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.