Learn more about lactation consultants

As natural as breastfeeding may be, it is also something both mother and baby need to learn. When nursing is a challenge, hungry babies and tired moms need somewhere to turn for encouragement, education, assistance, and support. It’s time to bring in a lactation consultant.

But what is a lactation consultant?

What Is a Lactation Consultant?

A lactation consultant is a trained professional who specializes in breastfeeding. They earn certification through the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. They can answer your questions, teach you new techniques, encourage you when you’re having a tough time, and help you tackle all of your breastfeeding issues.

Your lactation consultant will work in conjunction with your health care team.

The best part? They can start helping you before challenges even arise.

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Meeting Your Lactation Consultant

Lactation consultants are professionals who work side-by-side with your postpartum care nurses in recovery. Your lactation consultant will listen, watch, inform, and reassure you on your breastfeeding journey.

Many new moms meet their lactation consultant right after labor and delivery. Your doctor, however, can help you find a lactation specialist before your baby even arrives.

Reach out to our supportive caregivers at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital to connect with a lactation professional.

When meeting with your lactation consultant, expect them to:

  • Examine your breasts and nipples.
  • Examine your baby and your baby’s health.
  • Watch you breastfeed your baby to assist with positioning.
  • Help you understand when your baby is latched and feeding properly.
  • Put their finger in your baby’s mouth to judge their suck strength and mouth structure.
  • Give you resources for local support groups for nursing mothers.
  • Show you how to pump your breasts after feeding to understand your body’s milk production amount.

Plan for Possibilities: Creating Your Lactation Plan

Before birth, a lactation consultant can help you develop your breastfeeding plan.

This plan outlines your intentions for feeding your newborn. It includes your flexible expectations and lists breastfeeding support phone numbers.

Labor can be both exhausting and exhilarating. Having a plan ensures your care team can best support your intentions.

For first time mothers, breastfeeding can seem overwhelming. A lactation consultant takes the mystery out of the learning process. The result is often a boost in confidence and a smoother transition home with your baby.

The lactation plan might include to-do ideas, such as:

  • Identifying your nutritional risks or deficiencies.
  • Creating a meal plan to best balance your nutrition for breastfeeding.
  • Identifying supplements to bolster your nutritional needs.
  • Scheduling follow-up appointments to monitor your progress.

Reach out to our supportive caregivers at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital to connect with lactation professionals.

Call for Help: When to Call Your Lactation Consultant

Envision the day after your baby’s arrival. If that thought makes you panic, a breastfeeding consultant is only a phone call away.

How do you know when to contact a lactation consultant? Start with a self-check. Some key concerns include:

  • Breast pain and/or tenderness.
  • Damaged or sore nipples.
  • Low milk supply.
  • Ineffective latching.
  • Inadequate infant weight gain.
  • Infant fussy at the breast.

Breastfeeding consultants also can assist with special conditions, such nursing with inverted nipples, feeding premature babies, nursing after breast surgery, or needing to re-initiate lactation.

What Will I Learn from a Lactation Consultant?

It’s important to deal with breastfeeding obstacles quickly – both for your needs and the nutritional needs of your baby.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 81% of babies start out being breastfed, but only 22% are still exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age.

The key to successful nursing is the support a nursing mom receives.

A lactation consultant can support you by teaching you how to:

  • Create a feeding schedule.
  • Find the best positioning for feeding your baby.
  • Recognize when your baby is hungry.
  • Properly check if your baby is gaining weight.
  • Increase or maintain your milk production and supply.
  • Use a breast pump.
  • Ensure your baby is latching properly.
  • Treat nipple soreness and breast engorgement.
  • Sustain breastfeeding as your baby grows.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health documented that access to a lactation consultant increases long-term breastfeeding success.

Having a knowledgeable, supportive advocate can make all the difference.

How to Become a Lactation Consultant?

Nurses, midwives, doulas, and other physicians have training in breastfeeding and can offer advice and counsel before and after your baby is born. A lactation consultant, however, is certified from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). This designation means that your lactation consultant has completed several requirements to achieve the certification, including:

  • Loggin 1,000 hours of lactation-specific clinical experience.
  • Passing a demanding exam.
  • Knowing education specific to breast anatomy, breastfeeding, and how to develop good milk nutrition.
  • Continuing education and training every year.
  • Testing for recertification every five years.

A lactation consultant may have IBCLC or RLC after their name to show their certification standing. The IBLCE has nearly 36,000 certified nurses in 131 countries around the world. The IBLCE has been educating and certifying nurses and practitioners since 1985, and their mission of advancing the professional practice in lactation through support and credentialing continues today.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.