A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Breastfeeding: Lactation consultants offer resources before and after birth

As an expectant mother, you may research breastfeeding, or read a few baby books on tips and tricks for what to expect. Sleeping, eating and pooping is a day in the life for a newborn. One of the most important things that you can control is how you feed your baby. Lactation consultants can help.

After having a baby, the first few days and weeks can be some of the most difficult and wonderful times in your life. Parents may get overwhelmed with all the things you “need to do” for your newborn. Since breastfeeding isn’t always easy, Marshfield Clinic Health System and other health care organizations provide patients with lactation consultants.

What is a lactation consultant?

Baby sitting in mother's lap laughing - Lactation consultants

Lactation consultants are experienced in giving breastfeeding support.

International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLC®) are breastfeeding specialists who teach you how to breastfeed your baby in normal and challenging situations.

In addition to lactation education, a lactation consultant is a specialist who has passed the IBCLC® examination. IBCLC® can work in a wide variety of health care settings including hospitals, pediatric offices, public health clinics and private practice. Most of the IBCLCs also are registered nurses with obstetrics background.

At several Marshfield Clinic Health System locations, all patients who are breastfeeding meet with a lactation consultant. Families of newborns in the neonatal intensive care unit in Marshfield Children’s Hospital receive information about breastfeeding their infant who may have specialized care needs.

Each patient receives individualized care based on their needs, medical history, education, experience and family support,” said Jessie Richardson, certified lactation consultant at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “No situation is similar. We start by learning about our patients and tailor to them.”

What services can lactation consultants provide?

The goal of lactation education is supporting families on their breastfeeding journey, and that begins before the baby arrives.

Lactation Consultant and Registered Nurse Heather Seubert said that during perinatal education appointments she will ask parents, “How do you plan to feed your baby?” Most moms will say, “I’ll try breastfeeding.”

First time parents may not know what to expect because of their lack of knowledge, experience or confidence. For experienced parents on their second child and beyond, previous children may have been unsuccessful when it comes to breastfeeding.

Lactation services include, but are not limited to:

  • Prenatal education that explains normal behaviors to expect from breastfeeding babies.
  • Initial assessment at the hospital.
  • Care coordination with other health care providers as needed.
  • Follow-ups prior to discharge from the hospital.
  • Assistance with position and latch-on challenges.
  • Assistance with potential milk supply challenges.
  • Assistance with concerns about infant intake and weight gain.
  • Education and assistance with breast pumps.
  • Assessment and management of breast and nipple problems, such as engorgement, sore nipples, breast pain, mastitis, breast augmentation and reductions.
  • Addressing return-to-work issues.
  • Addressing weaning issues.
  • Finding support groups in your area.
  • Ongoing assessments following discharge.

Lactation consultants are available in the hospital and after to not only educate parents but also support and empower them when feeding their baby. Some areas also have Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), who are available for lactation support in outpatient settings.

All parents may have a lactation consult while in hospital, but follow-up care is an important part of being a lactation consultant. There is no charge for services provided to inpatients. Contact your Birth Center location to find out their inpatient and outpatient offerings. Oftentimes, mothers feel supported while in the hospital with their baby. After discharge home, support seems less available. However, if there are concern, you can work one-on-one with a specialist to help meet your feeding goals. There are also community and online support groups to reassure new families and give an opportunity to ask questions.

“We can be consulted to provide care in any unit – pediatrics, PICU – or a maternal consult if mom is hospitalized and breastfeeding,” Richardson said. “After discharge, patients from rural areas can call for further assistance over the phone as resources may be limited in their area.”

Empowering parents for breastfeeding

In this video, Seubert and Richardson share how breastfeeding can be a beautiful bonding experience for moms and babies. They recommend sharing your questions or concerns with your lactation consultant or care team. By receiving help and support early in the process, breastfeeding will be more successful.

Often, parents may feel guilt or shame for choosing to pump or formula feed their baby. However, there are situations where this choice may work best for you. Lactation consultants encourage breastfeeding but are there to support your goals and educate you on the feeding method chosen for your family.

All questions are welcome

No question is too silly when it comes to lactation consultants. Richardson said there are many misconceptions about breastfeeding, and lactation consultants are there to answer your questions and educate on what to expect.

Whether you want to know why you aren’t producing more milk, what medications are safe, or if you can breastfeed when you are sick, lactation consultants can help.

Download and read this FAQ on feeding your newborn.

  1. Dec 29, 2019
    • Jan 2, 2020

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