What is birth trauma?

If you’re preparing for a newborn, you’ve probably thought about breastfeeding. And though reading up and taking breastfeeding classes are great, reality often leaves even the best-prepared new parents with questions.

An expecting parent may assume that breastfeeding will come naturally to them and their baby. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes, breastfeeding is more challenging than expected.

Fortunately, lactation consultants are ready to help. They’re a valuable resource for new and expecting parents.

Working with a lactation consultant before you give birth can help you successfully initiate breastfeeding. You’re also more likely to breastfeed your baby exclusively, which has health benefits for your newborn. Learn when to call a lactation consultant and how to work with one.

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?

Lactation consultants are vital members of your prenatal and postnatal healthcare team. They’re board-certified and trained professionals who teach new parents how to breastfeed. They are often nurses, dietitians, doctors, or feeding professionals.

Lactation consultants can assess, diagnose, and treat many breastfeeding issues. They can also help you troubleshoot feeding challenges and offer help with:

  • Flat or inverted nipples, sore nipples, or pain while nursing.
  • Problems finding the correct nursing position, especially after a C-section.
  • Newborns who have problems latching on or falling asleep while feeding.
  • Concerns about your milk supply and your baby’s feeding schedule.
  • Breastfeeding twins, premature infants, or babies not gaining weight appropriately.
  • Breastfeeding options for mothers who have had breast surgery.
  • Breastfeeding after you return to work.
  • Weaning off breastfeeding and transitioning to formula or solid foods.

When to Call a Lactation Consultant

The best time to call and connect with a lactation consultant is before your baby is born. Lactation consultants often run breastfeeding classes as part of a prenatal education program. They can help set you up for breastfeeding success by:

  • Explain the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby.
  • Helping you prepare for breastfeeding by talking about how it works and what to expect.
  • Giving advice if you had trouble breastfeeding your last baby.
  • Helping you get a good start on milk production by eating the proper diet.
  • Giving information and resources for breast pumps and other supplies so you’re ready when your baby arrives.
  • Reviewing common feeding problems and solutions.
  • Providing emotional support and encouragement to prepare you for breastfeeding.

Still, for most expectant parents, the weeks before your baby arrives are busy. So, if you don’t have time to connect with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding class before birth, don’t worry. There are still plenty of ways a consultant can help set you and your baby on the right track.

Lactation consultants are often available for bedside consultations in the hospital. That’s a convenient time to ask any questions. They can also ensure your baby is latching on correctly and review options for comfortable nursing positions.

And if you can’t call a lactation consultant until you and your baby get home — that’s OK, too. If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or worried about breastfeeding, you can call anytime for help or support. You should call a lactation consultant if:

  • You’re having significant pain while feeding — a sign your baby isn’t removing milk effectively.
  • Your baby is premature — some preemies don’t have the strength and coordination to nurse correctly.
  • Your baby feeds less than eight times in 24 hours or more than 12 times in 24 hours.
  • After your baby’s fourth day, they have fewer wet diapers or stools than your pediatrician expects.
  • Your baby isn’t gaining weight as expected.
  • You’re struggling emotionally or feeling physically drained from breastfeeding.

Getting the Most Out of Your Visit

If you’re having any issues with breastfeeding, ask your pediatrician or hospital for a referral to a lactation consultant. They might do a phone or video appointment. Many lactation consultants will also come to your home.

There are a few things you can do in advance to prepare for your appointment:

  • Make a list of questions, issues, and goals you want to discuss at your appointment.
  • Schedule your appointment when you usually feed your baby or pump if possible. That way, they can see how your baby latches to your breast or how much milk you produce.
  • If you meet at your lactation consultant’s office, ask if you should bring anything, like your pump or a nursing pillow.
  • Minimize distractions in the home. Have a babysitter watch the baby’s siblings, contain your pets, and silence your phone.

Questions to Ask Your Lactation Consultant

When you visit with a lactation consultant, you may not know what to expect. You may not know how they can help.

Thinking about your questions before the appointment can help. These can include:

  • How do I start breastfeeding? What can I expect during the first few days?
  • When should my milk come in? Does this differ with baby No. 1 and subsequent children?
  • Is nipple pain and soreness normal? What can I do about it?
  • Is my baby getting enough milk? How can I tell?
  • How often should I feed my baby?
  • How do I know if I’m making enough milk?
  • Should I wake the baby to eat?
  • How can I increase or keep my milk supply stable?
  • How do I know if the latch is right? How can I improve the latch?
  • Do I need to sterilize bottles and pumping supplies?
  • When should I start pumping?
  • How do I store my breast milk?
  • How will I know if something isn’t right?
  • What are the signs of an infection?

When you’re a new parent, connecting with a lactation consultant can help you

get a better handle on breastfeeding.

If you’re breastfeeding or planning to do so, there’s never a wrong time to call a lactation consultant. It’s a part of pre- and postnatal care that you shouldn’t overlook.

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.