What to Expect from a Visit to a Lactation Consultant
By Nicole Kekesi, Virtua Board-Certified Lactation Consultant
Breastfeeding concerns are very common for both new and experienced mothers. Yet some moms are reluctant to seek help from a lactation expert. Women can be afraid to admit there’s an issue, or worry they’ll find out they’re doing something wrong. Some may simply fear the unknown.
As an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I try to let mothers know that lactation appointments are not scary or something to dread. They can be a wonderful source of help, knowledge, and comfort in those challenging, early days.
To calm any worries or fears, here’s a look at what happens during a lactation appointment.
The initial meeting
After the mother and baby are comfortable, I ask some basic questions, such as the baby’s name and birth date. This friendly exchange allows the mother to get to know me and feel more relaxed. I understand breastfeeding is a highly personal part of motherhood, and difficulties with it are stressful. I have many “tricks” up my sleeve to address a mother’s breastfeeding challenges, so she doesn’t need to worry that she’s beyond help.
I ask detailed questions about the baby’s weight and average daily diaper count, as well as about the main issues the mom is experiencing with breastfeeding. I also ask if she’s having any physical pain, as well as ask about her feelings and emotions and how she’s holding up as the mom to a newborn.
To determine the cause(s) of breastfeeding difficulty, I use a variety of methods that may include:
- Measuring the infant’s weight before and after a nursing session. This can help determine the amount of milk the baby is taking from the breast during a feeding.
- Conducting a finger suck and oral assessment. By having the baby suck on my gloved finger, I can determine strength of suck and help identify any oral issues that could affect both latch and milk transfer.
- Performing a breast examination to asses for nipple damage and degree of injury and address any risks or signs of infection. The area of damage also can reveal specific problems with the latch.
I ask the mom to start a feeding, and I help her make any needed adjustments to position and latch. I joke with moms that I can’t go home with them, so I make sure they can recreate adjustments on their own.
Once the feeding is complete, I develop a plan of care with the mother. IBCLCs feel very strongly about including the mother’s input, since the mom is the one who will implement the plan of care. If the mom doesn’t like or feels she can’t do something in the plan, we work together to make sure it meets her needs.
Follow-up progress meeting
Next, we have a follow-up appointment so I can check in with the mom. I’ll see how she and the baby are doing, and make adjustments to the care plan as needed.
To complete the appointment, I make sure I’ve addressed all of the mom’s questions, including any new concerns that have come up.
While breastfeeding is a natural, incredible way to feed and nourish your baby, it can come with challenges—especially early on. New moms don’t need to fear visiting a lactation consultant for help. We’re here to provide comfort, guidance, and a shoulder to lean on as new moms build their breastfeeding skills and confidence.
Updated January 14, 2022