Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: Finding a Lactation Consultant {31 Days of Making More Milk}

Yesterday I shared my favorite milk-making cookie recipe.

Today is all about your potential best friend in the journey of breastfeeding: the board-certified lactation consultant.

The best way to help yourself reach your breastfeeding goals, including dealing with low milk supply, is to connect with an experienced, board-certified lactation consultant. It may be that your babe has an incorrect latch, or thrush, or you have overactive letdown, all which can contribute to low milk supply. By ruling out these problems first, then you can move on to supplementation with foods and herbs.

Why a Mother Might Need an IBCLC (from the ILCA website):

  • Prenatal counseling about risk factors that may affect breastfeeding
  • Basic position and latch of the infant
  • Information about practices that promote successful breastfeeding
  • Preventing and managing common concerns such as poor latch, inadequate milk transfer or supply, nipple or breast pain, and calming a fussy baby
  • Milk expression and storage for mothers who must be separated from their babies
  • Strategies for breastfeeding after returning to work
  • Breastfeeding in challenging situations, such as breastfeeding twins or triplets, a premature or sick infant, or infants in special medical situations
IBCLCs have passed rigorous examinations that demonstrates the ability to provide comprehensive lactation and breastfeeding care. They must renew their certification every 5 years and have spent at least 2,500 hours caring for breastfeeding mothers.

What impresses me is that an IBCLC credential is revocable and conditional. If you aren't abiding to their code of conduct, they can revoke your license. I can't tell you how many friends have been given horrible advice by "lactation specialists" in the hospital, and it makes me wonder if they were certified or not. I'd like to think not, especially after reading this article at Best for Babes.

You can find an IBCLC through the International Lactation Consultant website and search by country or state. 

Finding the Lactation Consultant Right For You

What to Look for in a Lactation Consultant by Heather Kelly, IBCLC
A list of suggestions for finding the right LC by Bettina Forbes, CLC (Middle section of the article)

Questions to Ask :

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself - how long you've been practicing, etc.?
2. Do you make housecalls?
3. What are your fees, and do you accept my insurance?
4. How long are the initial and follow up appointments? 
5. What is your parenting philosophy?
6. Do you recommend or carry supplements or herbs to help with milk supply?
7. Do you have experience with tongue and lip tie, and if not, can you recommend someone that does? 

You might also find the answers to these questions on their web site, if they have one.

My Story

Speaking from experience, as with any other healthcare educator/provider, you may need to see a few before you find a good fit. It totally matters that you are comfortable, encouraged, and that your personalities mesh well together, especially when you've just given birth and your hormones are going crazy.

In the last year, I've seen no fewer than 5 different lactation consultants before I found one that I completely trusted and would go back to again and again.

The first two were hospital LC's and they came and visited us in the NICU when I had a clogged milk duct that was inching its way towards mastitis. From these ladies I learned how to massage the breasts to keep milk flowing if a duct is clogged, and also learned about the padded breast pump flanges that have been lifesavers! They also set me up with correctly-sized nipple shields to help my 35-weekers latch.

The third and fourth were an after-hospital visit a few months in when I went back to find the cause of the pain when I nursed. It was at this time when I specifically asked to have the girls checked for tongue or lip tie. She even watched me feed, and I described the clicking sound (a big tip-off) but she didn't even address it or examine them. It may be that she didn't know how to check for one or didn't have much experience, but I was so disappointed. So I kept nursing through the pain, even though I knew something was off.

The fifth was when I hit the jackpot. I met her through a mutual friend when I volunteered to visit the local midwifery school to talk about breastfeeding twins. I was nursing one of the girls while we were talking and I noticed her watching us. After Ruthie was done, she asked, "Has anyone every checked her for a tongue tie?" I almost cried tears of joy as I explained my story. I set up an appointment for her and for the local ENT doctor to get the girls' frenulums snipped, and it's been so much better ever since. I felt like sending her gifts of baked goods and flowers and chocolates and anything else that would express my profound appreciation.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with LC's - Best, Good, Bad, Ugly? 

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This is the third post in the series 31 Days to Making More Milk. Start from the beginning here.


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