Lactation Consultants - understanding what they do and when to see one
What do you know about a Lactation Consultant?
I thought I’d share a little of my breastfeeding journey. It actually started after I became a Dietitian and began working in Albania and Somalia with the World Health Organisation and the Red Cross. I managed programs for women and children to help them reach their full nutrition and health potential in quite challenging environments and situations. Trying to change breastfeeding behaviours and infant feeding practices so that little children would not become vulnerable to diseases that would give them diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malnutrition or many other infections that we then had to treat them for.
There are many “old wives tales” in many of our societies and with the pressure of peers on women who are only trying to do the best for their child, it can be easy to succumb to these “tales”. I was often discouraged on why the breastfeeding rates were so low in these countries – especially when breastfeeding is free and natural, without being exposed to unhygienic bottles, teats and making up incorrect concentrations of expensive formula. What was so difficult about breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and continuing to breastfeed until 2 years?
All these years I had been telling women to “just breastfeed”…women fleeing from conflict, in deep poverty, with little education or breastfeeding support, with ill-equipped medical professionals who wouldn’t know if a child had a tongue-tie or wasn’t latching on correctly, dehydrated, malnourished women who had walked 200km with their sick child….”just breastfeed”!
I then had my own child….!!
I quickly understood that maybe it wasn’t as easy as I thought for such a natural process! I was fortunate that I was in a non-stressful, medically supported environment with family to help me. However, with a very delayed onset of milk to breastfeed in the first week, possibly due to an infection, a newborn under UV lights for jaundice getting more dehydrated by the day, and proceeding months of low milk supply, seemingly like 24/7 of continual expressing (maximum of 30ml!) and growth faltering – which in hindsight may have been due to a tongue-tie, I did not feel breastfeeding was so “natural”. I struggled with the guilt of needing to use formula top-ups after breastfeeding, but with little lactation/midwife support, I see now that I was trapped in the vicious cycle of top-ups and low milk supply that a Lactation Consultant could have helped me with.
There are many mothers out there with painful breastfeeding stories – bleeding, sore nipples, mastitis, difficulties in suckling/latching and many other stories where the support they needed to feel empowered in their breastfeeding journey just wasn’t there or wasn’t to the level it should have been.
So what is a Lactation Consultant, what should you see them for and what is the difference between them and a Breastfeeding Counsellor?
- are health professionals (such as Dietitians, Midwives, Nurses, OT’s, Physiotherapists, Dentists, Doctors, Speech therapist)
- hold an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) qualification after passing an international exam and obtaining 1000 clinical hours working with breastfeeding mothers and their infants
- advise on breastfeeding problems, latching difficulties, identifying tongue ties, painful nursing, low milk production, growth faltering in infants, familiarise mothers-to-be on the new world of breastfeeding so that they can feel more at ease when their child arrives
While Breastfeeding Counsellors are trained volunteers who offer breastfeeding information and mother-to-mother support. They are not medically trained nor can they give medical advice. Their area of expertise is breastfeeding support.
I have not ended my breastfeeding journey. It has spurred me on to begin my journey in becoming a Lactation Consultant. I have begun my training and believe that with the knowledge and expertise I have as a Dietitian, consulting as a Lactation Consultant will be a perfect compliment for mothers and infants. Through breastfeeding support and nutrition skills, I can help you every step of the way. Together we can help you and your child reach optimal health.
Message me to arrange a time to Skype or for me to visit you in the comfort of your home and we can help to make your journey smooth 😊
* Photo courtesy of www.ilca.org