Breastfeeding support at the hospital

Many hospitals offer inpatient lactation support for women who have just given birth. Lactation specialists, maternity nurses, and breastfeeding resource nurses are just a few of the different kinds of healthcare professionals that may be on hand in your hospital. Each one is highly qualified and prepared to answer any lactation-related questions you may have once Baby arrives.

What happens in the hospital?

Breastfeeding might come naturally to you and Baby, but for many women, it takes some practice and some getting used to. Lactation consultants can help women with the common (and not-so-common) challenges that may accompany breastfeeding.

During your hospital stay, a lactation consultant or maternity nurse will likely visit you in your room to answer any questions or concerns that you have, and to show you how to breastfeed Baby and assist you if you need help. If you’re a first-time mom, you’ll likely receive more regular visits and more breastfeeding support during your hospital stay.

When you’re establishing breastfeeding in the hospital, it’s important to get started in the first hour after delivery, if possible, and to continue breastfeeding every two to three hours, which should give plenty of chances to check in with a maternity nurse or lactation consultant to make sure your little one is latching on well. A nurse or lactation consultant will probably also talk you through making sure you’re producing as much milk as possible, and the way nursing more often encourages milk supply. Since newborns tend to mostly feed at night, and prolactin, the hormone that produces milk in the body, is highest between midnight and 6 a.m., it can be helpful to plan to have a partner, relative, or friend plan to stay the night at the hospital as well, to help soothe the baby between feedings so you can get some sleep.

Why a lactation consultant is so helpful

Lactation consultants are professionals trained to help with breastfeeding, and they may receive much more training about nursing and breastfeeding than pediatricians. There are different types of lactation consultants who receive different types and levels of training, so it can be helpful to look into what kinds of lactation consultants are associated with the hospital you’ve chosen for delivery. Lactation consultants can help with issues like these:

  • Prenatal breastfeeding counseling
  • Education on proper positioning, latching technique, milk expression, milk storage, and more
  • Advice on how to prevent potential issues, like nipple pain or engorgement
  • Strategies for breastfeeding and lactation after returning to work
  • Education on how to navigate special circumstances, like premature birth or multiples
  • Family education and counseling
  • Support managing worries or expectations about breastfeeding

How to learn more about your options

Lactation support services do vary by hospital. For this reason, it’s a good idea to talk to your provider about what your options will be when the big day arrives. Consider researching the lactation support at your hospital, because there’s likely a good deal of information about breastfeeding support services on the maternity page of the hospital’s website.

Once you leave the hospital, you’ll still be able to receive lactation support services. These may be phone support from a hospital lactation consultant, an outpatient program through the hospital, or through independent, locally licensed lactation consultants or breastfeeding support groups. Lactation consultant visits by a licensed IBCLC, or International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, even home visits, are covered by the Affordable Care Act, although different insurance companies may require that you only work with specific, approved consultants, or may have other conditions before lactation consultants are covered, so it can be helpful to check in with your insurance company about their terms ahead of time.

Your insurance company will be able to tell you more about how to get reimbursed. You can find a local lactation consultant through the International Lactation Consultant Association’s website (here).

If you have specific questions that you want to ask a lactation consultant, it might be worth bookmarking Medela’s Ask the Lactation Consultant’s website, located here, where you can e-mail a lactation consultant directly. Local breastfeeding support groups can also be great resources. Your hospital’s lactation consultant may be able to point you in the direction of local groups or other resources.

  • “Breast-feeding.” MayoClinicHealthSystem. Mayo Clinic Health System, 2016. Web. 
  • “Breastfeeding Support.” StanfordChildrens. Stanford Children’s Health, 2017. Web.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 129(3). Web. Mar 2012.
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