Milksta Blog

Can a Lactation Consultant Help You Breastfeed? (Help for Struggling Mommas)

Lactation consultant holding a breast mockup

Being a mom who breastfed her two sons, I have experienced many different kinds of breastfeeding problems. The I-can-handle-this kind, the tough-but-manageable kind, the what-the-hell and I-want-to-give-up kinds… You name it! Thankfully, I had the help of lactation consultants along the way.

Thousands to millions of moms experience breastfeeding problems, and exactly that is why I decided to be a force of support for other mommas and become a certified lactation consultant. How exactly can a lactation consultant help you? Let’s talk about that and more in this article.   Content Overview: Lactation support lingo What does a lactation consultant do? When should I see a lactation consultant? What happens during a lactation consultation? Can lactation consultants write prescriptions? How do I choose a lactation consultant? Does health insurance cover lactation services? Is a lactation consultant worth it?  

Lactation support lingo

There’s a lot of jargon in the lactation support space, and it could get very confusing. So, here’s to simplify some of the most important lactation-related terms and concepts for you:  
  • Lactation Consultants are professionals trained to support parents and help babies in their breastfeeding journeys.
  • Depending on which state you are in, a Lactation Consultant may also be referred to as a Lactation Counselor, Lactation Specialist, Lactation Educator, Breastfeeding Specialist, or Breastfeeding Peer Supporter. However, for specialists with certifications, these titles take on different meanings as well. 
  [caption id="attachment_1709" align="aligncenter" width="3600"] Source: aloha.nutrition.com[/caption]  
  • Different certification programs give different qualifications to specialists. For instance, a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) can help with simple breastfeeding problems while an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help address simple and more complicated breastfeeding challenges.
  • The IBCLC credential (granted only by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners or IBLCE) is the only internationally recognized certification for lactation consultants. It’s also the highest one! 
  For the remainder of this article, we’ll use the term “lactation consultant” to refer to certified lactation consultants, whether by IBCLC or another accredited certifying body.  

What does a lactation consultant do? 

Lactation consultants provide lactation education and breastfeeding support to families. More specifically, they can help you understand and address concerns like: 
  • Low milk supply 
  • Breast pumping problems
  • Latching difficulties
  • Comfortable breastfeeding positions
  • Breast pain and sore nipples
  • Engorgement 
  • Baby refusing to feed
  • Baby falling asleep while feeding 
  • Physical and emotional obstacles to breastfeeding
  Lactation consultants may also help you deal with the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of breastfeeding. Moreover, studies prove that seeing a lactation consultant increases breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. And the longer you breastfeed, the longer you can give optimal nutrition to your little one!  [bctt tweet="The longer you #breastfeed, the longer you can give optimal nutrition to your little one! " username="getmilksta"]   Here are some of the info a lactation consultant could equip you with: 
  • When to expect your milk 
  • Pointers for a good latch 
  • Tips for breastfeeding positions 
  • Duration and frequency of nursing sessions throughout the day
  • Tips on how to pump your breasts and how to choose breast pump accessories
  • What products or tools to have 
  • Medical history or anatomy evaluation that may affect breastfeeding (a consultant may also refer you to another specialist (e.g., a pediatric dentist, chiropractor, etc.) if a more in-depth medical evaluation is needed)
  • Guidance on how to breastfeed premature babies or those with physical or neurological disabilities 
  • Assistance in developing a breastfeeding plan that will involve your family (and employer, if you’re a working mom)
  • Guidance on feeding methods other than the boob that will protect the breastfeeding relationship (e.g., cup feeding, syringe, SNS/tube, spoon, etc.)
  • Information about breastfeeding groups within your local community
 

When should I see a lactation consultant? 

You may see a lactation consultant during your pregnancy, during your hospital stay for labor and delivery, the first few weeks or months of your postpartum period, or only when you have breastfeeding questions or challenges. But of course, the most ideal is that you see a consultant starting from pregnancy and until you’ve completely weaned your baby. Some consultants offer prenatal breastfeeding classes so you’re equipped to face breastfeeding challenges even before your baby arrives. Also, some baby-friendly hospitals may have in-house consultants who give lactation visits to all their mom patients who are about to deliver or have just given birth.   A lactation consultant explaining how lactation works   If you’re already weeks or months into your breastfeeding journey but you haven’t talked to a lactation consultant yet, please know that it’s okay to consult one. It isn’t too late. Plus, you and your baby will surely benefit from getting professional help.  

What happens during a lactation consultation? 

What happens during a lactation consultation will depend on which stage of pregnancy or puerperium you are in. If you’re still preggy, the consultant will:
  • Ask about your medical history and your family’s health history 
  • Inform you of the benefits of breastfeeding to you and your baby
  • Address myths, misconceptions, and concerns about breastfeeding
  • Provide you with lactation education resources that can help when you encounter problems
  • Give tips on correct positioning to help your baby latch successfully
  • Give general and specific guidance that can help you anticipate effective breastfeeding or breastfeeding issues 
  Meanwhile, if you’ve already given birth or have started breastfeeding, your consultant will need to know the details about your pregnancy and delivery, your baby’s health, nursing patterns, weight changes, and bowel movements.     Here are some of the examinations your lactation consultant will do: 
  • Inspect your baby’s appearance and observe their behavior 
  • Examine your breasts and nipples 
  • Assess potential plugged or clogged milk ducts that may be causing pain and decelerate milk flow
  • Observe your baby as you’re nursing 
  • Check your breastfeeding position and adjust it if necessary 
  • Identify the possible cause of breastfeeding issues (if present)
  Lactation specialist demonstrating boob assessment   Momma, remember that whether the consultation happens in a clinic, hospital, office, or private residence, your comfort should be a priority. Know your rights as a patient, and take note of these things when visiting your lactation consultant: 
  • They should consult with you in private and keep your information confidential
  • They need to tell you the reason for doing an examination and what exactly they’re doing with every part of it
  • They should be empathetic while they suggest solutions to your concerns
  • They should respect your culture and address you and your partner with respect, regardless of your race and sexual orientation 
  The overall experience should be enlightening and enriching, though there will certainly be moments of discomfort due to the intimacy of the subject (your body, personal history, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell your consultant when you feel uncomfortable and to ask for explanations for every assessment and solution they recommend.   

Can lactation consultants write prescriptions?

Lactation consultants are not authorized to give prescriptions unless they have a separate medical license that allows them to do so (i.e., they’re also a physician, OB-GYN, pediatrician). If your consultant doesn’t have a medical license but finds that you need prescription drugs, she will refer you to a professional doctor.  

How do I choose a lactation consultant?

Because your sessions with your lactation consultant are going to be intimate and will demand your utmost transparency, you should carefully choose the person you’ll work with. Read these tips to help you get the most bang for your boob (I tried!) consults:   

1. Research and talk to the consultant before deciding to hire her

Ask relevant questions such as her experience with moms similar to you, her breastfeeding expertise, how she troubleshoots challenging situations, and her take on formula feeding versus breastfeeding. And don’t forget to check with her schedule and if it aligns with yours! Other factors for choosing can be all about your preferences. Would you like to consult with someone who has prior breastfeeding experience? If yes, ask her about her breastfeeding journey, too.  Also, try to figure out what communication style you would like to have with her. Different consultants will have different approaches, so assess her style and decide if it’s the kind you’d like to work with. Does she have an impersonal and direct approach or is she the nurturing, motherly type? Trust your momma instincts and go with the one who feels right for you.   

2. Check her tech and trend radar

For urgent concerns, it may be more efficient to communicate instantly through text or video calls. If your consultant isn’t proficient in those techy things, then it may be a significant barrier to communication.  Also, it would be great if your consultant is updated with the latest studies on all things breastfeeding and breast milk. It’s good to have someone open to learning and discerning new procedures and solutions. If your consultant is abreast with both tech and science trends, then you’ve got yourself a keeper!    

3. Communicate your breastfeeding goals 

Be transparent on what you want to get out of your consultations. Tell your consultant about your breastfeeding goals (Do you want to do it consistently beyond six months?) and ask for her insights on possible successes and roadblocks.    Lactation specialist listening to a breastfeeding mom’s challenges  

4. Disclose everything, even the seemingly small details 

Breast milk production is a complex process. Your stress levels, diet, and even your mental and emotional well-being can affect your milk supply and overall health.  [bctt tweet="Breast milk production is a complex process. Your stress levels, diet, and even your mental and emotional well-being can affect your milk supply and overall health. " username="getmilksta"]   Whether you’re taking new supplements or medication, trying out galactagogues or galactagogue lattes, or having a rough time in your postpartum recovery, tell them to your consultant so they can have a better understanding of your condition. Your openness will also put them in a much better position to help you out.   RELATED: Postpartum Recovery & How to Not Sabotage Your Healing  

5. Feel the shyness, but do it anyway

I also consulted lactation consultants when I was pregnant, and at first, I was shy to divulge “yucky” details and show my boobies (and have them touched, too!). You’re really pushed to be in a vulnerable position in this relationship, so understandably, you may feel uncomfortable at first.  But as a lactation consultant myself, I can assure you that we’re comfortable discussing all these concerns. No matter the smell, shape, or form, it will never be too taboo to bring up and discuss. You can expect your boobies to be inspected and squeezed in some cases, too. This can be part of the process of evaluating or providing solutions to your breastfeeding woes.  Trust in your lactation consultant, stay comfortable in your body, and let her do her magic.   

Does health insurance cover lactation services? 

Most health insurance plans cover lactation services and supplies, either fully or partially. Thanks to The Affordable Care Act of 2010, non-grandfathered health insurance plans are required to cover breastfeeding counseling, support, and equipment throughout the nursing period. You should, however, clarify with your insurance company the specific inclusions of your account. While some insurance plans save you from any out-of-your-pocket transactions, some may ask you to pay first and then reimburse later. Also, some insurance providers may require you to submit a pre-authorization letter from your doctor to legitimize the need for a lactation consultant. So check with them if it’s necessary to get a referral.  If your insurance plan includes your delivery and hospital stay, then it should also cover lactation services while you’re there. If the consultant is your baby’s doctor or works with your doctor, then their services may be covered by your provider. Lastly, do note that lactation consultants in private practice may or may not accept insurance or might not be covered by your insurance plan.   

Thousands to millions of moms experience breastfeeding problems, and exactly that is why I decided to be a force of support for other mommas and become a certified lactation consultant. How exactly can a lactation consultant help you? Let’s talk about that and more in this article.

 

Content Overview:

Lactation support lingo

What does a lactation consultant do?

When should I see a lactation consultant?

What happens during a lactation consultation?

Can lactation consultants write prescriptions?

How do I choose a lactation consultant?

Does health insurance cover lactation services?

Is a lactation consultant worth it?

 

Lactation support lingo

There’s a lot of jargon in the lactation support space, and it could get very confusing. So, here’s to simplify some of the most important lactation-related terms and concepts for you:

 

  • Lactation Consultants are professionals trained to support parents and help babies in their breastfeeding journeys.
  • Depending on which state you are in, a Lactation Consultant may also be referred to as a Lactation Counselor, Lactation Specialist, Lactation Educator, Breastfeeding Specialist, or Breastfeeding Peer Supporter. However, for specialists with certifications, these titles take on different meanings as well. 

 

Source: aloha.nutrition.com

 

  • Different certification programs give different qualifications to specialists. For instance, a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) can help with simple breastfeeding problems while an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help address simple and more complicated breastfeeding challenges.
  • The IBCLC credential (granted only by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners or IBLCE) is the only internationally recognized certification for lactation consultants. It’s also the highest one! 

 

For the remainder of this article, we’ll use the term “lactation consultant” to refer to certified lactation consultants, whether by IBCLC or another accredited certifying body.

 

What does a lactation consultant do? 

Lactation consultants provide lactation education and breastfeeding support to families. More specifically, they can help you understand and address concerns like: 

  • Low milk supply 
  • Breast pumping problems
  • Latching difficulties
  • Comfortable breastfeeding positions
  • Breast pain and sore nipples
  • Engorgement 
  • Baby refusing to feed
  • Baby falling asleep while feeding 
  • Physical and emotional obstacles to breastfeeding

 

Lactation consultants may also help you deal with the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of breastfeeding. Moreover, studies prove that seeing a lactation consultant increases breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. And the longer you breastfeed, the longer you can give optimal nutrition to your little one! 

The longer you #breastfeed, the longer you can give optimal nutrition to your little one! Click To Tweet

 

Here are some of the info a lactation consultant could equip you with: 

  • When to expect your milk 
  • Pointers for a good latch 
  • Tips for breastfeeding positions 
  • Duration and frequency of nursing sessions throughout the day
  • Tips on how to pump your breasts and how to choose breast pump accessories
  • What products or tools to have 
  • Medical history or anatomy evaluation that may affect breastfeeding (a consultant may also refer you to another specialist (e.g., a pediatric dentist, chiropractor, etc.) if a more in-depth medical evaluation is needed)
  • Guidance on how to breastfeed premature babies or those with physical or neurological disabilities 
  • Assistance in developing a breastfeeding plan that will involve your family (and employer, if you’re a working mom)
  • Guidance on feeding methods other than the boob that will protect the breastfeeding relationship (e.g., cup feeding, syringe, SNS/tube, spoon, etc.)
  • Information about breastfeeding groups within your local community

 

When should I see a lactation consultant? 

You may see a lactation consultant during your pregnancy, during your hospital stay for labor and delivery, the first few weeks or months of your postpartum period, or only when you have breastfeeding questions or challenges. But of course, the most ideal is that you see a consultant starting from pregnancy and until you’ve completely weaned your baby.

Some consultants offer prenatal breastfeeding classes so you’re equipped to face breastfeeding challenges even before your baby arrives. Also, some baby-friendly hospitals may have in-house consultants who give lactation visits to all their mom patients who are about to deliver or have just given birth.

 

A lactation consultant explaining how lactation works

 

If you’re already weeks or months into your breastfeeding journey but you haven’t talked to a lactation consultant yet, please know that it’s okay to consult one. It isn’t too late. Plus, you and your baby will surely benefit from getting professional help.

 

What happens during a lactation consultation? 

What happens during a lactation consultation will depend on which stage of pregnancy or puerperium you are in. If you’re still preggy, the consultant will:

  • Ask about your medical history and your family’s health history 
  • Inform you of the benefits of breastfeeding to you and your baby
  • Address myths, misconceptions, and concerns about breastfeeding
  • Provide you with lactation education resources that can help when you encounter problems
  • Give tips on correct positioning to help your baby latch successfully
  • Give general and specific guidance that can help you anticipate effective breastfeeding or breastfeeding issues 

 

Meanwhile, if you’ve already given birth or have started breastfeeding, your consultant will need to know the details about your pregnancy and delivery, your baby’s health, nursing patterns, weight changes, and bowel movements.  

 

Here are some of the examinations your lactation consultant will do: 

  • Inspect your baby’s appearance and observe their behavior 
  • Examine your breasts and nipples 
  • Assess potential plugged or clogged milk ducts that may be causing pain and decelerate milk flow
  • Observe your baby as you’re nursing 
  • Check your breastfeeding position and adjust it if necessary 
  • Identify the possible cause of breastfeeding issues (if present)

 

Lactation specialist demonstrating boob assessment

 

Momma, remember that whether the consultation happens in a clinic, hospital, office, or private residence, your comfort should be a priority. Know your rights as a patient, and take note of these things when visiting your lactation consultant: 

  • They should consult with you in private and keep your information confidential
  • They need to tell you the reason for doing an examination and what exactly they’re doing with every part of it
  • They should be empathetic while they suggest solutions to your concerns
  • They should respect your culture and address you and your partner with respect, regardless of your race and sexual orientation 

 

The overall experience should be enlightening and enriching, though there will certainly be moments of discomfort due to the intimacy of the subject (your body, personal history, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell your consultant when you feel uncomfortable and to ask for explanations for every assessment and solution they recommend. 

 

Can lactation consultants write prescriptions?

Lactation consultants are not authorized to give prescriptions unless they have a separate medical license that allows them to do so (i.e., they’re also a physician, OB-GYN, pediatrician). If your consultant doesn’t have a medical license but finds that you need prescription drugs, she will refer you to a professional doctor.

 

How do I choose a lactation consultant?

Because your sessions with your lactation consultant are going to be intimate and will demand your utmost transparency, you should carefully choose the person you’ll work with. Read these tips to help you get the most bang for your boob (I tried!) consults: 

 

1. Research and talk to the consultant before deciding to hire her

Ask relevant questions such as her experience with moms similar to you, her breastfeeding expertise, how she troubleshoots challenging situations, and her take on formula feeding versus breastfeeding. And don’t forget to check with her schedule and if it aligns with yours!

Other factors for choosing can be all about your preferences. Would you like to consult with someone who has prior breastfeeding experience? If yes, ask her about her breastfeeding journey, too. 

Also, try to figure out what communication style you would like to have with her. Different consultants will have different approaches, so assess her style and decide if it’s the kind you’d like to work with. Does she have an impersonal and direct approach or is she the nurturing, motherly type? Trust your momma instincts and go with the one who feels right for you. 

 

2. Check her tech and trend radar

For urgent concerns, it may be more efficient to communicate instantly through text or video calls. If your consultant isn’t proficient in those techy things, then it may be a significant barrier to communication. 

Also, it would be great if your consultant is updated with the latest studies on all things breastfeeding and breast milk. It’s good to have someone open to learning and discerning new procedures and solutions. If your consultant is abreast with both tech and science trends, then you’ve got yourself a keeper!  

 

3. Communicate your breastfeeding goals 

Be transparent on what you want to get out of your consultations. Tell your consultant about your breastfeeding goals (Do you want to do it consistently beyond six months?) and ask for her insights on possible successes and roadblocks. 

 

Lactation specialist listening to a breastfeeding mom’s challenges

 

4. Disclose everything, even the seemingly small details 

Breast milk production is a complex process. Your stress levels, diet, and even your mental and emotional well-being can affect your milk supply and overall health. 

Breast milk production is a complex process. Your stress levels, diet, and even your mental and emotional well-being can affect your milk supply and overall health. Click To Tweet

 

Whether you’re taking new supplements or medication, trying out galactagogues or galactagogue lattes, or having a rough time in your postpartum recovery, tell them to your consultant so they can have a better understanding of your condition. Your openness will also put them in a much better position to help you out.

 

RELATED: Postpartum Recovery & How to Not Sabotage Your Healing

 

5. Feel the shyness, but do it anyway

I also consulted lactation consultants when I was pregnant, and at first, I was shy to divulge “yucky” details and show my boobies (and have them touched, too!). You’re really pushed to be in a vulnerable position in this relationship, so understandably, you may feel uncomfortable at first. 

But as a lactation consultant myself, I can assure you that we’re comfortable discussing all these concerns. No matter the smell, shape, or form, it will never be too taboo to bring up and discuss. You can expect your boobies to be inspected and squeezed in some cases, too. This can be part of the process of evaluating or providing solutions to your breastfeeding woes. 

Trust in your lactation consultant, stay comfortable in your body, and let her do her magic. 

 

Does health insurance cover lactation services? 

Most health insurance plans cover lactation services and supplies, either fully or partially. Thanks to The Affordable Care Act of 2010, non-grandfathered health insurance plans are required to cover breastfeeding counseling, support, and equipment throughout the nursing period. You should, however, clarify with your insurance company the specific inclusions of your account.

While some insurance plans save you from any out-of-your-pocket transactions, some may ask you to pay first and then reimburse later. Also, some insurance providers may require you to submit a pre-authorization letter from your doctor to legitimize the need for a lactation consultant. So check with them if it’s necessary to get a referral. 

If your insurance plan includes your delivery and hospital stay, then it should also cover lactation services while you’re there. If the consultant is your baby’s doctor or works with your doctor, then their services may be covered by your provider.

Lastly, do note that lactation consultants in private practice may or may not accept insurance or might not be covered by your insurance plan. 

 

Is a lactation consultant worth it? 

Lactation consultants are definitely worth it! Having a lactation consultant will be a great addition to your support system. Preparing for the journey of breastfeeding isn’t a walk in the park, so it’s great to have someone to professionally guide you through the process.  There may also be instances of breastfeeding issues coming in as a surprise, and it helps to have someone identify the causes of such issues and address them properly. Ultimately, lactation consultants can take the panic, worry, and guesswork out of your breastfeeding woes.  So are you ready to work with a lactation consultant? Start your research now or ask other breastfeeding moms for consultants or lactation education resources they recommend!   _________________________________ This mom-powering piece is curated by multiple contributors: Lian Delos Reyes, founder & CEO of Milksta, and research & content specialists Nicole Saldaña and Rose Jane dela Cruz.

Is a lactation consultant worth it? 

Lactation consultants are definitely worth it! Having a lactation consultant will be a great addition to your support system. Preparing for the journey of breastfeeding isn’t a walk in the park, so it’s great to have someone to professionally guide you through the process. 

There may also be instances of breastfeeding issues coming in as a surprise, and it helps to have someone identify the causes of such issues and address them properly. Ultimately, lactation consultants can take the panic, worry, and guesswork out of your breastfeeding woes. 

So are you ready to work with a lactation consultant? Start your research now or ask other breastfeeding moms for consultants or lactation education resources they recommend!

 

_________________________________

This mom-powering piece is curated by multiple contributors: Lian Delos Reyes, founder & CEO of Milksta, and research & content specialists Nicole Saldaña and Rose Jane dela Cruz.

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