A Lactation Consultant? She comes after the baby? After I've checked in with the 12 Mom Groups on FB
3am panic text. Loading up the car on an icy day, or during vacation. All of the lovely lactation support people I know will give their all to help you meet your breastfeeding goals. We drop things to go when we can, and often when it's late, or inconvenient. Am I looking for a medal? Nah, just making drama points! But many times, breastfeeding moms wait until they're exhausted many other options, and things are desperate; online, friends, a cousin, their Pediatrician ( more on that in a minute ), and more online mommy group pleading, before calling in the very person who should have been involved BEFORE the baby... Your friendly International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Lots of information exists out there on the interwebs. And some is appropriate, especially trained volunteer groups like Breastfeeding USA, and La Leche League. But, this information is dizzying, in its sheer overwhelming massiveness. And much of it is tough to sort out if your nipples are bleeding and your baby isn't gaining weight.
But; imagine this... Your bundle of joy arrives....and many breastfeeding difficulties are avoided, yes, AVOIDED, because you know what to expect. You don't panic over clusterfeeding ( yes, you'll even know exactly what the heck that is! ), and over some weight loss in the hospital. You know what's normal and what's not...because you have an expert in your corner, ready to go. You've already have a plan, support, and preemptive education from your secret weapon!
A word about lactation support. Well, a few words. There is a maze of credentials out there. CLC, BC, CLEC, and a slew of others. Ok. Now what? Your Pedi office says they have a lactation "specialist". Or your Pediatrician or their nurse, has attended a week long, 35 hour class, and now says he or she is a Lactation Consultant. Hmm. Since the phrase "Lactation Consultant" isn't trademarked ( except in the great state of Rhode Island, where IBCLCS are licensed ), anyone can use it. Yes, your lawn care guy can tell you he's a lactation consultant. Creepy, I know, but again for the drama! So what, right? Who cares what someone's background is, they should be able to help, shouldn't they? Yeah, I wish. Lots of really good support exists for simple issues, and for breastfeeding that's going very well and needs some management tips. BUT... For education, care planning and problem solving, an IBCLC is the gold standard. It's OK to ask what someone's breastfeeding support experience is. Pediatricians get a couple of hours in Medical school on breastfeeding education. That's it. Your hairdresser has 1500 prep hours before they can cut your hair unsupervised, just saying. Your Pedi will be an expert at managing your babies health, but it's not inherent they'll be experts at feeding. IBCLCs have years of preparation, college courses designed specifically in lactation, and thousands of supervised clinical lactation support. That means someone had to sign off on my thousands of hours. Oh, yes, then pass a rigorous, hours-long proctored exam given by a third party independent company. And have to recertify every 5 years, and every ten years by exam. Whew, I'm tired just remembering! So while you're shopping for your registry with that funky wand-thingy at Babies R Us for the fourth boppy pillow ( kidding! You only need three! ), and for the multitude of stuff seemingly required for one tiny human, consider ahead of time, before problems arise and before delivery, where you'll get your lactation help and plan from. And make one. Have a prenatal consult. Even a prenatal breast discussion and exam. Take a breastfeeding class, look around, talk to friends. Check out the link at ILCA's "find a lactation consultant". Talk to your OB or Pediatrician and ask if they work with a feeding expert, and make that connection early and often. Many IBCLCS offer distance support if needed, and many will help you get your ACA-mandated care covered by your insurance company. Prepare for breastfeeding like you've prepared for the rest of your pregnancy. Have your shower attendees get you a gift certificate for a consult. Now there's something useful! And save the mommy group on Facebook for how to pick out a diaper genie. P. S. Do they still make those? Warmly, Lori