Nobody can get through a pregnancy these days without lots of helpful information being pressed on you about breastfeeding – brochures, books, magazines, midwives, your mother-in-law, random strangers… As always when it comes to your baby, take the advice that resonates and ignore the rest. However, the reality of breastfeeding, especially if you’re in a challenging situation (twins, prem bub, c-section or just finding it super difficult) can really be difficult, no matter how much advice you absorbed beforehand. Getting help ASAP can absolutely make the difference if this is you. Sweet Beats talks to many mums who’ve struck a breastfeeding challenge when they visit our site to hire a breast pump. Although a great breast pump can definitely be helpful if you’re experiencing a breastfeeding challenge, please also consider hiring a really great lactation consultant.
In the past, women relied on advice from friends and relatives, and we’d also just simply grown up seeing other women around us breastfeed. Without having the benefit of all that knowledge absorbed over a lifetime, it can be really hard. Even monkeys and primates who are raised in a zoo often don’t know how to breastfeed their babies, because they simply haven’t seen it. So if you’re having a problem, the last thing you should do is assign any blame to yourself. Just remember there is help – it’s just a matter of finding the right help.
Lactation consultants are care professionals who are generally passionate about breastfeeding and helping breastfeeding mums navigate their breastfeeding journey. They are trained – sometimes for years – in everything from positioning, common problems, etc to the scientific and medical knowledge behind how lactation works. Lactation consultants can do a range of things – check for tongue tie, help with special circumstances like cleft palate, premature babies or use supplemental nursing systems, give advice on boosting milk supply – as well as helping with the basics (which can honestly be very hard!) like positioning your baby and getting the right latch. Although breastfeeding can be easy for some, the first days can really be challenging to get baby onto the breast in the right latch. (I myself had to use every trick in the book to attach my 5th baby who has a heavy top lip overhang, after I’d had a c-section and spent many frustrating night-time hours with a crying bub trying to ‘get him on’ – if he had been my first baby it would have been very hard!). Being able to talk to a lactation consultant and get reassurance that you’re getting it right or work out what to tweak is priceless.
Who should use a lactation consultant?
If you’re expecting any kind of breastfeeding challenge, such as a premature or sick baby, multiples or anything else, take the time to line up a really great lactation consultant before your birth. This is going to get you straight off to a good start.
If you’ve had a breastfeeding issue in the past, or were unable to breastfeed a previous child as long as you had hoped to, then having the reassurance of a lactation consultant for the next baby is really helpful. It also shows that you’re a very determined mum. Remember that every baby is a different baby, and every breastfeeding relationship is difficult. There’s no reason to expect previous issues to strike again, especially if you have a lactation consultant on hand.
Even experienced breastfeeding mums should remember that lactation consultants are always available to give knowledgeable advice on a new issue that may unexpectedly crop up. Your GP frankly may not have the knowledge about breastfeeding to really help (over your years as a Mum you will inevitably hear some corkers from GPs about breastfeeding) so consult a breastfeeding professional with an important issue.
What services will a lactation consultant offer me—before and after birth?
Before birth, an LC can help prepare you and educate you about the process and what to expect. She can also help you address any specific issues that you might need to overcome, i.e. if you had a problem previously, or have a special situation like mutiples. She can also help identify any apprehensive feelings you may be having and provide support.
Once your baby arrives, your LC will help with feeding positions, finding a correct latch and nursing on demand. Right after your baby is born is probably when An LC is most helpful. Breastfeeding can be difficult the first few days, weeks, even months. and you may have serious questions or just need encouragement. An LC will answer those questions and reassure you that you’re doing great. They can also reassure you that some of the ‘unexpected’ (but totally normal!) newborn behaviours are in fact normal, like wanting to breastfeed constantly or be held all the time (yes this is normal!). Later on, your LC will be able to identify problems that you might need to get some medical help for, like thrush, mastitis, etc, as well as giving you great advice on some strategies to prevent these issues occurring.
Finding the right lactation consultant
If there’s anything you takeaway from this article – let this be it! When you’ve just given birth, have a tiny new newborn and are just learning how to be a mum to your amazing new baby, the last thing you need is anyone you are not 100% comfortable with invading your ‘sacred space’. This is REALLY IMPORTANT! If you feel like you might need a lactation consultant – or even if you don’t think you will – be prepared and ask around while you’re pregnant and have one on standby. Ask friends, get recommendations, speak to a few lactation consultants on the phone. Ask for referrals on parenting forums or Facebook. Don’t leave it to chance that the LC on call in your hospital is the right person for you to have grabbing your boobs after you give birth and need help. You need someone respectful, that you’re comfortable with and whose parenting philosophy is aligned with yours.
Remember, if you’re in an urgent breastfeeding situation right now, you can always contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association, or find a lactation consultant on the LCANZ directory. Also remember that breastfeeding is normal, that the hardest part is right at the start and it does get easier (promise!) and that you are doing a great job for your baby no matter what.