Breastfeeding your newborn seems like the easiest, most natural thing in life. But there is a learning curve for both you and your baby. And sometimes, in the beginning, breastfeeding doesn’t go as smoothly as planned.
Fortunately, new moms can get help and support from a lactation consultant. They are health professionals who specialize in breastfeeding. You might wonder:
- What does a lactation consultant do?
- How do I find a lactation consultant near me?
This article describes what lactation consultants do and how you can talk to your doctor about finding one.
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What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?
A lactation consultant is a member of your health care team who has special training in all aspects of breastfeeding. They can help before your baby is born and throughout your breastfeeding journey. Lactation consultants work at hospitals, with doctors, nurses, and midwives, or in independent practices.
A lactation consultant’s job is to help new moms and their babies overcome breastfeeding challenges. Doing so can make breastfeeding successful and more enjoyable for both you and your baby. And that often means you’ll be able to breastfeed your baby for longer.
As experts in breastfeeding, they:
- Teach prenatal breastfeeding classes.
- Assist with breastfeeding aids and accessories like breast pumps and nursing bras.
- Provide bedside consults to new moms while in the hospital.
- Provide telephone, online, or in-person support for breastfeeding questions or problems at home.
- Teach doctors and nurses about research, benefits, and tips for breastfeeding.
When to Consider a Lactation Consultant
A great time to meet with a lactation consultant is before your baby is born. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn more about breastfeeding, especially if you’ve never done it before. But even experienced moms may find it helpful to review the basics and learn new troubleshooting techniques.
Meeting with a lactation consultant before you deliver allows you to ask questions and prepare for your breastfeeding journey. And it’s often a less busy and stressful time than when you’re at home with a newborn. You should consider meeting with a lactation consultant if you:
- Had difficulty breastfeeding in the past.
- Are considering pumping exclusively.
- Are expecting multiples.
- Have flat or inverted nipples that might affect your baby’s ability to latch.
Lactation consultants also are available after your baby is born. You can meet with one while you’re in the hospital. They’re also available to help you with any challenges that might arise once you get home.
Some common issues they help with include:
- Latching problems.
- Concerns about milk supply or low weight gain in your baby.
- Nursing multiples, or a premature baby.
- Sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, or mastitis — an infection in your breast.
- Pumping and returning to work.
No matter what breastfeeding concerns you have, lactation consultants help make things as easy as possible for you and your baby.
How to Locate a Lactation Consultant
To locate a nearby lactation consultant, ask your obstetrician or pediatrician or contact the Lactation Center of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. Many lactation consultants work closely with hospitals and doctors’ offices. Check with friends or relatives to see if they have recommendations.
It’s not necessary to meet with a lactation consultant in person — you can do it virtually. Working with someone near you offers the opportunity to attend classes or use other in-person services.
The following organizations are good resources for accessing lactation consultants near you:
- Lactation Center of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
- International Lactation Consultant Association®.
- La Leche League.
- Local WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program.
Breastfeeding is a very personal experience, so it’s vital to find a consultant that you’re comfortable with and connect with. When speaking to consultants, ask if they accept your health insurance. Some insurance companies cover lactation consultant services.
Having a baby is full of many new experiences, and breastfeeding is one of them. A lactation consultant can support you in this important part of being a new mom. Try to do your research and homework to find one early so that you can enjoy the journey.
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.