What is a Lactation Consultant?

Margo Upson
Margo Upson

A lactation consultant is someone who has been licensed to assist women with their breastfeeding concerns and questions. Lactation consultants work in hospitals, birthing centers, with community groups, and for women’s organizations.

A breast pump, which can be used to induce lactation.
A breast pump, which can be used to induce lactation.

Most lactation consultants have attended special classes to enter into the field. Some do this as part of a nursing degree program. All lactation consultants are required to have ample experience assisting women in learning how to breastfeed. Most get this experience working in maternity wards in hospitals and at doctors' offices and women’s centers. A lactation consultant must be an expert in how to breastfeed, and must stay current on all of the latest research and publications about breastfeeding.

Lactation consultants help breastfeeding mothers and babies.
Lactation consultants help breastfeeding mothers and babies.

Lactation consultants may be hired to work with a woman before the birth of her child. Women who might benefit from an early visit with a lactation consultant are those who have inverted nipples, have had problems nursing a previous infant, or who want to know more about breastfeeding. Most women who choose to breastfeed have at least one visit from a lactation consultant before they leave the hospital. Many nurses who work on maternity wards have been certified as lactation consultants as well. After a woman goes home with her infant, a lactation consultant can visit the mother in her home, helping her adjust to her new life and assuring breastfeeding success.

A lactation consultant is responsible for many things. Most importantly, they educate women in how to correctly breastfeed. Babies are not born knowing how to correctly latch on to a nipple, and a new mother may not be able to get a newborn to latch on correctly. The latch-on technique required for breastfeeding is difficult to master, especially with a hungry infant crying for food, and eager to latch on any way that he or she can. A lactation consultant can help a mother and child master breastfeeding.

There are a lot of problems that may arise after the initial few weeks of successful nursing. Some women have trouble with breastfeeding after they return to work. Others have difficulty in mastitis or engorgement. A lactation consultant can help with any of these problems. Consultants are familiar with the use of breast pumps, and can help a woman to get used to using a pump before returning to work. They are aware of treatment options for mastitis or thrush. They can also assist women who are having difficulties with weaning their child from breastfeeding.

A lactation consultant is one of the best tools a new mother has to her disposal. A new mother should take advantage of the consultants at the hospital after giving birth, and any other time she feels that extra help is necessary. Because breast milk is so beneficial for infants, it is important that a mother receives as much help as she needs to get breastfeeding off to a great start.

A hungry infant may cry for food.
A hungry infant may cry for food.
Margo Upson
Margo Upson

Margo has a varied academic background, which has involved everything from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education. These wide-ranging interests make her an ideal wiseGEEK writer, as she always enjoys becoming an expert on new and unfamiliar topics.

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