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Misconceptions about the goals of the Lactation Consultant

If mom needs lactation help, will she call a Lactation Consultant? Why or why not?
If mom needs lactation help, will she call a Lactation Consultant? Why or why not?
Ken Johnson

Many women are told in the early stages of breastfeeding that they would benefit from the services of a Lactation Consultant. Indeed, if one looks at the research on breastfeeding interventions and their effectiveness, the act of employing the services of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant can be one of the most successful strategies leading to breastfeeding success. But some women who have been referred to an IBCLC never make the call. At times, their reasons for not connecting with this invaluable resource are rooted in normal postpartum fatigue, forgetfulness, or difficulty focusing. These moms have simply forgotten that there is someone out there who can help them. One Fresno mother remarked that, "My head was in such a fog after I came home from the hospital that I couldn't even remember where I had put the phone numbers of the doctors. Finding a phone number for a Lactation Consultant didn't even cross my mind until several days later."

While forgetfulness may be one reason moms miss out on lactation care, the reality is that some new mothers purposely avoid calling a lactation consultant when they're in trouble, despite recommendations to do so. They avoid making the call because of common misconceptions about the role that  these specialists play in the breastfeeding relationship. These moms are afraid that the IBCLC will have one, single focus of exclusive breastfeeding, and they are worried that they will be made to feel guilty if they themselves do not share that focus. They're concerned that if they are using a bottle at all, the consultant will not understand their circumstances and may insist that they do things "their way." Sadly, this misconception can cause moms and babies to miss out on some amazing and compassionate care when they need it the most.

In truth, while all Lactation Consultants have a strong appreciation for breast milk's amazing value, few would force their own agendas on any new mother, especially a mother who is struggling in the first weeks of breastfeeding. Education by an IBCLC may include information about the value of exclusive breastfeeding, and may involve some discussion of issues such as bottle preference, but it is very unlikely that a care plan for a strict breastfeeding schedule will be set up against mother's wishes. Most Lactation Consultants are very compassionate people. A great Lactation Consultant's goal is merely to help each mother reach her own breastfeeding goals to the best of her ability. These caring specialists want to assist, support, encourage, and celebrate the efforts that mothers make in nurturing and nourishing their babies. The best Lactation Consultants are the ones who begin by asking mom what she believes her greatest challenges are, what goals she wants to achieve, and what her vision of the future is. In Fresno, the beautiful truth is that this type of quality lactation care is always available.