Breastfeeding is the foundation of a baby’s health. And also it is a very delicate process, annoying mistakes in the establishment of which can bring a lot of troubles to both mothers and newborn babies. This problem, like no other, makes a woman who has recently become a mother worry. Most mothers want to give their babies the most natural and the most optimal nutrition which is mother’s milk. But not everyone knows how to breastfeed. And then a lactation consultant comes to the rescue.
Who Is Lactation Consultant?
A lactation consultant is a specialist who works in close cooperation with general practitioners, gynecologists, pediatricians, and mammologists. The difference of a lactation consultant is that the consultant deals with two components of an inseparable pair – the mother and the child – at the same time.
A lactation consultant is usually a woman who herself has the experience of successful breastfeeding. She undergoes a special training and receives a certificate. Should a consultant have a medical education? No, this is not mandatory. A lactation consultant does not diagnose, does not prescribe treatment, and does not cancel the treatment prescribed by the doctor. Consulting is the training of nursing and feeding, as a rule, of a healthy child. The lactation consultant only helps to get the process on the right track. Breastfeeding is not a disease. You don’t need a doctor for this process. But if the consultant sees that the mother needs help that goes beyond the lactation consultant’s competence, then the task is to send the mother to a doctor. Consultants are taught to define these boundaries. It is very important.
In many countries of the world, lactation consulting is a professional activity confirmed by the passing of exams and getting an international certificate. Such specialists work as the staff of maternity hospitals. But their duties include visiting women at home as well.
Who Can Become a Lactation Consultant?
Firstly, only a woman who has children can become a lactation consultant, since it is absolutely necessary to have a personal experience of motherhood in order to better understand the state of the mother who needs help.
Secondly, it should be a woman who necessarily breastfed a child for a year or more because consultants help not only to initiate breastfeeding of newborns but also solve the problems emerging throughout the period of breastfeeding – problems with the breast, the introduction of natural complementary foods, weaning, etc.
Third, to become a lactation consultant, you need to pass special training and practice. The training consists of a series of lectures based on the recommendations of the WHO (World Health Organization), the most modern research in the field of breastfeeding, the study of the work of major psychologists and psychiatrists in the field of perinatology, and the accumulated practical experience of consultants. But even after the training, the consultants do not stop their development.
This work requires a constant accumulation of experience, the study of new materials, and improvement in interaction with the mothers who applied for help. For this purpose, meetings are held on a regular basis, where the various situations and difficulties encountered by consultants are discussed. The aim of such meetings is to identify the most successful ways to solve particular problems. There are also trainings, seminars with the participation of doctors and colleagues from different parts of the world to exchange experiences.
How Can a Lactation Consultant Help?
As a rule, breastfeeding does not require high-tech medical care or any kind of doctor’s help.
The problems of modern mothers today lie more in the fact that they have very little experience of breastfeeding – both their own personal and the experience of their closest relatives: mothers, sisters, and friends. The process of breastfeeding is overgrown with myths, and the young mother is lost in a multitude of tips that fall on her after giving birth. Often, lactation consultants for nursing mothers act simply as sources of information and confidence in their abilities.
But of course, there are situations when you need deep knowledge of the subject and certain physical skills.
In What Cases Can a Lactation Consultant Help?
- A lactation consultant helps to put the baby to the breast. The consultant will help you find the most comfortable position for you and the baby.
- Get relief from a full breast (usually happens 3-5 days after delivery).
- If you feel pain while breastfeeding. Or if you have cracked nipples or any other breast injuries.
- If you have stagnant milk or mastitis – inflammation of the breast. In such cases, a lactation consultant will help to find the best way to treat the problem while preserving the opportunity to feed the baby.
- In the case of a lack of milk or a bad weight gain of the baby, a lactation consultant suggests strategies to increase milk production and also checks how effectively the child sucks the breast.
- If a mother and/or a baby have any health problems the consultant provides information on methods and medications compatible with breastfeeding.
- With any questions regarding each stage of breastfeeding: the introduction of complementary foods, weaning, the mother’s desire to come back to work, etc.
- If a mother has a desire to breastfeed a foster child or a child born by a surrogate mother the consultant can help stimulate lactation.
What Can a Lactation Consultant Do for a Nursing Mother in Particular?
The consultant considers the entire process of breastfeeding, its compliance with the needs and characteristics of a particular child. After all, every baby is unique and there cannot be single “norms” in which all children should fit in the frequency of feeding, the duration of sucking, weight gain, etc. The consultant sees the situation from the side. That’s why a lactation consultant can notice some things that are not obvious to the mother herself.
The consultant always looks at how correctly the child grasps the breast and how effectively sucks the milk. Especially if the problem is related to the soreness or cracks of the nipples, or insufficient weight gain of the baby. Mom learns to put the baby to the breast so that the baby sucks effectively and does not give the mother unpleasant sensations.
If the consultation is related to lactostasis the main task of a lactation consultant is to check the nature of the seals in the breast and show the mother which positions are best for breastfeeding her child. Together with the consultant, the mother develops a feeding strategy that will reduce the risk of re-occurrence of stagnation.
If the consultation is related to possible lack of milk or the transition from mixed breastfeeding to exclusive breastfeeding the lactation consultant will again assess the quality of the baby’s attachment to the breast, see how milk is released, discuss with the mom all the ways to increase lactation, and offer an individual scheme for refusal of supplementary feeding.
Along with the main reason for the visit, moms usually ask lactation consultants dozens of questions on related topics, child health, and childcare. In most cases, a mother often manages to resolve a lot of her doubts and get useful information.
Lactation Consultants Will Help in the Following Cases:
- With milk stagnation (lactostasis);
- Teach proper attachment to the breast;
- Pick up comfortable postures for feeding;
- Give some tips on the diet and nutrition of a nursing mother;
- Increase lactation if the woman really does not have enough milk;
- With a trauma of the nipple;
- Cope with the soreness of the nipples;
- Transfer the child from formula feeding to breastfeeding;
- To organize breastfeeding when mother leaves for work;
- When and how to introduce complementary foods;
- To complete breastfeeding in natural terms.
How Does It Work?
Not always a breastfeeding mother, facing some difficulties, needs a full-time consultation. A large number of women receive competent advice from specialists, calling on hot lines of organizations, and successfully improve breastfeeding. However, not all questions can be solved by phone. In more complex cases, you can be offered advice at home. Such consultations, unlike the hotline, are paid but they are the most effective. If something in your breastfeeding bothers you and you cannot get the process going or the situation worsens it’s better not to delay the call (if there are consultants in your city).
After the visit, the communication between the mom and the consultant takes place over the phone. Except for rare cases when control over proper attachment to the breast is required. If something does not work out and new questions arise a mother can call the lactation consultant and ask for help.
The Mother’s Role
It is important to understand: in order to correct any mistake in the organization of breastfeeding, it is often necessary to retrain both the mother and her child. This takes time. As a rule, a stable change in the habits of the child comes not earlier than in 2 weeks (with the insistence and patience of the mother). Therefore, consultation is often only the first step to changing the situation. And, of course, no one can pass this way instead of the mother. So, the success of breastfeeding is entirely in her hands.
A lactation consultant is always very eager to help nursing mothers. But the main work is done by the mother herself. A consultant can only give information about what needs to be done to help. All the rest depends only on the mother. The mother has to make changes in caring for the baby and in the organization of breastfeeding. Lactation consultants provide psychological, practical, and informational support. But they do not have a magic pill that would solve all the problems.