Breastfeeding did not come easy for me with my son. It was a constant struggle and gave me an immense amount of guilt before I accepted my low supply and decided to continue doing my best despite the problems. I could not get my baby to latch – he simply would refuse to even try. He was more than happy to take a bottle, but the moment I brought him to my chest, the screaming would commence. If it wasn’t for the help I received from a lactation consultant, I’m sure I would have given up.
What is a lactation consultant?
A lactation consultant is a trained professional who specializes in the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child. This certified health specialist provides support for breastfeeding-related issues such as difficulty latching, low supply, and helps women who wish to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
My experience with lactation consultants
While still in the hospital, I had a lactation nurse visit me in the postpartum room and show me how to pump. Unfortunately, not a thing came out, so I was unable to give my baby any colostrum and we couldn’t get him to latch. Because he had low blood sugar, we kept giving him a little bit of formula at each feeding. After I returned home, it still took several more days for actual milk to come in, and I was yet to be successful in breastfeeding my child.
After our visit to the pediatrician, the doctor suggested we call a lactation consultant for a home visit. While not directly covered by insurance (if I had a health savings plan I could submit for reimbursement later), it was absolutely worth it. The consultant who came to my house got to see how my baby and I interacted before a feeding and was able to help us work on positioning. She had me start pumping to let down the milk and then try to latch the baby, which was a brilliant idea. When the milk was already flowing, suddenly he was more interested. She also helped me use a nipple shield because we still could not get him to latch directly.
During my maternity leave, I attended a weekly breastfeeding support group at our hospital where I was able to receive similar support. We asked questions and explained the problems we were having, and a lactation nurse worked with new moms and their babies. I liked that we were able to weigh the baby before and after feeding to get an idea of how much milk was consumed. These meetings were vital to us for both mom sanity and for the practical advice given. I terribly missed the support group when I returned to work.
If you don’t have access to a local lactation consultant
I highly recommend scheduling visits with a lactation consultant in the early stages of motherhood. But if one is not available in your area, or you cannot see a specialist in person for whatever reason, there are internet consultants available. For example, Lactation Link is run by lactation consultants who have created online courses covering the most common breastfeeding concerns new mothers have. These video courses are the next best thing to having the consultant sitting beside you, teaching you the different nursing positions, and talking through some common troubles. The best thing about the courses is you can watch them again and again.
Check out these wonderful video courses:
This one from Lactation Link:
And also this amazing Breastfeeding Course from Milkology: