Lactation Consultants: Your Breastfeeding Support Team

Lactation Consultants: Your Breastfeeding Support Team

Adapted from a DocTalk by Megan Stevens, DNP, RN-BC, IBCLC

0:28 | What is a lactation consultant and what do they do?
A lactation consultant is a person who helps with lactation and breastfeeding. At Valley, all our lactation consultants are registered nurses. As an international board-certified lactation consultant with the certification IBCLC, I have additional training in lactation and breastfeeding support, as well as lots of time spent helping families and working with lactating people.

1:12 | What makes breastfeeding so beneficial?
Breastfeeding is a fantastic benefit to both the baby who’s being breastfed and the lactating person or parent.

Benefits for Baby
Breastmilk is the perfect food that is tailored for the child at the time they need it. One of the things we encourage families to do right after delivery is skin-to-skin within the first hour of life. This helps the baby get latched to the breast and allows them to ingest colostrum, the first milk, which coats their gut and sets the stage for a good, healthy gut biome. Breastmilk feeding is also beneficial for babies because it helps protect against chronic diseases, like asthma and obesity. It’s also been found to help reduce cases of acute illness, like the common cold or respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV.

Benefits for the Lactating Parent
There are also great benefits for the lactating parent. It can help control bleeding after delivery; it leads to increase bonding with the child; and it can protect against certain cancers, such as uterine or breast cancer.

2:42 | What can a pregnant person do to prepare for breastfeeding?
There are some things that we teach pregnant parents to do to help them prepare for successful breastfeeding. One thing that families can do is come in and do a prenatal consult with us here in the lactation office. This is strongly encouraged for families who are seeking more information, or for those who may have struggled with breastfeeding in the past and want to be more successful this time.

Other things pregnant people can do to help with breastfeeding is to share their plan to breastfeed with those around them. This helps to make sure they are getting good support from their partner, family and friends. It can also help to speak to other people they know who have breastfed to learn about their experience. It’s also important to be open to learning more from their healthcare providers or their child’s pediatrician.

3:47 | What can a person do to boost their current supply of breastmilk?
We get this question a lot! We have a lot of breastfeeding individuals that come into our office concerned about their supply or having told their nurse in the hospital they didn’t make enough milk last time if they had been pregnant before or had a hard time breastfeeding. There are some things we can do, but the number one most important way to increase milk supply is frequent and effective milk removal from the breast. This means ensuring that the baby is latched properly and deeply and that the breasts are fully emptied with feeds or when pumping.

Some foods can impact your milk supply in a helpful way. Though we encourage all families to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, foods like oatmeal, papaya and flaxseed have all been shown to boost milk supply. If you go online and do a search, you might also come across some ideas like lactation cookies or a variety of other things that are shown to boost supply.

It’s also important to make sure you are only drinking to thirst. It is not true that the more you drink, the more milk you make—unfortunately, it only increases the amount you need to pee. The bottom line: to make sure you’re getting enough liquids, drink to satisfy your thirst.

5:32 | What support do lactation consultants offer after baby is born?
Here at Valley, we are lucky that we have lactation support every day of the week, 365 days a year to help patients who have had their babies. If you’re having a baby over Christmas and you’re struggling with breastfeeding, you can rest easy knowing that someone will be here to help you. We are usually here from early in the morning until about mid-evening.

If you’re having a hard time with breastfeeding and a lactation consultant isn’t available at the time, all of our registered nurses in the Birth Center, NICU, and in our pediatric department have special training in breastfeeding support and education—so we also have fantastic nurses right there at the bedside who can help until a lactation consultant is available.

Immediately after delivery, we are often consulting with many patients. This can include consults with babies who are in the NICU, with moms who have a history of breastfeeding difficulty, or with babies who are born with low birth weight or premature. We can also help families who may be struggling with their breast anatomy or have history of breast augmentation. To have a consult with us here in the hospital during that immediate time after delivery, you would ask your provider or your registered nurse to put a consult in and we would come see you in your hospital room.

After patients go home from the hospital, we’re also here seven days a week, 365 days a year. Outpatient appointments are about an hour long and we spend time working with families to help them meet their goals for feeding their baby. This can include continuing to work on things they struggled with in the hospital; families coming back because they’re getting ready to go back to work and they’re curious about pumping; or those who want to talk about other ways to feed their baby.

We see families throughout their entire breastfeeding journey. This can be as long as six months or as long as three years! We are here to support families with however long they’re breastfeeding. We love to see kids come back and we can discuss topics like weaning, introducing solid foods, teething, or going back to work and you’re not sure how to best feed your baby. Those are all great things that you could seek out lactation support for.

8:07 | How does a person know when to seek help from a lactation consultant and what are some common concerns you see families for?
We would love for every family choosing to supply breast milk to their baby to make an appointment with us. In fact, you don’t need to have delivered your baby at Valley to have an appointment with us. So if you’re watching this video and you’ve delivered somewhere other than Valley, please call us and come in to see us!

8:32 | What are some common concerns you see families for?
Common concerns we may see families for include latching difficulty or pain with latch and trauma to nipples, like cracks, bleeding or blisters. If you’re breastfeeding a baby and you’re finding that it’s painful or you’re struggling to get your child latched, that is a great reason to make an appointment to see a lactation consultant.

Other things we see families for include concerns about supply, transitioning to bottles, working with nipple shields, weight concerns, transitioning into older infanthood, babies not taking the breast or not wanting to breastfeed as often. We also see families who are deciding to just pump and want to practice pumping. We can make sure that the flanges fit well and that it is a good quality pump that’s going to fit their needs.

9:37 | What are common questions families ask you?
One of the number one questions we get is how do I know my baby’s getting enough? Our society often focuses on volume and how much something is, but that is really difficult to measure when children are exclusively breastfeeding. With breastfeeding, we don’t know how much baby is getting because there is no machine that can measure that. Instead, we teach families the importance of paying attention to the baby’s behavior.

One way to know if your baby is getting enough is by looking for signs of a good feeding. These include:

  • A deep latch at 140-degree angle of the mouth
  • A deep tugging sensation
  • Should not feel like a bite or pinch
  • Hearing the baby swallow
  • Milk at the corners of baby’s mouth
  • The breast is softer after baby has fed
  • Satisfied or “milk drunk” appearance

Another thing we can do for families when they come and see us for an outpatient appointment is something called a “weighted feed.” This means we weigh the baby, the baby breastfeeds, and we weigh the baby afterwards. This provides an idea of how much milk the baby is able to transfer from the breast and it really helps families feel more comfortable about what their babies are getting.

Another question we get is whether there are certain foods people can eat or that they should stay away from when breastfeeding. There are not nearly as many restrictions to breastfeeding parents as there are during pregnancy. While breastfeeding, we do ask families to stay away from illicit drugs, like marijuana, high levels of alcohol, and nicotine because we know those can all be transferred to the baby through the breast milk. Most medications a person is taking after delivery, like acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen for pain, are completely safe to take while breastfeeding. However, there are some medications that may interfere with your milk supply or that aren’t safe for the baby. For those, I would recommend talking to a lactation consultant or speaking with your provider or pharmacist.

13:09 | Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to add that some families are finding that breastfeeding is just not for them, and I don’t want to turn anybody away who has questions or is wanting to learn more about breastfeeding. We are here to help people if they want to do a combination feeding, if they’re more interested in exclusively pumping, and if they only plan to give their baby breastmilk through a bottle. Those are all things that we help families with. We are here to help feed your baby from birth, until you’re ready to transition to something else.

Learn more about Valley’s Lactation Services, or call 425.228.3440, ext. 5791.

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