Lactation Consultant Red Flags!

Help for sore nipples.

Help for sore nipples.

Lactation consultants are specialists in the art and science of breastfeeding. They must have 100’s, often 1000’s of hours of clinical experience before earning the title, IBCLC. (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, or if you just want to avoid trouble down the road, hiring a lactation consultant can be very helpful. But how do you know if a particular lactation consultant has the experience and skills to help you?

You can start by asking your physician or midwife for a referral. Friends and neighbors are great referral sources as well. Then, make sure the LC is board certified. Finally, when choosing a lactation consultant, ask about her experience and approach. Listen carefully when you talk to her about your particular concern. Be wary of “guarantees” and promises of fantastic milk production no matter what.

Many of my clients come to me after a consultation with another professional. Some of these professionals claim to be lactation consultants or “almost” lactation consultants. For example, a well meaning doula may take a week-long course in breastfeeding and start calling herself a “breastfeeding specialist.” Another may call herself a “lactation educator” or “breastfeeding counselor.” None of these titles come close to the education and experience of an IBCLC.

Other clients may have had a less than pleasant experience with another lactation consultant before seeing me. Often clinic-based IBCLC’s, don’t have the time that’s really needed to do a thorough assessment of mom and baby. If you have had an experience like this in the past and are hesitant to try another LC, please remember the private practice lactation consultants usually work a little differently. We can go at a slower pace because we only see a few clients per day. We usually answer our own phones, so it’s easy to call and ask questions after your appointment.

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Even if you are careful with your research, sometimes you will hear things from lactation consultants that just are not correct. Misinformation can be harmful because it can erode your confidence and may lead to early weaning. I have compiled a list of statements that clients have heard over and over again. These are red flags! If a lactation consultant (or anyone else for that matter) says any of the following, run the other direction!

  • Your baby will never breastfeed.
  • Your baby is too old to learn to breastfeed.
  • You’ve missed your “window of opportunity” to breastfeed.
  • You can exclusively breastfeed, no matter what.
  • Your breasts/nipples are too__________ to breastfeed.
  • If you eat ________ it will make your baby sick.
  • Your milk may not be good enough for your baby.
  • Your baby is allergic to your milk.
  • You’re not successful breastfeeding because you’re not trying hard enough.
  • Your baby doesn’t like/want your breast.
  • If you take this herb/medication I promise you’ll make more milk.
  • If you’ve had any breast surgery, you will not make enough milk for your baby.
  • It’s normal to have nipple pain.
  • Your nipples need to toughen up.
  • Babies always have to eat on both sides each feeding.
  • Babies should always have just one breast per feeding.
  • Your baby should stay on the breast for _____ minutes.
  • Your baby is a lazy nurser.
Note: This article took over a week for me to write. Every day I’ve needed to add more false statements! So check back often—sadly, there will probably be frequent additions. And….please write to me with other things you’ve heard! Or you can contribute your own additions in the comments section of this post.


9 thoughts on “Lactation Consultant Red Flags!

  1. When I called up IBCLCs to interview them, when I asked about personal experiences with breastfeeding one of them said she couldn’t get any of her four babies to nurse much past a year and it was a mystery to her. I decided against using her because I needed help with my toddler’s nursing habits–I figured she should have at least had an idea why none of them made it to 2: i.e. because I spaced out the nursings, or used pumped milk or something. A couple weren’t on ilca, a couple had a strong political tone to their talking. The one I ended up using, although was super smart just wouldn’t stop talking about herself, not sure if I’ll use her again–got kind of expensive.

    But anyone was better than my birth center midwife who considered herself an expert after a day of training! When he wouldn’t suck she and staff kept making dumb recommendations like formula, offered a broken pumping machine, an SNS, and paying her by the hour for her advice. My LLL Leader and supposedly breastfeeding friendly pediatrician never referred out to a real lactation expert when they should have. My CLE educator didn’t breastfeed for that long and had no idea on good positions for c-sections when I asked. Now I tell everyone to use an IBCLC! No one comes close.

  2. I also find myself frustrated by those who are more interesting in selling, herbs, pumps, pillows, special creams, bras, etc. Than figuring out what is actually going on. We also have a clinic here with several IBCLC physicians who are unwilling or unable to solve the simplest of problems, yet physicians refer to them because they are physicians.

  3. My lactation consultant saw me nursing my 1 year old and said that “She doesn’t need that for nutrition anymore, she’s 1.” Essentially saying that I should be weaning. I thought it was strange and defended myself. Nursed till baby was 27 months!

  4. Another one: “Pumping and giving a bottle is just the same.” I am constantly horrified hearing advice (which is the same as I got in the hospital) that encourages pumping and giving a bottle and assumes that you won’t mind never actually nursing your baby. Exclusively pumping is HARD and most give up! Why don’t they at least try to get the baby on the breast?!

  5. Pingback: Who is NOT a Lactation Consultant? | The Second 9 Months

  6. When pregnant & still nursing, I was told by a WIC nurtionist I was “starving” my fetus & that if I didn’t wean her I would have a “sick, scrawny, premature baby in NICU for weeks” Luckily I didn’t believe her & kept on nursing. The day after my 90 minute labor (with toddler nursing the whole 1st 60 minutes!)when I went to the health dept to file the birth certificate, I stopped by to show them how sick & scrawy my starving baby was, all 9 lb 11 oz.worth! This is from a professional, that paid to tell unsuspecting women garbage like this!

  7. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
    As a fellow consultant, I am horrified by some others comments or opinions. I guess just as one needs to find the right doctor, so too, they need to find the right lactation consultant.
    Kind Regards,

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