Supporting breastfeeding mothers is an essential part of offering high-quality care for your baby. Providing support to nursing mothers helps them succeed and build strong relationships with their children. The benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and her child are tremendous, and it is important that new parents are given the best possible support. Lactation consultants are nurses who have additional training in supporting women through lactation. They help new mothers by managing common breastfeeding problems, identifying any issues they may be having, and providing them with advice, tips, tricks, or other resources they may need to successfully nurse their newborns. Working with a lactation consultant can help you see what’s possible for you and your baby.
What is Lactation Support?
Lactation support is a unique and specialized service provided by an experienced breastfeeding human being. Many women assume that breastfeeding is simply a matter of “latching on” to your breast and doing so without difficulty, but this is not the case, and breastfeeding requires much more than simply sticking your breasts out. In order to successfully breastfeed, women need to work with their physicians to find a regimen that best fits their bodies and available resources, such as rest and sleep, clean water, and nutritious food. They may also need specialized tools, such as a breast pump, a nursing bra, or a support cushion. Some women may experience issues that hinder their ability to nurse their babies, such as blocked ducts, insufficient breast tissue, or a baby who is too young or too big for the woman. In these cases, women may also need to seek assistance from a lactation consultant.
Why Is It Important to Provide Lactation Support?
There are many reasons why a hospital may recommend that you see a lactation consultant following childbirth. These may include:
- You have a medical condition that makes breastfeeding too risky for you.
- You are experiencing an insufficient response to breastfeeding.
- You have given birth via a caesarian section or other surgery that alters how your breasts function.
- Your baby has special needs, such as being premature or having a health condition that makes breastfeeding risky for both mother and child.
How to Help a Nursing Mother
- Make sure the area where she is breastfeeding is clean and dry.
- Help her find a comfortable position to nurse.
- Encourage her to drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food.
- Offer her a clean, empty bottle to use if she needs to express milk.
- Offer her privacy while she is nursing whenever possible.
- Offer encouragement and support as needed.
- Offer her a clean bra and/or other equipment that she may need to nurse her child.
- Offer to stay available to help her if she needs assistance.
Should You Breastfeed your Newborn?
A breastfeeding woman should continue breastfeeding her baby as long as she is able, even if the woman is unable to work, attend school, or hold a steady job. Breastfeeding provides many health benefits for both mother and baby, including protection against many diseases and a boost in a baby’s immunity as he grows up. Breastfeeding is also important for a baby’s development. Newborns who are fed only breast milk will not receive any other food or drink from their mothers. Breast milk changes as a newborn grow and the body needs specific nutrients that are found only in breast milk. For these reasons, it is important to breastfeed your newborn for as long as you are able.
How to Find a Lactation Consultant
- Ask your healthcare provider or maternity ward staff if they know of a lactation consultant in your area.
- Ask your friends or family members if they know of a lactation consultant in your area.
- Search online for a lactation consultant in your area.
- Visit the website of the American Association of Pediatrics, the organization that represents most pediatricians.
- Visit the website of the International Lactation Consultant Association, an organization that represents lactation consultants.
- Visit the website of a hospital that has a breastfeeding support group.
- Contact your local La Leche League or other breastfeeding support group.
- Call your insurance provider to see if they cover lactation consultants as a benefit.
Finding Additional Support for the Nursing Couple
Many hospitals offer on-site couples counseling. These sessions should be offered to newlywed couples, as well as couples who have been married for a few years. Couples counseling can help provide support for the relationship between partners, encouraging them to communicate with each other and deal with any issues that may arise. In some cases, couples may need to work through issues that relate to breastfeeding. Issues such as poor latch-on or an inadequate response to breastfeeding may be signs that the couple needs some additional help.
The benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable, and it is important that women are supported through this process. The process of breastfeeding, while simple and straightforward, is not a walk in the park, and many women find it challenging at some point in their breastfeeding journey. Having a lactation consultant by your side can help you through these tough times and can provide support to ensure that you and your child thrive and grow.