If you’re caring for your newborn, you probably have questions and concerns about breastfeeding. Often, a new mom will assume breastfeeding will come naturally to them and their baby. But many times, it doesn’t happen that way, and it’s more challenging than you might expect.
Fortunately, lactation consultants are ready to help. They’re a valuable resource for moms-to-be and those with newborns.
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. Read on to learn when to call a lactation consultant and how to work with one.
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What Does a Lactation Consultant Do?
Lactation consultants are important members of your prenatal and postnatal healthcare team. They’re board-certified, trained nurses, dietitians, doctors, or feeding professionals who teach new moms how to breastfeed.
Lactation consultants can assess, diagnose, and treat many breastfeeding issues. They also help you troubleshoot when you or your newborn have feeding challenges or need 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 who aren’t gaining weight appropriately.
- Breastfeeding options for mothers who have had breast surgery.
- Breastfeeding once 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. Often, lactation consultants run breastfeeding classes as part of a prenatal education program. They can help set you up for breastfeeding success by:
- Explaining the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby.
- Helping you prepare for breastfeeding by discussing how it works and what to expect.
- Providing advice if you had problems breastfeeding your last baby.
- Helping you get a good start on milk production by eating the proper diet.
- Providing 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 moms-to-be, 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 a bedside consultation in the hospital after you deliver. That’s a convenient time to meet with someone to ask any questions. They can also make sure your baby is latching on correctly and review options for comfortable nursing positions.
And if you don’t have the opportunity to call a lactation consultant until you and your baby get home — that’s OK too. If you find yourself 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 properly.
- Your baby is feeding less than 8 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.
- If possible, try to schedule your appointment for a time when you usually feed your baby or pump. That way, they can see how your baby latches to your breast or how much milk you produce.
- If you are meeting at your lactation consultant’s office, ask if you should bring anything, like your pump or a nursing pillow.
- Minimize distractions by having a babysitter watch siblings, containing pets, and putting your phone on do-not-disturb.
When you’re a new mom, connecting with a lactation consultant can help you become a breastfeeding champion. As long as 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.
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.