33 weeks

What Is A Lactation Consultant?

I’m nervous about breastfeeding for the first time and heard a lactation consultant could help. What will she do, exactly?

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but a lactation consultant can guide a new mom through the process. Lactation consultants can work in a hospital, clinic or pediatric office, or have their own private practice in which they visit moms in their homes.

Lactation consultants help moms get comfortable about breastfeeding and prepare them for successful nursing by teaching them certain techniques, like how to position baby and how to know she’s latching on correctly. If you experience any breastfeeding issues, a lactation consultant can give you expert advice. “I look at the mom’s history and how labor and delivery went,” says Leigh Anne O’Connor, IBCLC. “We have to figure out what’s at the heart of the problem, and the way to do that is to assess each individual situation. I look at how much milk the baby has been getting and how the breastfeeding has been going so far.” Once O’Connor finds out what the breastfeeding problem is, she works to create a personalized plan for approaching nursing.

There are two types of certifications that a lactation consultant can obtain: a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). “CLCs go through a weeklong training process,” says O’Connor. “IBCLCs go through a lot more training. They have to do numerous hours of clinical practice, take an exam to be certified and need to be recertified every five years.” During the training process, IBCLCs learn about anatomy, physiology and psychology, and focus on the anatomy of the breast and how milk production works.

So how do you find a lactation consultant? Ask around. Check with your baby’s pediatrician for recommendations. Organizations like the United States Lactation Consultant Association, La Leche League International and local mothers’ groups in your community can refer you to a trusted lactation consultant. Also, check out our directory of lactation pros at Breastfeeding.com.

Plus, more from The Bump:
Top 10 Breastfeeding Problems Solved 

Worst Breastfeeding Advice Ever 

A Smart Start: Guide to the First Weeks of Breastfeeding 

By The Bump Editors