Lactation consultants: what they do and how they can help

Breastfeeding is beneficial for moms and babies, but you still might need some help to breastfeed successfully and to work through challenges along the way. Whether you want to prepare to breastfeed while you’re pregnant or you need some help with breastfeeding once your baby is born, a lactation consultant is a great person to turn to. We’re here to tell you just how they can help and how you can find one. 

What do lactation consultants do?

Lactation consultants are breastfeeding experts who can support you as you learn how to breastfeed your baby — even before your child is born — and then as you work through any challenges while breastfeeding once your little one arrives. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are certified maternal-child health professionals — many of whom are nurses — who have specialized knowledge about breastfeeding and the health of moms and babies. They are required to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and to recertify every five years. Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) are also certified lactation professionals, though because there is less training involved they are not able to help with complex medical situations. 

Many lactation consultants teach breastfeeding education classes to help you prepare for breastfeeding even before your child is born. And you might meet a lactation consultant in the hospital or birthing center where you deliver your baby, where they work with families to establish good breastfeeding habits early — like showing new parents how to hold their little one and how to make sure that the baby is getting a good latch. They can also meet with you to work through challenges, from latch problems, to breast pain and discomfort, milk production or weight gain challenges, or breastfeeding multiples, preemies, or babies with other medical situations. Lactation consultants are available to help you later on too, when you’re transitioning back to work, learning to pump and store milk, or starting to wean your child. They’re there to answer any questions you have, to listen to your frustrations, and to be someone you can lean on.

Lactation consultants support and promote breastfeeding and pumping as a great way to feed your baby, but they’re also there to listen to your unique goals for breastfeeding and to support you to reach goals that include combination feeding and formula. 

What can you expect when meeting with a lactation consultant?

If you meet with a lactation consultant after your baby is born, you can expect them to observe you feeding your baby. They’ll look to see if your baby is properly latching on to your breast, sucking, swallowing, and breathing. Your lactation consultant may also examine your breasts and nipples, readjust your baby, or correct any issues that they notice to help both you and your baby to breastfeed with more ease and comfort. They’ll be available to answer any questions you have, and may be able to recommend breastfeeding support groups. 

Where can you find a lactation consultant? 

Many lactation consultants work at hospitals, doctors’ and healthcare providers’ offices, birth centers, and community health centers. Chances are if you ask your healthcare provider, your child’s healthcare provider, or the healthcare facility where you delivered your child (if you’ve already given birth), they can put you in touch with a lactation consultant. You can also find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) through their website. Like any healthcare provider, this is a personal relationship that you should feel comfortable with. It is okay to meet with more than one person to find the right fit for your family. If you think a lactation consultant would help you reach your breastfeeding goals, reach out for support!

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team

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  • “Find a lactation consultant directory.” International Lactation Consultant Association. International Lactation Consultant Association. Retrieved July 16 2020.
  • “Your guide to breastfeeding.” Office on Women’s Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved July 16 2020.

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