A lactation consultant is a health professional who specializes in the science of breastfeeding. Their ultimate goal is to help mothers learn how to breastfeed effectively. Lactation consultants go through intensive schooling and training to become certified so they can help mamas in need.
Once certified, lactation consultants can help assess a mother’s physical, mental, and psychological states, identify and correct improper latches, teach mothers how to express breast milk by hand or with a pump, and even help mothers and babies wean from breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants can offer their services privately or be contracted to work in hospitals, birthing centers, or physician’s offices.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about lactation consultants and how they can help you with your breastfeeding journey.
When to See a Lactation Consultant?
You should see a lactation consultant whenever you face a breastfeeding problem you feel you cannot solve on your own. However, there are a few specific situations when you should reach out to a lactation consultant for help:
- Latch issues: Latch refers to how your baby is able to attach their mouth to your nipple and breast during feedings. If you and your little one constantly struggle with latch issues, a lactation consultant will be able to help solve your issues.
- Milk supply issues: Do your breasts become engorged, and feel hard and painful? This often occurs when you don’t let down effectively, meaning your milk is not easily released. Or perhaps your supply is low and you need ideas for increasing it – a lactation consultant can help you figure out what’s causing the low supply and what to do about it.
- Breastfeeding fears: If much of your struggles with breastfeeding come from psychological or emotional fears and concerns, a lactation consultant will be able to work with you to overcome them.
- Infections: Some mothers may experience constant infections while they breastfeed. While serious cases may need a trip to the doctor’s office, lactation consultants can get to the root of the problem and help correct bad habits that may be leading to your infections.
Other common concerns and complications that lactation consults can help identify and fix are breastfeeding pain, inadequate weight gain, excess weight gain, gulping and choking during feeding, mastitis or plugged ducts, vasospasms, and unexplained fussiness.
Lactation consultants provide a wide variety of services. If you struggle in any way with breastfeeding and do not feel satisfied with home remedies, consider learning more about what your local lactation consultants offer.
How to Find a Lactation Consultant
Do you want to find a lactation consultant? You have multiple options!
First, check with your doctor and local hospital. Many have lactation consultants to recommend. This is often a good option because you can use this lactation consultant throughout your pregnancy and beyond.
Online sources are the next best thing and great for mamas farther along in their breastfeeding journey. Here are two sites you can use to locate lactation consultants in your area:
Finally, talk with other mothers. They can recommend a lactation consultant they really loved working with. You can ask questions, hear their stories, and gain invaluable advice on finding a lactation consultant.
Questions to Ask Your Lactation Consultant
During visits, your lactation consultant will likely ask if you have any questions they can address. If you do not know where to start, consider asking a few of these based on your needs:
- How long should I aim to breastfeed my baby?
- How much should my baby be eating each day?
- How much milk should I be producing?
- What can I do to increase milk production?
- What does a good latch look like?
- What are some different breastfeeding positions?
- What is a good diet to support healthy breastfeeding?
- What is the best breast pump you recommend?
- How do I use a breast pump effectively?
- How do I properly store breast milk?
- What should I do if I want to supplement with formula?
- How do I prevent my nipples from cracking?
- What are some signs my breast are infected?
- How can I cope with a difficult nursing session?
- Should I wake up my baby to breastfeed?
- Is breastfeeding a good form of birth control?
Never be afraid to ask your lactation consultant a question. That is what they are there for!
The Cost of a Lactation Consultant
Expenses after the birth of a child change dramatically. Budgeting for a lactation consultant is not always considered and many mothers wonder if they can afford it.
Prices for lactation consultants vary depending on who you contact them through, their experience, and how many visits you need.
In general, the price will depend most on if you use a lactation consultant through your hospital or if you use a privately contract one.
Many hospitals offer lactation consultant services for free for a period of time, normally up until your baby is one year old. However, you will need to visit the hospital and may have limited access to your consultant.
Privately contracted lactation consultants generally charge anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars for a one-hour visit (1). Some will only charge you for the initial visit, while others will charge each time. It is completely up to your lactation consultant.
Insurance and Lactation Consultants
One of the biggest factors you will need to keep in mind is health insurance.
While the Affordable Care Act requires insurances to cover lactation services, the loopholes leave most women paying full price (2). You will need to check with your individual insurance provider to see what options are available.
You will also want to check with your lactation consultant about insurance. Some accept insurance while others do not. It is important you do your homework and work with your insurance company and your lactation consultant to find options that best meet your needs.