By Ali Weatherford

Breastfeeding Success employs a lot of lactation consultants, and we’ll be the first to admit that there are a few people out there who have negative ideas about them. We work hard to help families, and also to bust some of the myths about lactation consultants! Some people hear stories from friends or family members about an overly enthusiastic lactation consultant, or one who didn’t help them with a particular problem. Sometimes this does happen! We all make mistakes, and sometimes things just don’t work out. BUT, what is often the case is actually a little different.

There Are Different Kinds of Lactation Consultants

Not all lactation consultants have the same amount of training and experience. As a result, some people don’t get the kind of help they need. It’s important to see the person that can meet your needs.

If you need to learn the basics of breastfeeding before your baby arrives or right after, most lactation consultants will be able to provide that kind of information and training for you. If you have started breastfeeding and things are mostly going well and you just have a few basic questions, or need a little help in adjusting your position or your baby’s latch, you might be able to see any type of lactation consultant/counselor. If things get more complicated, it’s best to see an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant or IBCLC. They receive the greatest amount of training in the clinical management of breastfeeding and are a great resource for anything related to breastfeeding and baby feeding.

A Lactation Consultant is Different From a Nurse

In many settings, nurses provide lactation support instead of an IBCLC. Nurses often have some training in lactation, but not always, and not at the level of an IBCLC. IBCLCs are specialists and have to complete a lot of college level health science education, PLUS breastfeeding specific education, and more than 300 hands-on, supervised clinical hours, then pass a board exam to receive their certification.

They have training in all levels of breastfeeding support, from the basics to supporting very complicated breastfeeding situations such as premature babies in NICU care, and more. Your nurse may be able to provide excellent support, but if you feel like you’re not getting the right kind of care, you might want to find out if you’ve actually seen a lactation consultant, and if not, whether that kind of support is available where you are. In some cases, lactation consultants visit with hospital patients, but then a nurse follows up overnight and might offer different advice. If you’re getting conflicting information, it’s probably best to follow the advice of your IBCLC.

Personalities

When you get to choose your lactation consultant, it’s a great idea to find someone who matches your personality! This is true for all of our care providers, and can mean that you feel most comfortable and that the communication between you is best. When you feel at ease with the person who is helping you, you will probably be able to relax and ask all the questions you need to ask and also accept the advice with more confidence.

This is not always possible, so when you don’t get to choose, remember the simple tips offered below. I like to first remember that they likely have the best intentions for me and for my child. They want us to have a good experience and stay healthy!

If their personality makes you feel like they are overly enthusiastic or judgmental, it’s important to recognize that it might be true, or it might not. Either way, they DO probably have the best intentions! If you feel a little unsure, try doing these things:

  • Stay open minded. Everyone has bad days sometimes and some people just don’t do a great job of regulating their facial expressions and tone of voice! Assume that they have the best intentions for you at all times.
  • Don’t get defensive. If you suspect that they don’t approve or agree with something you’re saying, try to shake it off. Assume that’s not the case and see what happens.
  • Listen to their advice, and try it! You might try some things you were feeling skeptical about and get some good results.
  • Ask questions. If you’re unsure about the advice you’re getting or it’s not clear, always ask for more information.
  • Make your intentions clear. If your goal is to breastfeed exclusively, it’s important to tell them upfront. If you’re NOT intending to breastfeed exclusively, also make that clear. A lactation consultant should be able to help you in whatever your goals are for feeding your baby.

Hopefully, things will go very smoothly and you’ll get just the help you need to be successful in your feeding goals. If not, know that it just might not have been the right person for you and it’s very OK to find someone else or even tell that person that they didn’t help you.

With my own first baby, I had two very different experiences with lactation support. The first was a nurse who was extremely militant about breastfeeding and did not even ask my permission before grabbing my breasts and waking my baby to feed. I had a very sleepy baby, and she just wasn’t interested. The nurse insisted I keep trying and brought a pump when my daughter wouldn’t latch on. I didn’t want to use it. I finally got frustrated and told her that I didn’t want her help anymore.

I saw a lactation consultant later that day and got just the kind of help I needed. She reassured me that even though my baby didn’t have the most typical feeding needs, she would be fine and that I was capable. She told me what to watch for, and that was all I needed for my stress levels to go WAY down. I started to enjoy my baby and relax. That ended up being just the thing we needed to be successful. We did breastfeed successfully and eventually it even became very easy.

Getting the right kind of support can mean the difference between success and failure. It can also make a difference in the kind of experience you have. When you have gotten the right kind of help, you should feel a lot more ease and confidence in your parenting and that is SO important!

To schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant in the Austin, Waco, or Dallas/Ft. Worth areas, visit our appointment page.

Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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