When you face unexpected breastfeeding challenges, so many people from your pediatrician to your sister, your doula, and even strangers from Facebook seems to have ‘the answer’. But most of these solutions are based on their own experiences, which may or may not be relevant to the problem you’re having. The real solutions could be based on evidence or sound breastfeeding physiology. Because solving breastfeeding problems is often urgent and so important to a newborn’s nutrition, many mothers turn to professional lactation consultants. You can ask for referrals from local parenting internet groups, new mother support groups, La Leche League, your healthcare provider, friends and neighbors and visit the websites of various lactation consultants in your area. Or check out this helpful advice from the article: “Finding a Lactation Consultant: How do you Choose?”:
Ask about your consultant’s level of experience with particular areas of need such as tongue tie/lip tie, nipple pain, prematurity twins or multiples, or low milk supply and supplementation advice. General questions you can ask include questions such as, “How long has the consultant been certified? Do they have any areas of specialty or expertise? How long are their consultations? How soon can they meet with you in person? What is their opinion of/experience with bottle feeding that supports breastfeeding?”
Here’s a list of good questions to ask from thenewbornbaby.com on how to choose a lactation consult:
- How many mothers and babies have you worked with outside of a hospital setting?
- How many hours do you spend with a new mother in a consultation?
- Do you regularly recommend three to four consultations (6-8 hours) to ensure breastfeeding is going well?
- Do you call the mother frequently until she feels breastfeeding is going well?
- Do you resist using formula, even drops, during the first three days?
- Do you accept a painful latch as normal?
- Do you validate someone’s pain and not just say, “but the latch looks fine”?
- Do you refer for other services if the latch continues to be painful after working on latch and positioning?
Besides location, availability, and your sense of being comfortable with the consultant, the most important thing in choosing a professional lactation consultant is their accreditation. Because there is no regulation for lactation consultants, anyone can call themselves one, and there are varying levels of qualification.
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the highest standard for lactation education. Consultants must have 90 hours of lactation-specific education, pass a rigorous examination, and have several hundred hours of documented care-giving. Their certification is renewed every five years with continuing education. To ensure your lactation consultant is indeed an IBCLC, you can check www.iblce.org.
Various other accreditations don’t compare with the rigor of the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant’s training. Some other accreditations include:
- CLC: The Certified Lactation Counselor designation is given after a five-day course on breastfeeding; documenting 18 hours of continued education every three years is required to maintain their CLC credentials.
- LLLL: La Leche League Leaders must have breastfed their own baby for at least nine months, and have agreed that they understand and support the La Leche League philosophy. They have an in-person demonstration of their breastfeeding counseling to the Board of Directors but don’t have any education or exam standards.
- CLE: The Certified Lactation Educator credential is given by the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).
- LE(C): The Certified Community Lactation Educator is granted by the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA).
- CLS: A Certified Lactation Specialist is credited through Lactation Education Consultants. Lastly, some “lactation experts” work for formula companies… most moms who have done their research stay away from those.