Even though I had breastfed my first two babies, something was very wrong. My milk was coming in, everything was swollen, baby couldn’t latch, and I was in more pain than childbirth. My body looked like a war zone.
I needed help with breastfeeding, and I needed it fast.
I have absolutely zero issues with formula feeding and even had some formula on hand ready to go, but the situation was so dire that my ladies were going to need medical attention even if I gave my baby formula.
Nearly hyperventilating, I texted a lactation consultant, whom I had never met, on a Saturday morning, and tried to sound as casual as possible. I didn’t want to be alarmist or dramatic. I was very aware that I was acutely postpartum and hormones might be at play. Y’ALL. This lactation consultant, who had never heard of me until that morning, drove 45 minutes TO MY HOUSE and gave me the most thorough, compassionate care I have ever received by a medical professional. She listened — really listened — to my concerns. She offered an assortment of options and with zero pressure, let me choose the best option for me and my baby. She took the time to practice each new technique with me and didn’t leave until I felt confident.
Of course, we could call this woman an angel — and she is deserving of that title — but here’s what I know about lactation consultants after breastfeeding three babies:
They are all angels on earth.
Every single one of them. I have had the pleasure of working with five or six lactation consultants in my seven years of motherhood. Every single one of them was kind, gentle, compassionate, and above all else, extremely knowledgeable about their field of practice.
If you are unfamiliar with lactation consultants, here is a brief rundown. At their most basic, they help mothers breastfeed their babies; but this statement feels akin to saying that an OB/GYN just catches babies. Lactation consultants have so much knowledge and experience in troubleshooting all things breastfeeding. In order to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC, candidates must first already hold a position in a recognized health profession, such as a registered nurse, midwife, or medical doctor. Then they must complete 95 hours of lactation-specific education courses, followed by 1000 hours of supervised clinical experience with breastfeeding mothers and babies. If you are interested in becoming an IBCLC, more information can be found here and here.
Many lactation consultants accept insurance, and many insurances cover in-home visits. You’ll need to check with your specific insurance, of course, or The Lactation Network can do much of the legwork for you, perfect for exhausted new moms struggling with breastfeeding. Tennessee also offers a breastfeeding hotline that is staffed 24/7 by IBCLCs.
I told you. ANGELS.
Medical training aside, there is just something different about lactation consultants. These professionals walk into hospital rooms with exhausted, swollen, bleeding mothers and offer a calm unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With all three of my births, there was a palpable shift in the tone of the room when the lactation consultant entered. I am fairly modest and often feel uncomfortable discussing bodily functions, but I have never once felt embarrassed by a lactation consultant and the delicate work they do.
I could go on and on about my experiences with lactation consultants and how they have pulled me out of many pits of despair, but I really want to put out a call to action. We need more lactation consultants. We need more medical professionals to come alongside women and help them achieve their breastfeeding goals, no matter how big or small. We need hospitals to staff labor and delivery units with enough lactation consultants to serve every woman who wants one day AND night. We need insurance companies to recognize this vital service as a non-negotiable benefit for both mothers and babies and to cover visits at 100%.
Breastfeeding is a deeply personal decision, and I am so respectful of that. For women who choose breastfeeding, though, it is also a medical decision. I am forever grateful to all the lactation consultants who guided me through some very intense, yet very delicate, medical issues. That kind of grace and compassion is deserving of so much respect.