Becoming a new mother is one of the most memorable moments in a woman's life. After nine months of carrying your sweet baby, you finally get to meet them face-to-face and bond. Once the doctors clean your new little one off and cut the cord, it's time to feed.
The choice to formula feed or breastfeed is completely up to the mom. The beautiful thing about lactation consultants is they're not going to judge a mother for her choice in feeding her child. If a mother chooses to breastfeed, however, a lactation consultant could be the right move.
These health professionals are much more than someone who stops by your hospital room to make sure baby is feeding okay. They create an entire feeding plan and educate mom in the art of breastfeeding so she can feed her child with more knowledge and strength.
While every lactation consultant is different, their job isn't to judge a woman for her choice in how she's feeding her child. Many consultants believe that "breast is best", but it's always up to the mom—not them.
One lactation consultant told Scary Mommy, "When I encounter an underweight baby, all I want is for it to be fed. I have happily fed a baby a bottle of formula while counseling a mother on ways to increase her milk supply." And as always, if you are a woman who felt shamed by any health professional, make sure to report the behavior.
There are plenty of new moms who feel like they don't need a lactation consultant because they don't think breastfeeding can be that hard. The issue with that level of thinking is that consultants do much more than show you how to breastfeed. They'll show mom how to breast pump (and how to use and clean the pump). They create a plan for how to feed your little one (especially if there were some health complications from birth). If mom is having any kind of pain, the lactation consultant will show different positions and means of comfort to make breastfeeding less of a pain. On top of all this, they can also coach your newborn on how to breastfeed properly.
Upon meeting your lactation consultant, the first thing you're going to do is create a feeding plan. The consultant will learn more about your family and your day-to-day life, which can help them learn more about life in your home (along with how to store breast milk if pumping).
From there, you can ask all your questions. But that's not it; your consultant will also make a discharge plan for the family to make the transition from hospital to home a little easier.
When looking for a lactation consultant, The Bump states there are two certifications to look for. Either find a "Certified Lactation Consultant" (CLC) or an "International Board Certified Lactation Consultant" (IBCLC).
According to The Bump, CLCs' training is significantly shorter, with only training for a week. An IBCLC, on the other hand, has a more intensive training period, attached with clinical hours they must complete before being awarded their certification. IBCLCs will also need to be "recertified every five years," along with taking an exam.
If being a lactation consultant doesn't sound too serious, you'd be mistaken. Every woman who gives birth is entitled to a lactation consultant if they'd like one, which means consultants need to know the ins and outs of the female body (not to mention what's going on inside the baby's mind).
One lactation consultant told Scary Mommy she needed 2,000 hours of clinical time with new moms who were breastfeeding. "I had to take college-level coursework in the sciences and complete breastfeeding-specific coursework." It's not a job for the lighthearted or those who get frustrated easy; but it's all worth it in the end.
Newborns are typically born with the natural ability to latch or suckle. However, that's not always the case for every baby. Some may be able to open their mouth on mother's breast but won't grasp or suck. There are a few reasons why this could happen, but moms shouldn't get too frustrated. Today's Parent notes bringing the baby back to skin-to-skin contact to rest and bond might be best before trying again. When latching becomes a difficulty, your lactation consultant can step in to make the process easier.
Some mothers are all aboard the breastfeeding train but when their baby's having trouble eating, they realize they may have a low milk supply. What's a gal to do?
Lactation consultants can show mom that this happens when hormones are disrupted or perhaps from other conditions the mother has that's affecting this. In times of need, consultants will show moms tricks and tips to increase their breast milk when their baby seems to be struggling.
It can be unnerving for a new mom to deal with so many health professionals at once when they're in such a vulnerable position. But if there's one thing a woman shouldn't be in the hospital, it's modest. These doctors, nurses, and consultants have seen everything.
If mom is feeling a little embarrassed having her chest out in the open while a consultant is trying to position the baby correctly, just realize you're all there for the same common goal: to get your baby to eat.
Considering a lactation consultant needs 2,000 hours of one-on-one time with new moms, you better believe their commitment to the job pays off. According to Working Mother, consultants start off making a good amount of income and it only increases from there. For a new lactation consultant working between one to two years in the field, they can make upwards of $78,363. When a consultant has been working for at least seven (or more) years, they're looking at an annual salary of $84,450!
If you're pregnant and know that you'd like to meet with a lactation consultant before your baby's even been born, you're in luck. Most consultants are in hospitals, birthing centers, and have their own companies—giving you (and your consultant) enough time to plan and prepare.
If you're in need of a consultant, ask your OBGYN for names they trust and go from there. Meet them and learn about their ethics before making your decision.