Working with a lactation consultant before and after the birth of your baby can help you overcome the challenges of breastfeeding and achieve feedings with comfort and confidence.
Figuring out how to feed your newborn is one of the first tasks to master after giving birth. Many moms face common challenges, such as delayed milk production, difficulty latching, over-active let-down, sore nipples or engorgement. Other moms may even be temporarily separated from their infant if they or their babies require intensive care.
Navigating and overcoming these challenges can be made easier with the help of a certified lactation consultant, or IBCLC. Jefferson Health’s expert lactation team and breastfeeding services provide a range of educational opportunities to expectant parents and counseling directly after birth, for new parents.
Here, we connect with two Jefferson patients from South Jersey share their experience working with a lactation consultant to gain more confidence in caring for their newborns.
When I gave birth to my daughter on July 17, she was preterm and had to go into the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for a few weeks. Because I was unable to exclusively breastfeed at first, we had to supplement with formula and fortified breastmilk from pumping. I ended up pumping at home every day and bringing it back to the hospital.
My husband and I attended a breastfeeding class with a lactation consultant prior to giving birth. I had been researching for a while and came up with tons of ideas and questions. Personally, this approach was helpful for me to set expectations. My conversation with the lactation consultant was transparent, comfortable and gave me one less thing to worry about. All of this helped me feel prepared for my breastfeeding journey.
Luckily, my baby was able to latch from day one. She was so young when we started that she could not suck hard; it was more for practice, so that she would be used to it once she grew stronger. Over time, we’ve been able to decrease supplementation little by little and, eventually, I’ll be able to exclusively breastfeed.
The first few days after giving birth can feel like information overload. There are so many breastfeeding rules out there, but at the end of the day, you have to find what works best for you.
My lactation consultant truly advocated for me. She didn’t only care about my routine in the hospital, she cared about what would be practical for me once we went home. It felt amazing to have that reassurance and an expert in my corner. She also provided resources so that I could connect with a lactation consultant once we got home.
I also learned how to listen to my baby’s cues to determine when she’s hungry and how to practice flexibility with positioning. Stomach-to-stomach has been one of my “go-to” reminders when it comes to the cradle position. My lactation consultant also showed me other positions, such as a football hold, as sometimes you need to switch it up depending on your environment.
What I appreciated most was that they weren’t just there to provide care to my baby, but to me as well. They explained that how I take care of myself directly impacts my milk supply and how I care for my daughter. Keeping my mental status in check – relaxing and focusing on my baby – while also keeping my physical health in check – staying hydrated, getting as much rest as possible and eating well – allowed this experience to be more rewarding.
I gave birth to my third baby on July 2. My first two – 2-year-old twins – were born premature at 35 weeks, and not only were they in the NICU, but I was in the ICU for some time. Breastfeeding was something I always wanted to do, but unfortunately was unable to do with them. Thankfully, I’ve been able to successfully breastfeed my newborn, and I’ve loved every moment of it.
I met with a lactation consultant for the first time the same day my son was born; I was determined to get a head start. I had done my research – even joined groups online – but knew I still needed professional help. The last thing I wanted to do was overwhelm myself.
My lactation consultants helped me secure a good latch, working with him to make sure he had strong enough suction. I discovered I have an intense letdown reflex, which can gag him if I’m not holding him in the right position. They taught me how to let gravity work with us instead of against us. I can feel for the letdown, wait and then lean back a little bit. Now that he’s growing, and quickly getting longer, I have to readjust our positioning.
The whole time I was in the hospital, my lactation consultants provided me with a sense of peace. There was no pressure – no worrying about whether or not he was going to go hungry. It was okay if he only latched for a few minutes, while other times for a half an hour. The advice I was given was that he would eat when he wanted to, and that he’ll tell me when he’s hungry.
They also offered a lot of tips and tricks around breast care and making feeds easier: silicone nipple shields can help the baby latch if they’re struggling; certain creams can help heal and protect sore and dry nipples; showers before a feed can help with milk letdown; and icepacks can alleviate engorgement.I was undoubtedly able to bond with my first two children, but the skin-to-skin bonding that I’m now experiencing from breastfeeding my newborn is new and invaluable. I’m grateful to have had a care team that helped me achieve this.