mother may have that would signal to meet with a lactation consultant during the prenatal period.

Some of those risk factors include:

  • Experiencing a high-risk pregnancy
  • Having difficulty conceiving and needing IVF or medications to conceive
  • Being a first-time mother over the age of 35
  • Having multiples
  • Having inverted or flat nipples
  • Having had a breast surgery or procedure such as any cosmetic breast surgery, lumpectomy, mastectomy or radiation treatment to the breast, or a chest surgery or injury
  • Having experienced breastfeeding difficulties with another child
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Diabetes, type I, type II, or gestational
  • Having very large or very small breasts
  • Having the first menstrual period at age 10 or younger
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Experiencing postpartum hemorrhage
  • Having a baby born early, particularly if born before 38 weeks gestation
  • Having a difficult birth such as an induction, a birth where high doses of pitocin were needed, or a cesarean section

This LC goes on to describe how some of her clients created a breastfeeding plan to include with their birthing plan and how she would receive permission to send her client’s breastfeeding history and goals to her OB and nurses. This created a birthing environment where all of the staff and the mother were prepared to start the nursing experience off to the best start possible. She mentions that the mother said the staff fully supported her and it made for a much more positive and motivating birthing and first nursing experience.

  

Where to Find Help to Fit Your Needs

If you decide to go for prenatal care, or once you have reached a point postnatal where you know it’s time to reach out for help, it’s important to look in the right places. The best place to search for a LC in your area is by using the IBCLC directory. 

This helpful directory lets you search to find a certified LC in your area, so you know you are getting the best help available. A certified LC has to go through strenuous training hours and exams to be able to have IBCLC after their name, so they are the best of the best! Not only does this directory let you search by post code, you can also search by LC’s that perform home visits, work with the Government/military, work in community/public health/WIC, volunteer their support, or have a private practice.

It is also a good idea to contact your health insurance and see if consultations with your LC will be covered under your insurance. It is not always covered, but it is definitely worth reaching out to find out if yours does cover it.

  

Don’t Wait…It’s Not Worth It!

Overall, I learned as soon as I decided to reach out for help, that I had already waited too long. I do not know why I pushed myself so hard to accomplish such a challenging task on my own. Breastfeeding does not need to be a period full of frustration, pain, and struggles that a mum goes through alone. Lactation consultants can provide tools to help you overcome obstacles you did not think possible when it comes to feeding your baby. I truly thought I was going to stop breastfeeding if I could ever find a bottle that my son would take, but with the help from my consultant and finding a bottle like mimijumi, that allowed me to easily interchangeably feed, I was able to continue on for many more months!

*If you have any concerns regarding feeding please reach out to a certified LC or your doctor immediately.