A lactation consultant is a certified trained health professional who specializes in helping mothers learn how to breastfeed and fine-tune their technique in order to ensure a healthy and comfortable breastfeeding experience.
If you are having some difficulties with breastfeeding like latching, painful nursing or low milk production – or just want to get reassurance that everything is going well and you are “doing it right,” a Lactation Consultant is the best person to contact.
Below are answers to the 3 most common questions new moms ask Lactation Consultants.
How Often Should I Breastfeed? How Will I Know Whether My Baby is Getting Enough Milk?
Many women worry if their breastfeeding activity is “normal.” The truth is women have been breastfeeding for millions of years but there is no average or normal; every baby and mother is unique.
According to Medela research, infants can breastfeed between 4 and 13 times per day, with a duration ranging from 12 to 67 minutes per feeding session. The range of normal for milk consumed during a breastfeeding session ranges from 54-234 ml. The number of daily feedings typically reduces to 5, 6, or 8 times per day as the baby gets older and the baby stomach grows to accommodate more milk.
Babies also have unique feeding patterns – 30% only take one breast, 13% always take both breasts, and 57% mix it up! 64% of babies feed both day and night. For most mothers and babies, breastfeeding can present a wide range of experiences, challenges and wonderful moments of connection – embrace them all! A Lactation consultant will reassure you that this wide range of ‘average’ is perfectly normal.
The best way to make sure that your baby is getting “enough” milk is to pay attention to the baby’s pattern of wetting and soiling diapers. At the beginning, the baby will wet six to eight diapers a day, or five or six disposables. During the first month, your baby will produce at least three stools a day. If your baby looks satisfied, is gaining weight (150g and more a week in average) and produces enough dirty diapers, you can be assured that all is going well.
How Do I Prevent Sore Nipples?
During the first few days of breastfeeding, most moms feel nipple soreness as they start to get accustomed to this new sensation of the strong suckling force from the baby. Some mothers will experience painful nipples or cracked nipples – some babies suck more powerfully than others, or might have a bad latch that creates rubbing, pulling and discomfort. Your Lactation Consultant might suggest that one way to prevent sore nipples is to express a little extra milk after breastfeeding, spread the milk on the nipple and areola, and then air dry. Breastmilk has curative powers!
It’s also important to have good latch-on– this is where the baby is belly to belly to the mother and his mouth is at the height of the breast. If the baby is latching on properly, he will have not only the nipple but the areola as well in his mouth. Suction is instinctive – but latching is not – so the baby has to learn along with you, which often requires some practice. A lactation consultant can help you experiment with different positions of holding the baby or reclining with the baby to find the right arrangement that works for both of you. Learning how to latch-on is very important, because breastfeeding is a demand and supply system – so if the baby is not latching properly, your milk might dry up.
If latching problems are causing you to have sore nipples, you may want to consider nipple shields and other breastfeeding accessories for sore nipples or to relieve breastfeeding challenges. In any case of sore nipples or pain when breastfeeding, contact your lactation consultant or breastfeeding professional.
Can I Continue to Breastfeed if My Breasts Hurt or If I Have a Cold or the Flu?
If you have a standard cold, flu, or stomach virus – even if you have a fever – it is fine to breastfeed. Since your body is producing antibodies for you to fight your illness, you pass those same illness-fighting antibodies to your baby when you breastfeed. If it turns out you have a bacterial infection that requires antibiotics, make sure to ask your doctor for an antibiotic that is safe for breastfeeding.
In rare cases, if your only choice is to go on a medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding, pump and dump your milk while you are on the medication to keep your milk supply up. This is a good reason to have stored breastmilk or formula to use in the meantime.
Another tip for breastfeeding when ill: always wash your hands before picking up your baby and before breastfeeding. Even though your baby is getting your antibodies via the breastmilk, you still should try to minimize the chance of transmitting germs – and hand washing is one of the very best ways to do this.
You will probably have many questions on your breastfeeding journey and having a Lactation Consultant by your side can make all the difference in the world.