Lactation consultants are health professionals with special training and experience in helping breastfeeding mothers and babies. Many are nurses or La Leche League Leaders and have personal, as well as professional, experience with breastfeeding. Lactation consultants may be on staff at a hospital or in a pediatrician’s office, or they may work in private practice. How do I know if I need help from an LC?
We encourage first-time breastfeeding mothers to seek hands-on help from a professional lactation consultant within the first few days after birth. Reading about latch-on basics and trying to translate text and pictures into what to do with your baby at your breast can be difficult. It’s much easier to have someone show you early on, before latch-on problems turn into sore nipples or problems with baby not getting enough milk. Many hospitals provide lactation services as part of their standard maternity package. Take advantage of this service if it is available to you.
If your baby has difficulties with latch-on or sucking, or has other health problems that complicate breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can help you resolve these issues. If you find yourself in an especially difficult breastfeeding situation, ask around until you find an LC who has experience helping mothers with similar problems.
How do I find an LC?
A lactation consultant will usually have the credentials CLC (certified lactation counselor) or IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultant) after her name. What’s the difference? To put it briefly, IBCLC certification requires roughly double the number of breastfeeding education hours compared with CLC certification. IBCLC candidates also must complete hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of clinical practice before taking their certification exam. To find a lactation consultant in your community, talk to your childbirth educator, health-care provider, or obstetrical hospital. Local La Leche League Leaders may also be able to refer you to a lactation consultant.
Another way to find a lactation consultant is to contact the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) at 1500 Sunday Drive, Suite 102, Raleigh NC 27607; phone 919-861-5577; fax 919-787-4916; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Many lactation consultants also have their own web pages.
Many lactation consultants also rent or sell breast pumps and breastfeeding products. There are advantages to buying a pump from an LC rather than off the shelf at the department store. Besides selling you a pump or breast shells, a lactation consultant can tell you how to use the product and, most importantly, help you solve the problem that has created a need for a particular device. Lactation consultants are an invaluable resource for the new mother.
LA LECHE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL
La Leche League is a wonderful source of information and support for breastfeeding mothers. The organization’s publications, expert resources, local volunteers and monthly meetings can give you the confidence you need to breastfeed and mother your baby successfully. From LLL you’ll get practical breastfeeding advice. It’s also a good source of support when family and friends ask questions like “Are you sure you have enough milk?” or “How long are you going to breastfeed that child?”
La Leche League volunteers are called “Leaders.” They are women with personal experience with breastfeeding, as well as special training in helping other mothers. League Leaders are available by phone when you have questions about breastfeeding your baby. They also lead monthly group meetings, where mothers share their experiences with breastfeeding.
LLL meetings are a great place to meet other women in your community who have young children. They’re also wonderful for pregnant women–just go and observe the mothers and babies. You can learn a lot about positioning a baby at the breast, nursing in public places, and about mothering in general just by observing.
La Leche League International’s website features articles and information on breastfeeding as well as an online catalog of books about parenting and breastfeeding, breast pumps, breastfeeding products and baby slings.
To find a Leader in your community, visit their website at lalecheleague.org or call 800-LALECHE. Many local La Leche League groups also have web pages that are linked to the LLLI home page.