What is a Lactation Consultant?

What is a Lactation Consultant?

So you are a Lactation Consultant.  What is that?  Don’t babies just inherently know how to breastfeed?  Isn’t every friend or mother able to give you advice? I can tell you how to do it.

Sometimes, but not always.  Let me enlighten you.  Sometimes you need professional advice.

A Lactation Consultant is the expert in their field.  Having a greater depth of knowledge regarding the physical anatomy of both the mother’s breasts and the baby’s sucking.  There are many things that can affect this “normal progression”.  Some things are as simple as correcting the positioning.  Others take a trained eye to recognize, such as a tongue tie or why one mom is able to pump 5 millilitres at 5 days post birth and another may pump two ounces or 60 millilitres.  We can find solutions for a concerned mom who cannot latch her baby when her nipples are flat, or on the other side of the coin, a mom who has exceptionally long nipples which cause her baby to choke every time she attempts a latch.

Just as every person is different, so are every mother and baby couplet.

Consent must be obtained prior to providing care.  It is important to take an in depth history of mom’s breast development in puberty.  Sometimes this can tell us if there may be enough milk making glands.  Also any breast surgery, breast trauma and even mental health can affect the amount of production.  Some events or procedures done during the birthing process designed to save either the mom or baby’s life, may have an adverse impact on how feeding will progress.  We must never lose sight of what is important, that being saving the life, but you can see how important it is to take a history of how baby transitioned into the world.  Each consult must be patient centred.  A Lactation Consultant will assess how the feed goes, develop a care plan and report, then follow up to make sure the plan is working.

Through our education we are taught the components of milk, antibodies, the enzymes, and many more things too lengthy to mention in a short article.  While already having a science based background as a nurse, it takes years to complete the courses required to obtain certification.  90 hours of courses specific to breastfeeding.  These include topics such as Ethics, Lactation, Anatomy, Physiology, Disease, Growth and Development of the Newborn and Counselling.  On top of this we are required to study under another Lactation Consultant for 1000 hours of clinical practice.  To put this in perspective a full time nurse works a total of 1950 hours in a year.  Even if they work on a busy Maternal Child ward of a hospital, only a portion can be counted. The 1000 hours can take 4 to 5 years to complete.

Lactation Consultants are governed by The World Health Organization.  We provide holistic, evidence based breastfeeding support from preconception to weaning for women and their families using the principles of adult education.  This designation is obtained by writing a monitored exam.  We have a scope of practice outline, and the certification is International.

To maintain certification we must complete 90 hours of courses every 5 years on the latest research and maintain a certain number of clinical hours.

Your family doctor may refer you to a Lactation Consultant if breastfeeding is not going well. Or you can make an appointment yourself.

We are allied professionals who recognize when there is a need to obtain a referral to another area of expertise, such as Speech and Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Paediatricians, Neonatologists and Mental Health providers.  We work hand in hand with Nurses, Midwives, Doulas, La Leche League leaders and coaches.  Life as a Lactation Consultant is never dull, and we always feel privileged to share knowledge, experience and help the wonderful families we meet in their journey to successfully achieving their feeding goals.

This article was sourced from Nancy Gale at https://lactationplus.ca/

Reference: Clinical competencies for the practice of IBCLC’s

                   Dissemination and effective date December 12, 2018