First things first: A lactation consultant is an expert in maternal health whose job is to promote healthy breastfeeding and pumping. Ample research and data suggest that lactation support leads to better breastfeeding outcomes, according to multiple studies published in peer-reviewed journals, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Do I need one?
Maybe. You won’t know if you need a lactation consultant until you try to breastfeed, which is why experts advise booking one while you’re still pregnant. A lactation consultant is helpful at the beginning of the breastfeeding journey, as well as at other milestones—like pumping, going back to work, and weaning.
Where do I find one?
Find out in advance if your hospital has a lactation consultant. Not all hospitals have a dedicated lactation specialist on staff. If yours does, request a session within twenty-four hours of giving birth. This may be a private meeting or a group session on the maternity floor. During this meeting, they will teach you how to get a proper latch, show you different nursing positions, and explain how to use a pump if you are not able to breastfeed. Hospital visits with a lactation consultant are most often covered by insurance as part of your stay.
If your hospital doesn’t offer this service, book an appointment with a lactation consultant who can meet you either in the hospital right after birth or as soon as you get home. You can find one near you using the United States Lactation Consultant Association’s website.
What is a visit like?
“In a typical session, I’ll meet a new mother at her home, take off my shoes, wash my hands, and settle in next to the mother and baby so they can show me how feeding is going, explains Sarah Moore, a certified lactation educator and counselor in New York. “We might talk about latch issues, pain, concerns about how frequently the baby is or isn’t eating, and whether they are getting what they need. Often there are some hands-on adjustments with latch or positioning, and I try to get the partner involved so they don’t feel like feeding is a one-person job. Then I write my suggestions—sleep-deprivation affects memory—and text or call the next day to see how my suggestions are working. Afterward, they have a few weeks of on-call time with me in case I need to follow up, either by text, over the phone, or in person.”
Obviously, each mother and newborn case is different, but expect to meet with a consultant anywhere from one to three times. (Often one is enough.)
How much does it cost?
An hour-long session with a private lactation consultant can run between $50 and $350, depending on your location. Consultants are also available for remote visits or group sessions (most likely on Zoom).
At Anya, we work with certified lactation education counselors and lactation consultants certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE), a certification that includes infant and maternal development and nutrition; infant and maternal pathology and physiology; pharmacology, psychology, and clinical and communication skills. This is why you will see International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) after some consultants’ names. (This certification is renewed every five years.)