New parents may find themselves worrying about everything from their baby’s nutrition and hygiene to how they’ll manage the demands of their new role. Many parents will also have questions about how to support the breastfeeding relationship between mother and infant. A lactation specialist can help. A lactation specialist is a registered nurse with expertise in helping new or expectant mothers learn how to breastfeed successfully, safely, and comfortably; as well as what supports are available for them as they begin this important feeding practice.
Here are some crucial questions you should ask a lactation specialist before making an appointment.
What is a lactation specialist?
Registered nurses with lactation experience can assist new mothers in the process of breastfeeding. Registered nurses who specialize in lactation are called lactation consultants, or LCs. In some areas of the country, lactation consultants are referred to as lactation advocates. While both LCs and LAs are registered nurses, they have different areas of focus and training. Lactation consultants are healthcare professionals who have specialized in breastfeeding management. They provide counseling services to mothers on how to best breastfeed and support them with their breastfeeding goals. A lactation consultant can help you navigate breastfeeding concerns, such as learning the proper latch breastfeeding, finding the right support, and building a breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Some examples of common concerns that a lactation consultant can help with include:
How do you support breastfeeding?
A lactation consultant can help you identify your breastfeeding goals and understand your baby’s needs, including what you can expect at each stage of the breastfeeding journey. A lactation consultant can also provide you with breastfeeding support options, depending on your needs. As you begin your breastfeeding journey, you may have concerns about breastfeeding success, including how to get started, how to know when to seek help, and what to expect when breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned. A lactation consultant can help you navigate these concerns so you can confidently and successfully breastfeed your baby.
Why should I choose a lactation specialist?
A lactation consultant can help you understand your baby’s needs and how best to meet them. A lactation consultant can help you access the support and information you need to successfully breastfeed. A lactation consultant can also help you set your breastfeeding goals and find resources to support you in achieving them, such as breastfeeding support groups, hospitals, or lactation consultants. There are many reasons why you may want to seek out lactation support. Some common reasons include:
- Your pregnancy and/or postpartum experience was difficult or you struggled to establish a breastfeeding relationship with your infant.
- You had complications during pregnancy or delivery that may have affected your ability to breastfeed.
- You may have special needs, such as a disability, that may make feeding your baby more challenging.
What questions should I ask a lactation specialist?
When starting a conversation with a lactation consultant, ask them some key questions to help them feel more comfortable and confident in your breastfeeding journey, such as:
- How long have you been a lactation consultant?
- Do you have any relevant experience with my pregnancy and/or delivery? What are my breastfeeding goals?
- What are my breastfeeding concerns?
- What support, information, or recommendations can you help me access?
- Is there anything else I should know about breastfeeding?
- What if my baby isn’t breastfeeding at first?
Should I see a lactation consultant at birth or after delivery?
Some families prefer to see a lactation consultant at birth before the baby arrives and the family begins to adjust to the new addition. Others prefer to see a lactation consultant after delivery when the family is more established and breastfeeding may be challenging. Which stage you prefer to see a lactation consultant at will depend on many factors, such as your comfort level with breastfeeding in public and the availability of lactation consultants in your area. Some families find that seeing a lactation consultant at birth is helpful because it provides them with a foundation of breastfeeding information and can help them feel more confident expressing their breastfeeding goals.
Whether you’re a new or experienced parent, the decision to find a lactation specialist can be an important one. With the right support, you can successfully breastfeed your baby. A lactation consultant can provide you with the information, support, and confidence to successfully meet your breastfeeding goals.