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.
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?
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:
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.
Lactation consultants provide lactation education and breastfeeding support to families. More specifically, they can help you understand and address concerns like:
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:
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.
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 will depend on which stage of pregnancy or puerperium you are in. If you’re still preggy, the consultant will:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!