parent smiles while feeding baby during lactation consult
Author: TLN

What lactation consultants wish all parents knew about breastfeeding 

For a newly lactating parent, breastfeeding is a totally new skill. As you get to know your baby (and your body), you may have a lot of questions. A lactation consultant is an amazing resource that can help make your breastfeeding journey easier. By providing support, hands-on help, and plenty of info, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are on your side. Read on to find out the top things they wish all new parents knew about breastfeeding and working with an IBCLC. 

It takes time to get the hang of breastfeeding 

It’s funny to think that something as natural as breastfeeding generally doesn’t come so naturally. There’s a learning curve to breastfeeding, during which you and your baby will get to know each other and figure out what works for you. This early learning period can be challenging and even uncomfortable, and you’ll likely have a lot of questions about whether you’re doing things “right.”  

Know this: Within the first two weeks, you’ll become so much more comfortable, both with recognizing your baby’s cues and with the actual act of breastfeeding. Any initial nipple soreness and major engorgement will go away, and your milk supply will become more regulated. As your baby grows, your breastfeeding relationship will continue to evolve, but you’ll feel much more confident after overcoming the challenges of those first couple weeks.

You might be sore at first

When your milk comes in, your breasts may feel very full, hard, and warm. It’s not uncommon for some parents to experience a little nipple tenderness in the beginning as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “doing it wrong,” nor does it mean that the pain will last forever. Though you may experience some initial soreness, you should expect it to subside within 30 seconds of baby latching, and to disappear entirely after 10 days of breastfeeding. 

If you’re experiencing sustained pain during or after nursing, connect with an IBCLC. They can help you address what is likely a latching issue. Know that prolonged pain, cracking, bleeding, and mastitis are all issues of immediate concern. If you notice them, you should call an IBCLC as soon as possible

Feeding products can make things easier

Though there are many lactation supplies on the market, from nursing clothing to supplements meant to boost your supply, you don’t need more than a few essential items. We highly recommend registering for a nursing pillow to support your baby and prevent back pain, as well as a comfy nursing bra that provides support and easy access to your breasts. You may even be able to save some money by getting your breast pump

But really, the most crucial part of breastfeeding is you. Focus on taking care of yourself (we know it’s tough — especially in those first weeks) and establishing your supply. An IBCLC can help you do just that! 

An IBCLC can help both before and after baby arrives

IBCLCs are often called in when parents have an issue or concern. But a consultation doesn’t have to happen at the first sign of trouble. Scheduling a prenatal lactation consultation with an IBCLC before your baby arrives sets you up for breastfeeding success. They can address concerns and answer questions — and, trust us, no question is off-limits. IBCLCs are experts focused on helping you achieve your individualized feeding goals, celebrating your milestones, and helping you overcome any challenges.  

IBCLC visits are customizable

At most visits, an IBCLC will start by going over your medical, delivery, and breastfeeding history. However, no visit is one-size-fits-all, so your lactation consultant will tailor your care to what’s currently going on. In many cases, they’ll perform a weighted feed — weighing your baby before and after a feeding to see how much breast milk they are taking in — so it’s a good idea to make sure your baby hasn’t eaten right before the visit. They’ll then physically assess your baby, evaluate their latch, observe their sucking and swallowing, and may show you various breastfeeding positions to find what’s most comfortable. 

Though this is standard procedure, your consultation can always be fit to your unique needs. An IBCLC’s role is to make sure to address any challenges or questions you may have. They can talk about how to alleviate any pain, manage an oversupply, or build up a low supply.  

If you’re pumping, an IBCLC can even go over how to use your breast pump and check the fit of the flanges (yes, they come in different sizes!). At the end of the visit, they’ll collaborate with you to build a pumping plan that works for you. Lactation consultants provide advice, recommendations, and support based on your individual needs. 

IBCLCs can address a wide range of concerns

Lactation care doesn’t have to be for “big” issues. It’s meant to help you feel more comfortable and confident so you can have a successful feeding experience. Some of the most common issues IBCLCs help parents with include getting a good latch, confirming how much milk the baby is transferring, positioning, learning how to use nursing and pumping items, managing supply, and preventing pain. A visit can include learning to master the football hold, diagnosing the cause of any discomfort, or making a plan to return to work. IBCLCs are troubleshooters, myth-debunkers, and cheerleaders. After an initial visit, many IBCLCs will also provide a plan for follow-up care. 

Your insurance may cover IBCLC visits

Yes, really! It’s possible to have your IBCLC visits covered by insurance. Simply request an IBCLC consultation with TLN. We’ll confirm your insurance coverage and connect you with an IBCLC, so you can schedule a consultation where and when it best works for you. 

You’re doing a great job!

The beginning of parenthood is a vulnerable time. During this time, IBCLCs really want to help make breastfeeding a positive experience. That means there’s no judgment about your choices, your body, or your concerns. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to be emotional, wearing pajamas, and for your house to be a mess. They’ve seen it all and they want what’s best for you and baby. Period. 

At TLN, we believe IBCLCs are valuable resources every parent deserves to have access to. You and your feeding journey are important, and we want to support you every step of the way. Whether breastfeeding is going smoothly or serving up major challenges, don’t hesitate to reach out for extra support. 

Get the care you deserve

We’re here for you, every step of the way. We work with your insurance to provide in-home, in-office, or telehealth visits with an IBCLC.