You need a lactation consultant because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Unless, of course, you grew up watching your mom or other family members breastfeed regularly and frequently. In that case, you’re one of the lucky ones. Breastfeeding is the most normal, natural way to feed a child. If it was normal and natural in your home, yay!
If you’re like the rest of much of the modern, Western world, breastfeeding is going to be new to you if you’re a new mom.
And breastfeeding may be natural, but it’s also a relationship. Like every enduring relationship, it takes some adjusting. It also takes patience and commitment and a little bit of learning.
Cue the lactation consultant.
In traditional cultures, you would have your mom, grandma, aunts, and cousins – your entire “village” – around to give you advice, pointers, and encouragement. Instead, you’re probably going home from the hospital with just you, Baby, and Hubby to figure it all out on your own.
Consider the lactation consultant a new member of your village.
When I decided to become a mom, I was determined to breastfeed. Without much family around for support, I turned to a lactation consultant for help.
Here’s how my lactation consultant helped save my nursing relationship with my baby, and my sanity!
Your baby’s latch is how your baby attaches to your nipple in order to nurse. A good latch in the beginning means Baby can suckle effectively and extract milk effectively, thereby helping to establish your milk supply (your body makes enough milk to match what Baby extracts).
A shallow latch, for example, is when Baby has too little of the breast in her mouth and is suckling just on the nipple. This causes lots of soreness, and often Baby won’t get enough milk this way. This is what happened to me in the beginning. My little one had a very strong suck. Coupled with a shallow latch, by our second night together I could no longer nurse on one side because I was in so much pain!
On day three, my lactation consultant showed me how to get a better latch. I literally burst into tears when Baby latched on during the consultation. Nursing had been so painful – when Baby instantly nursed with no pain I was shocked to tears!
Different nursing positions for Baby can mean a better latch. Trying different techniques, like laid-back breastfeeding instead of the cradle position, can make all the difference.
Again, these are things your “tribe” could show you, if you have one. If you have aunts or cousins, or even Mom or Grandma, around to offer you tips and alternatives you may not need a lactation consultant. Otherwise, a lactation consultant is a must!
Every new mom needs support, especially emotional support.
My husband and I are best friends, yet I found that of all my postpartum challenges, breastfeeding was the topic he could empathize with the least. It was obviously new to me, and completely foreign to him.
Having experienced moms by my side who’d nursed before, with years and years of experience helping other moms make nursing easy, quite literally saved my nursing relationship. If not for my lactation consultants, I probably would have given up.
As mentioned before, my first lactation consultant recommended Motherlove Nipple Cream. Fourteen months later, I still use it! Thank goodness for her. I hated using lanolin, and nobody I knew recommended anything else.
She also suggested I get a nursing pillow. My baby was born 8 pounds 6 ounces and she didn’t lose weight like most babies do in their first couple of weeks. Thanks to a mild oversupply of breast milk, her weight dipped a little and then she just kept gaining and gaining.
I found holding her comfortably to nurse difficult until I got my nursing pillow. What a game changer!
Again, nobody I know mentioned it. Of the endless advice I received from friends and family, not one suggestion about adding a nursing pillow to my baby registry.
I am forever thankful for my lactation consultants. I hope you have plenty of breastfeeding support from your entire village, whoever they may be!