Life of a Lactation Consultant

Women's Health | | Natasha Weiss
4 min read

Many people who haven’t nursed a baby think it’s as straightforward as sticking your offspring on your chest and letting nature do its thing. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many new parents. 

It’s not uncommon for people to face difficulties when starting to nurse, or even later down the road.  New parents and babies face tongue ties, infections like mastitis, pain and discomfort, low milk supply, and all sorts of other issues that get in the way of them feeding their babies in the way they’d like to.

What is a Lactation Consultant?

A lactation consultant, simply put, is someone who supports people with lactation, aka feeding their baby.

How Lactation Consultants Help

A lot of times by the time people reach out to a lactation consultant, they’re feeling desperate. It’s not uncommon to feel shame, frustration, pain, and doubt around nursing.  Lactation consultants help parents feed their children in a way that’s comfortable and sustainable. 

These are some of the biggest issues that lactation consultants help with:

  • Position: Your body has changed after giving birth. You might have discomfort from a C-section scar, your breasts are most likely a lot bigger than you’re used to, and you have the aches and pains of a body returning to its non-pregnant state. This can make nursing uncomfortable, or you might not know how to line your baby up to your chest in a way that works for both of you and helps with milk flow.
  • Milk Supply: Just because you’ve carried a baby, doesn’t mean your milk will keep flowing like a fountain. It’s not uncommon to experience wanes in supply, or even no supply. Lactation consultants may use herbs, chest massage, warm compresses, and other tools to help increase and regulate your milk supply.
  • Tongue and lip ties: Sometimes babies are born with what’s called a tongue or lip tie. Essentially there are bits of tissue that restrict movement of the mouth/and or tongue. Even minor ones can impact a baby’s ability to nurse and get enough milk. Lactation consultants can help to diagnose a tongue or lip tie, refer you to a specialist who can fix it, and then help with aftercare to get you and your baby back on track.
  • Pain Management: Many people experience pain and discomfort when nursing. This could be because of infections, clogged milk ducts, positioning, or any other number of issues that your lactation consultant can help you get to the bottom of.
  • Infant Nutrition:  The baby’s nutrition, health, and weight are common concerns for many parents. Healthcare providers may add to this anxiety, without giving proper tools as to how to fix it. That’s where lactation consultants can help. 
  • Pumping: Finding the right pump, getting on a pumping schedule, and being able to pump comfortably are all important parts of many people feeding their babies.

Undergoing breast augmentation, aka a boob job, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to nurse. While this isn’t the most common thing lactation consultants help with, it’s within their scope of practice. Lactation consultants aren’t just for first-time parents. People can benefit from lactation support no matter how many babies they’ve had. These specialists can also help parents who are concerned about how to navigate lactation with being in the workplace. It’s not just the birthing person (gestational parent) who is capable of nursing their baby. Non-gestational parents, aka a parent who didn’t carry the baby, may be able to induce lactation so that they can chest feed their baby.

This is another thing that lactation consultants can help new parents with. You see just how helpful and necessary a lactation consultant can be for parents. 

How Do You Become a Lactation Consultant?

A certified lactation consultant goes through in-depth training before becoming licensed.  Before becoming licensed, they must undergo 90 hours of training, 300 to 1,000 hours of clinical experience, and other related health sciences coursework. This process is regulated and overseen by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). Licensed lactation consultants are also required to continue coursework and recertify every five years. You can find more information about certification programs through the IBLCE website

How Do You Find a Lactation Consultant?

If you give birth in a hospital, a lactation consultant is often brought into your room before you’re discharged. This doesn’t always happen, however, and oftentimes problems come up after you’ve gone home. You can find a licensed lactation consultant in your area by looking on the IBCLC directory or through the La Leche League website – another organization dedicated to supporting people who are lactating. You can ask your healthcare provider, midwife, or doula for a recommendation as well. Most lactation consultants will make home visits, and many are available for virtual support as well. 

Your Body, Your Baby, Your Choice

Intimina is here for inclusivity and discussing all different parts of the human experience. Many people choose not to nurse or to supplement nursing with formula or donor milk. However, you choose to feed your baby is up to you. The decision of how to feed your baby should come from a place of informed choice and understanding what your options are. Remember, your body, your baby, your choice. 

1 thought on “Life of a Lactation Consultant

  • Simona says:

    My cousin went through a long process of finding the perfect lactation consultant… it was really a big deal, and a lot of research!

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