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Finding Lactation Support in your area is crucial for successfully surpassing breastfeeding issues. We reached out to a local breastfeeding expert and advocate to write us a blog on how to find lactation support!
August is Breastfeeding Month! Each week we have celebrated the World, Native Americans, Emergencies, and Black breastfeeding. Why do we have an entire month celebrating breastfeeding? In the ’50s and ’60s formula became very popular. It went from a good alternative for babies who couldn’t make breastfeeding work to being the primary source. Breastfeeding suddenly became a weird concept that only people who couldn’t afford formula did.
Unfortunately, over time this aversion to breastfeeding created a cultural norm and women stopped teaching their daughters how to breastfeed. It became normal to not know anyone who actually did and if someone chose to breastfeed they were often shamed for it.
Fast forward several decades and breastfeeding is making a strong comeback due to the diligence of people who strongly believe in breastfeeding and all it accomplishes for parent and baby. People are starting to once again value the benefits of breastfeeding. The problem is that the adult women of today do not have the support the women of the past did. So if you are a parent who wants to breastfeed, but no one around you supports you or even if they do, how do they help you?
This need created lactation consultants, counselors and educators. These are people who train specifically to help women in all fathomable situations get through their breastfeeding journey. So how do you go about finding lactation support and how do you make sure they are the right fit for you? Well, the easiest thing to do is Google “lactation + your city and/or state”.
More than likely you will find multiple types of people. There will be support groups, counselors, consultants; private groups, and hospital-based. There can be an overwhelming amount of options. So here are some ways to find and narrow down your search to find the right person to work with.
- Look for support groups. These include La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, Chocolate Milk Cafe, and Babycafe. They specialize in volunteers who have been through a stringent certification process to help breastfeeding parents in a group setting. Check out your state’s Breastfeeding Coalition.
- Professional help includes Lactation Counselors (You will often see different letters by their name depending on who certified them), Lactation Consultants and Lactation Educators. Consultants will always have the letters IBCLC next to them to indicate the higher education and board exam. IBCLCs can hold a license in four states: Rhode Island, Oregon, Georgia, and New Mexico. Lactation counselors have the education to work with a breastfeeding parent. There is nothing wrong with consulting with someone who is a counselor. You will find these people in all kinds of settings. They could be a nurse in your doctor’s office, working for WIC, social services, or someone like myself who is a licensed massage therapist. A Lacation Educator will be knowledgable in the basics of breastfeeding. There are some cases that do go above the current education of a LE or LC. If this happens, they will have an IBCLC recommendation on hand.
- IBCLCs can be private based companies or work in a healthcare setting. The most common is the hospital. Private consultants have a bit more leeway in who they see and often travel directly to their patients. Hospital-based consultants work with the women who are on the labor & delivery floor. This means they get to work with women as soon as Baby is born. Many hospitals also hold a free support group for the parents who have given birth there. These IBCLCs will also do private consultations in their if you speak to them.
3. Now that you know who might be available, you can start to narrow it down. Ask for recommendations. Ask your tribe if they can give you feedback on your choice list. Contact the provider and ask questions. Examples are:
- A. What are your thoughts on formula? This is important. Although the goal is to get the parent to breastfeed as long as possible, we cannot sacrifice the health and wellbeing of either the parent or the child. The job of the counselor or consultant is to help families on their breastfeeding journey no matter what it looks like or how it ends. It is ALWAYS about the mental and physical health of the parent and infant.
- B. What are your hours? Will they be able to see you if it is late at night? Can they take a text or call at 7am? Do they only work between certain hours? It’s good to know because you do not want to be left feeling like you don’t know what to do if your consultant is off. They may be able to recommend a backup or if the hospital you birthed at has a warm line.
- C. Will you come to me or do I need to go to you?
- D. If you are seeing a counselor ask what they would do if they came across a situation they are unfamiliar with or out of scope. The only answer should be “I’ll give you a referral to ___”.
- E. Will they treat all parents equally? Not every breastfeeding parent identifies as female or a “mama”. Breastfeeding can make a person feel vulnerable. You want to make sure you are comfortable with the person working with you.
- F. Are you a parent of color? Would you feel more comfortable if your provider was the same ethnicity? If you are black or brown and you think you may feel more comfortable with someone who is also black or brown then do not hesitate to ask. If you cannot find someone in your own research, contact the support groups as they usually tend to have a pretty extensive list of providers. Chocolate Milk Cafe is a great place to start as well as your state’s Breastfeeding Coalition.
- G. Is the provider respectful? This is a big one. You should be treated with dignity and respect right from the start. Follow your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, then move on to the next provider.
The list can go on and on, but these are the important things. When you are breastfeeding, whether it is for the 1st time or 5th time, sometimes it can feel daunting, especially if a situation arises that you are not familiar with. You do not need to be best friends with your LC, but it makes your journey easier when you feel comfortable physically and emotionally exposing yourself to someone. You are placing a great deal of trust on them, and you want to come out the other side feeling good about your journey. It doesn’t matter if you only breastfeed a few weeks or a few months. It does not matter if you were able to complete 6months or more or switched to formula for whatever reason. The LC isn’t there to judge you, but to guide you and make you feel comfortable with your own body, your own baby and to see you go as far you want to.
With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of love and courage, I wish you a beautiful breastfeeding journey.
This blog was written by: Claire Naughton. Claire is a Licensed Massage Therapist [specializing in prenatal and infants], Lactation Counselor, Certified Aromatherapist, tea lover and mother of three small children living in Rhode Island. Claire is working towards becoming an IBCLC. If you live in or near Rhode Island please feel free to join her lactation support group here.