Lactation consultants are professional breastfeeding specialists trained to teach mothers how to feed their baby.
They offer a wide range of services, which include everything from how to increase milk supply to help with latching on and breastfeeding positions. They can also devise special feeding strategies for twins, premature babies and babies who are ill or who cannot latch on. They also offer breastfeeding mums tips on expressing milk, using a Breastpump, as well as information on how to safely store expressed breast milk.
With a wealth of knowledge and experience, help from a consultant can get mums back on track with feeding their baby, remove any stress and worry and allow for them to move forward and enjoy this time with their baby.
In the UK professionally qualified consultants are on the professional registry for the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and are required to recertify every 5 years by an exam or with approximately 15 hours of continuing education every year.
They are experienced in a wide variety of complex breastfeeding situations, sensitive to the needs of both mothers and children, help mothers meet their breastfeeding goals and are ethical in their practice and held accountable to Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics.
Lactation Consultant: Emma’s Typical Day
With a true passion for her role, Emma Pickett tells us what she does in her day to day work as a Lactation Consultant. She is also chair of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and trains breastfeeding counsellors as well as answering calls on the National Breastfeeding Helpline.
She tells us about her typical day…
“In the morning, I'll read through all the booking forms for that day's new clients. I ask clients to send me in advance some information about their baby and their breastfeeding history and their goals to give me an idea what to expect in an appointment.
Sat Nav is my friend as I then drive between families in North London. Commonly a mum is less than 2 weeks post partum and her partner and other family members are there too. It's great to have partners present at appointments as they are such a crucial part of the breastfeeding team. We may be looking at positioning and attachment or worries about sore nipples, weight gain or a baby's ability to breastfeed. It may be that I meet a young baby who is reluctant to feed at the breast at all and the mum needs support to encourage first attachment. Sometimes I may need to refer a baby to a tongue tie practitioner as I'm not an IBCLC who performs the tongue tie procedure in babies and I signpost families to the Association of Tongue Tie Practitioners (www.tongue-tie.org.uk).
Sometimes my appointment is with an expectant couple and we talk about preparing for breastfeeding, resources and the priorities for those first few days. Or it could be a pregnant mum with a history of breast surgery or a previously difficult experience and she's looking for information to help her maximise her chances of successful breastfeeding this time around.
With an older baby, a mum might be asking for support with weight gain, re-lactating and increasing supply, introducing a bottle while still protecting breastfeeding or wanting to try some new positions - perhaps so she can be more confident feeding outside the home. I've done a few café role-plays in my time!
In between appointments, I might squeeze in a few phone calls - following up after a weigh-in or perhaps a conversation with a local GP or other health care professional.
I also volunteer at 2 drop-ins a week in my local area and do some slots on the National Breastfeeding Helpline.
In the evening, emails come in and enquiries through social media. There are many desperate mums out there and it's a difficult balance to be able to offer support while also having time for myself and my own family. As some local authority and NHS services are cut, the need for private lactation consultants can sometimes seem even greater. I have an odd job where I often wish I didn't have to exist! It would be ideal if everyone got early support to IBCLC standard through their normal services but sadly, we're not quite there yet!”
Find a Lactation Consultant near you
The Lactation Consultants of Great Britain can help you find a lactation consultant near you.