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How to Choose a Lactation Consultant
Updated on
September 11, 2023

How to Choose a Lactation Consultant

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How to Choose a Lactation Consultant

Written by Jada Shapiro, lactation counselor, doula, childbirth educator and boober founder

In a perfect world, all new parents would have access to the lactation support they need, and lactation consultants would be abundant and available to everyone who wants to breastfeed/bodyfeed their baby from the first moments after birth. All doctors, nurses, midwives and pediatricians would be thoroughly trained in supporting nursing parents, and our family members would be able to easily help us as we learn to nurse.

Unfortunately, this is not currently the case for many new parents. So if you’re struggling with feeding your baby, knowing where to find and how to choose a lactation consultant can be really helpful.

What is a lactation consultant?

A lactation consultant or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a certified healthcare professional trained in the clinical management of breastfeeding/bodyfeeding with strong hands-on training and deep education in evidence-based lactation management. A lactation consultant is equipped to solve minor and major and complex feeding issues.

IBCLCs are experts in both prevention and management of all things nursing, pumping and feeding. They’re routinely referred by ob-gyns, midwives, pediatricians, doulas and other perinatal care providers as the expert to see when there are nursing or feeding issues.

How do I find a lactation consultant?

Finding a lactation consultant can be especially challenging because of the urgency associated with many lactation issues. Time is of the essence when you need lactation help. Here are some different approaches to finding the right lactation consultant for you:

  • Your personal network. Ask your family, friends, OB, midwife or pediatrician for their referrals to great lactation consultants. This is a great way to find recommended people. The caveat? They may not be available in the moment you need support and with lactation and the faster you get help, the more likely you are to achieve your feeding goals.

  • National directories. There are extensive national directories like the United States Lactation Consultant Association where you will be directed to a list of all lactation consultants in your area. You can run through the list and call and vet each individual provider to see who is available and who fits your needs best.

  • Peer lactation support groups. Chocolate Milk Cafe and La Leche League provide low-cost or free, peer-run virtual and in-person groups where you can receive lactation support from a peer lactation leader.

  • Personalized matching platform. Boober connects parents to expert, same-day lactation consultants (virtual or in-person) who match their needs and budget. Boober launched after I received endless calls from past childbirth education customers in search of lactation help. Parents deserved a new and simple solution to find an amazing virtual or in-person lactation consultant quickly, exactly when they needed the help.

How do I know if I need a lactation consultant?

It can be scary and emotional to struggle to feed your baby and/or it can hurt physically to do it. It’s okay to reach out for help. New parents are not meant to do this alone! A lactation consultant can be helpful if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • You are in pain throughout a feed
  • Your nipples are sore, cracked, bleeding or misshapen after nursing
  • Your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, is not peeing or pooping enough or has lost weight as per your hospital or pediatrician
  • Your baby is having trouble latching on, staying on or hasn’t latched at all
  • Your baby slips off the nipple often or makes clicking sounds while they are feeding
  • Your baby does not seem satisfied after a feeding or falls asleep at the beginning of a feeding and wakes up shortly, hungry again, constantly
  • Your baby has been diagnosed with reflux or food sensitivities/allergies
  • Your pediatrician or hospital staff mentioned a possible “tongue tie” or Tethered Oral Tissues
  • You are experiencing frequent clogged ducts or mastitis
  • Something in your breastfeeding/bodyfeeding/pumping/bottlefeeding experience just doesn’t seem right
  • You are not able to get comfortable in any position while nursing
  • You are feeding for excessively long times every time you nurse (45min-1 hour each time, all the time)
  • You just need reassurance and want to talk to someone who understands

How do I choose the lactation consultant that’s right for me?

Consider the following factors as you see a lactation consultant.

  • When do I need the help? If urgent, you’ll need the most qualified person available, who can come as soon as possible.
  • How serious is my problem? Serious issues like poor weight gain, low milk supply, mastitis, tongue tie, etc. should be addressed by an IBCLC.
  • How much does the consultant charge? Is it per visit, per hour, how many visits are included? How long is a typical visit? How do they charge for follow-up visits? If I have insurance, do they take it?
  • How experienced is the consultant?
  • Will they come to my home in-person? Do they offer virtual visits or follow up?
  • Do they bring a sensitive scale to see how much milk my baby transfers?
  • Do they specialize in my particular situation (whether that be twins, low milk supply, premature babies, etc.)?

If you use a matching platform, like boober, a human Care Connector will assess your situation with you and make it easy to choose and hire the right person for you.

Does insurance cover lactation consultants?

Working with a lactation professional is not just for people struggling with serious issues and shouldn’t be seen as a luxury. In fact, the Affordable Care Act requires that lactation counseling be covered by health insurance companies. If you have insurance, and the company doesn’t have in-network providers, they must provide you an out-of-network option (often called an out-of-network exception or geographic gap exception) for reimbursement.

If you have insurance, call your insurance company ahead of time if you can, to navigate this before you have your baby.

Support can lead to success!

While breastfeeding/bodyfeeding is a natural process, it does not come easily to everyone. Having a support system in place when you are beginning to nurse, in the first few hours or days of your baby’s life, can make a world of difference in helping a parent meet their lactation goals.

Getting educated about lactation while pregnant makes a big difference too. Taking a lactation class prenatally makes it more likely you’ll experience successful nursing. In reality, you don’t have to have any major concerns or issues to seek support and guidance from a lactation consultant. Even just validation that you are on the right track and are doing a great job can be life-giving to a new parent. Sometimes a little validation is all you need to keep going.

Jada Shapiro is a maternal healthcare expert and the founder of boober, a marketplace where expectant and new parents find classes and on-demand care providers like birth doulas, postpartum doulas, lactation consultants and mental health therapists for pregnancy to postpartum. Boober is a one-stop shop for everything from bump, birth and beyond so new parents can thrive.

Babylist Staff

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