There are amazing lactation consultants and counselors.
I will start this by saying the above, because there really are and I believe they are found in every community.
There are many lactation experts and even consultants that are giving mothers bad breastfeeding advice and jeopardizing their success in breastfeeding.
And now, this is what this post is about.
It seems like every single week there’s at least one story I hear from a mother about what a lactation consultant told her at a hospital (either before she left the hospital after giving birth or after during a consultation with the hospital lactation consultant). And the mother often doesn’t realize it, but it was bad breastfeeding advice. The kind that sets the mother off to a course of pretty much ruining her chances of successfully breastfeeding her baby.
Mothers have recounted to me what their lactation consultant told them.
You might as well supplement or you’ll be feeding your baby what feels like 24 hours a day.
You should just give it up because you simply don’t have milk.
Your baby is starving and should be supplemented (this one was before the baby was even 5 days old).
Your milk doesn’t have enough calories to grow your baby.
And there’s been more. Each time it saddens me and at the same time (even more so) angers me for this mother. It’s extremely unfair and just simply not right towards the mother and her wish to breastfeed her baby. And more than once I’ve had to correct and guide the mother from the bad advice that now has led her to be either in feeling defeated, in pain, have low milk supply, and/or on supplementation that she wishes to be able to drop so she can nurse her baby exclusively. And when more lactation resource is needed, I have those amazing lactation consultants to refer to.
Here’s the truth. Not every lactation consultant/specialist/counselor is good at what she does.
And yes I even mean all from IBCLCs to Certified Lactation Educators to Certified Lactation Educators/Counselors to Lactation Specialist. They are simply not all equal when it comes to the resource they can be for lactating mothers. Some are better than others. Just like some M.D.s are also much better at what they do, at connecting with their patients, at providing evidence-based information and support to their patients.
Here’s another truth. You can find excellent lactation consultants/specialists/counselors in your community.
But you have to know how.
Take a Breastfeeding Class before your baby is born.
Know what to do, what to expect, how a newborn nurses (yes they nurse what feels like 24 hours a day…that’s good!), what a good latch should look like (VERY important), how to know your baby is getting enough (no, your pump is not the best indicator and the pre/post weight check is just part of the equation not the only way…your baby’s growth is best way to know) and where to receive support after the birth. Be educated because it’s not going to be as easy as you think. Learn, learn, learn.
Know what makes an excellent lactation consultant/specialist/counselor
She spends time with you. Listens to you. Asks you questions. Learns your breastfeeding goals. Offers solutions that get you to your goal and she provides a plan on how to make it happen.
She comes highly recommend. Successfully breastfeeding mothers recommend her and speak highly of her. La Leche League Leaders know her and recommend her when she’s needed. Midwives recommend her and so do doulas. Should your doctor also recommend her, please also check that she’s highly recommended via other sources as well. Ask around, at the very least call your local La Leche League leader for a recommendation.
It’s important to be your own proponent – learn and go into breastfeeding already having knowledge of what is needed for successful breastfeeding. Have resources ready to go for those first few days. And most importantly choose wisely when seeking support. There are amazing lactation resources in your community. Know how to find them. And most importantly know when to keep on looking for that amazing lactation support.