What does a Lactation Consultant do?
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a health care professional that specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. An IBCLC is a member of the health care team and communicates with the primary care provider. I assist families to achieve their breast feeding goals whether the goal is to breastfeed for 1 month, 6 months or a year and beyond by providing support, education, and problem solving techniques for breastfeeding success.
When a patient comes to see you, what information should they bring?
In order to be of the most help I like to know the baby’s birth date and birth weight along with a brief history of their breast feeding experience so far. I also ask them what their breastfeeding goals are. For example, some women want to get ready to go back to work and are concerned with keeping up their milk production. Other women are planning to wean baby after a certain time and are having difficulties with mastitis or plugged ducts.
What are three questions patients should consider asking during their visit?
- What is causing the problem I am experiencing? For example, if their milk supply seems to be diminished, what are the dynamics that are creating the low milk supply.
- What steps are needed to fix the problem? Continue asking this question until you feel you understand what actions to take and can follow them at home.
- Under what circumstances should I get back in touch with the lactation consultant or my health care provider? The lactation Consultant is a member of the health care team and communicates with the patient’s provider whenever there is a medical health care concern.
What is the largest misconception you think families have about breastfeeding?
That baby’s are experts at breastfeeding when they are born. Its true that babies are born with the ability to breastfeed and that breast milk is best suited for babies; and many baby’s are able to grasp the breast and suckle within hours of birth. However, all babies need the support of their mothers to get good at breastfeeding. They learn to breastfeed by practicing breastfeeding. Fortunately, baby’s have stored fat and mothers first milk, colostrum, are all that baby needs during this learning process which can take up to a week. In other words, challenges can be part of the process leading to a successful breastfeeding experience.
What is one or two pieces of advice you’d give patients who are considering breastfeeding?
Learn about breastfeeding before your baby is born. Unless you were raised in an environment with successful breastfeeding families, learning this new skill may feel overwhelming. Taking a breastfeeding class ahead of time will help you understand how to make enough milk and feel more prepared for the challenges that may arise. Second, learn about the breastfeeding support in the community and talk with other mothers who enjoy breastfeeding success. Learning continues when you go home and there are great benefits to joining a mothers group.
If folks wanted additional health information about breastfeeding what are some available resources?
There is a great organization in this community called the Chequamegon Bay Area Breastfeeding Coalition. We meet on the 3rd Thursday of the Month, usually at 12:30 on the 2nd floor of the Vaugn Library. There is also a MAMA TO MAMA group which is a breastfeeding support group and meets once a month. You can find more information at cheqbaybreastfeeding.org.
I would encourage all moms and families who are interested in learning more about breastfeeding to come to MMC’s Breastfeeding Class where you can learn all the basics and have your individual questions answered by a person with training and experience in helping mothers breastfeed.