What can Lactation Professionals Learn from YOU?

My co-founder & COO Danielle Rigg and I are  in sunny (but chilly) Orlando, Florida preparing to run a workshop tomorrow at the Healthy Children Project’s Center for Breastfeeding 2010 International Conference on the Theory and Practice of Human Lactation Research and Breastfeeding Managment.  We will be talking about why breastfeeding needs a makeover and how the breastfeeding movement can benefit from cutting edge tools of social marketing—like our gorgeous ad campaign, our new message to moms and our glamorous and appealing brand, among other initiatives.  We’ll also be talking about what moms are experiencing with breastfeeding and what we’ve learned about social media.   Finally, we’ll be talking about how (with your help!) we can elevate breastfeeding to be the “mother of all causes” on par with Komen, (Red), March of Dimes and all the diseases that breastfeeding ameliorates—the breastfeeding cause is woefully underfunded, yet there is no disease from cancer, obesity, diabetes to heart disease and more that breastfeeding does not impact positively to some degree. You can see our presentation description and the full conference schedule here.

Best for Babes thinks they have excellent training for lactation professionals!

Healthy Children is where Danielle, first, and then I, 2 years later, turned to become certified lactation counselors.   They have a reputation for excellence, and their week-long training course, which travels around the country, is often sold out.    My trainers were Nikki Lee and Roxanne Hayek and they can tell you I was on the edge of my seat during my course, spilling over with excitement over what I was learning.  I considered myself pretty knowledgeable about breastfeeding (having breastfed and having started a breastfeeding non-profit and having read much, much literature) but was amazed by just how much I didn’t know . . . and I don’t mean just facts about lactation management like dealing with latching issues or the physiology of milk production.   The Healthy Children course gave me tremendous education about the larger context of the breastfeeding issue, techniques for working with patients, best resources, and framework.   It was simply awe-inspiring.   Many professionals who go on to become IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) take the Healthy Children course as part of the qualification process.   If you are thinking of becoming a lactation professional, we strongly encourage you to take the Healthy Children course.   According to the CDC, there is a shortage in lactation professionals per capita.   We’d also love to see more doctors take it (and boy, breastfeeding rates would change overnight if they did) and also women’s health journalists and website editors—I’m constantly amazed at how many pregnancy/parenting magazines and websites have a Medical Advisory Board without one single qualified lactation professional on it!   Human lactation and breastfeeding medicine is a science, and should be treated as such.   There is too much misinformation about breastfeeding that is being perpetuated by well-meaning laypersons and medical personnel who are not adequately trained in this specialty.  We think that Healthy Children provides a gold standard of evidence-based lactation professional education.  One of the biggest “booby traps”, that we will discuss in a separate post, is that not all lactation professionals have undergone a similar rigorous training and have not demonstrated the  knowledge and skill-set that should be required of anyone who works with new parents and their babies.

Now for our questions to you.   What has been your experience with lactation professionals?   We have heard a number of stories where new moms did not have a good experience with the lactation professional in the hospital, but had a wonderful experience with the lactation professional they hired themselves, or with volunteers from La Leche League or elsewhere.   Do moms know the difference between a CLE, a CLC and an IBCLC?   How can moms be assured that they are getting excellent breastfeeding advice from a lactation professional who practices according to the highest standards and ethics and is not operating under conflicting commercial influences?    We know from the CDC that 70% of this country’s 3,000 maternity care centers perform poorly on breastfeeding support, so can we trust hospital lactation “specialists” to truly provide the best care to mothers?   What are your thoughts on this?  Please leave a comment below, or if you prefer, email me at bestforbabes.bettina AT gmail DOT com. 

We’re looking forward to your feedback, and will let you know what WE learn from the conference!

17 thoughts on “What can Lactation Professionals Learn from YOU?

  1. When I had my baby 3mos ago, I didn’t have access to a lactation consultant. Instead, the maternity nurses (that were meant to fill the role) checked my nipples a couple times and let me sit 8 hours before I saw my baby for the first time after a c-section. In addition, on 4 separate occasions, those same nurses suggested that I get some rest rather than feed my baby (they were happy to feed her a bottle of formula for me).

    I think the best thing lactation consultants can do is work on developing a community with the health professionals that are involved in early post-partum care. LCs are not stand-alone health professionals and really need to work more closely with the nurses in maternity and NICUs, midwives and pediatricians. Sometimes the least acknowledged health professional needs to work the hardest to be seen, even if they play a hugely important role.


  2. I have been thinking for awhile and believe more now than ever that the breastfeeding movement is missing the personal connection aspect.
    The lactation consultants I encountered we little to no help at the hospital. I could tell they had been trained but they didn’t have real experiences. If it wasn’t what they knew, too bad for you. The one that told me my nipple was too small to nurse, got the glare of death from me. Thankfully, I didn’t let that discourage me and I am now nursing my third kiddo.


  3. This excellent blog post points out one of the “booby traps” that is faced by new moms:

    My wife is planning on breastfeeding this coming spring when our baby arrives. Knowing what the obstacles and difficulties may be is very helpful in overcoming them. She is not discouraged when she hears it may be uncomfortable (at first), but rather prefers to know ahead of time in order to do more research and be prepared.

    We recently visited a friend in the hospital, after the birth of her third, who was having some latching difficulty. She was unaware whether the help was coming from a CLE, CLC or IBCLC. They just said they were lactation consultants. She never saw their names in writing or their actual titles. Fortunately, with their help, she was able to continue to breastfeed and get the start that she needed.

    Overall, it would seem better to have an IBCLC present within the first few days just to check in, rather than waiting a few weeks and then having to call for help (especially in the case of first time moms).


    1. You are right, it is so important to have an IBCLC present within the first few hours, just to check and make sure everything is going well. Sounds like your wife is doing a great job of educating herself and becoming prepared.


  4. In the hopes that they’ll see it, I’ll post it here: I’d love to see Healthy Children offer a distance certification option for their course. We can’t get trained if the training isn’t made widely enough available! I know too many of my peers who’d love to take the CLC course and get the designation, but it’s just impossible due to logistics. It’s a Booby Trap in our own camp!


  5. I think we need to be careful not to teach women that lactation professionals are necessary for every woman in order to breastfeed. In the hospital with my first son, I had a good though very brief experience with someone I later learned was an IBCLC. It was “latch in 60 seconds or less” lesson essentially. If I had had a mother or sister or friend who had breastfed, I could have learned the same lesson from her and really didn’t need a professional. The second time I felt I needed a lactation professional I hired Nikki Lee, who luckily for me lives nearby. I don’t think I was a particularly difficult case (over supply combined with panic that my enormous newborn was starving to death 😉 ). I love Nikki and she was a life saver but if I lived in a community of women who breastfed, someone might have calmed me down (“no, he is 2 weeks old and weighs like 15 pounds. He is likely getting enough.”) and figured out the gag, chomp, and spit pattern he had was over active let-down.

    If someone asked me for a recommendation for a lactation professional, my first choice would be an IBCLC about whom I had heard good first hand experiences. But before sending someone to a lactation professional, I would want to know whether the problem was really one that required professional help. Breastfeeding is not pathological.


    1. You are right, lactation professionals are not necessary for every woman to learn to breastfeed, but in general they are just more necessary now because the mother-to-mother passing down of breastfeeding lore has been shattered. The bigger issue for us seems to be the overwhelming number of stories we’ve heard of supposed lactation professionals telling moms their nipples are too small to breastfeed (as in one of the other comments) or shaking their head disapprovingly. Or the hospitals where a very good IBCLC is spread so thin she has very little time to spend with patients.


  6. I read everything I could get my hands on before giving birth to my DD, including Dr Jack Newman and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I drug my DH to a breastfeeding course as well where, thankfully, he learned about colostrum! I ended up being induced and having an epidural, which I am sure led to all my breastfeeding problems (but none became apparent until I left the hospital).

    In the hospital I had very sore nipples and I asked the nurse to see an LC (knowing I should get help right away and that “if it hurts, something is wrong”). The first time the LC walked she looked at me and said “why are you in bed?”. The next time she was mad because she came in right after my baby had fed.

    Two days after bringing my daughter home from the hospital, she stopped latching on. She didn’t east anything for over 12 hours. I called the breastfeeding clinic at the hospital and left a message for the LC. She called back to give me some tips on engorgement and then I said “but what if none of this works and she still won’t latch on?”. She just said “Oh she will” and that was that.


  7. I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital before giving birth. I am glad it was free. Despite the hospitals personnel stating that they truly want all mothers to breastfeed, the video was dated. Even though the information was valid, it was difficult to get across the message for the oddness of the video. It also didn’t teach you any more than you could read from a book.

    My only experience with a lactation consultant was at the hospital. She was very nice and knowledgeable. The only complaint I had was that she was quick to use the nipple shield. I refused and insisted we could do it and should keep trying. AND WE DID! I was very pleased with their concern about the success of my breastfeeding because they called each week for the next 4 weeks to make sure everything was going well. 🙂


  8. I’m a breastfeeding mama of four children, granted only one of them is being breastfed is at the moment. The truth is, I was a total failure the first three times around. I knew very little about breastfeeding. I thought everything I was doing was wrong. I had no help, no support and no knowledge of the ins and outs of breastfeeding. I got lucky the fourth time around.
    Geri Reynolds, IBCLC at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, KY was there from day one. I was allowed to bond with and breastfeed my baby as soon as my c-section was patched up. Geri was so informative, encouraging and unbelievably supportive. Not only did she provide me with superior service in the hospital, but she continued to call me at home and check on my progress. She’s been there to answer all of my questions and calm my fears. I give Geri as much credit for my breastfeeding success as I do myself. I sincerely believe that I would NOT have been as successful as I have been without her help.
    As for elevating breastfeeding awareness to the level of the Komen Foundation, etc… It would be so great if Best For Babes could partner with organizations like March of Dimes, The Komen Foundation, American Heart Association in order to educate the public as to breastfeeding’s role in preventing/decreasing your risks in relation to each of their causes. I’m sure someone’s already thought of this.
    Anyhow, that’s what I’ve got for you. Thanks for all you do to encourage breastfeeding and prevent those pesky booby traps!

    Kristi, Hello…Is This On?


  9. I have had an extremely positive experience with the LC that helped me with breastfeeding my first child. For some reason my milk was several days delayed. At the hospital, I was given a pump (could not visit my son for first 24hrs due to being attached to IV) and seen by LCs several times. No colostrum. I was discharged at the end of the second day, by then my son had been bottle fed formula since he had nothing since birth. However, they did give me a book with a listings of the local LCs that could help.
    We started calling around on Sunday…no one was around, especially since it was a 3 day weekend. We finally heard back from one LC, Linda Hanna. She hand-delivered a pump to my house in the pouring rain, on a Sunday, checked me and gave me some instructions. I made an appt with her after the Monday holiday. With her assistance, she helped increase my milk supply, wean my son off the bottle and back on to my breast. By the end of the first month, he was breastfeeding exclusively. I credit this lactation consultant with this turnaround. Without her, I would have been feeding my son formula for his first year. I found out later that she was the one that implemented the lactation program at the well known Cedars Sinai Hospital where I delivered. I’m very lucky.
    All I can say that it would really help mothers out there if LCs were similarly trained and dedicated as she was AND if hospitals had great breastfeeding support programs in place. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy…mothers with issues need all the help we can get.


  10. I gave birth to my first child in April via C-section. I was given my daughter approx. 1 hour after my delivery. I had made it known to the maternity nurses that I wanted to breastfeed my daughter in the postpartum room before my family came in to visit and meet her.
    ENTER: Linda Carroll RN, IBCLC
    We had previously met during childbirth education classes offered by the hospital. She came into my room and prompted me to unswaddle my daughter, so in holding her we would be chest to chest. She placed my arms and hands so that I would be in support of Leonora’s head while her nose found my nipple. After just a few minutes of fussing, my daughter’s mouth opened wide and she latched!
    Linda was smiling and encouraging me the whole time. Her hands on approach echos each day and each time I feed my daughter. We are still in contact as she is the moderator of a new mom’s group at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. At this group we are encouraged to talk about everything, from our emotional state and breastfeeding to baby sleep patterns and milestone development.
    Similarly, I have also had the opportunity to join a breastfeeding support group, Bosom Buddies, which has been a product of Monmouth Medical Center staffers and lactation consultants Casi Leahy, BA, RN, MSN, LCCE, IBCLC, and Pat Templeton RN, IBCLC. It is also with their help, advice and encouragement that I have continued breastfeeding my daughter through a bout of mastitis and the dreaded return to work pumping fiascos. I feel breastfeeding the the most important choice I have made. I am forming a bond with my daughter deeper than any formula manufacturer could ever imagine. I am forever in debt to my lactation consultants and my fellow bosom buddies and new moms. It is my belief that the dedication and continued participation by both the consultant and the mothers is key to the marketability of breastfeeding. Word of mouth is the the most powerful tool in marketing and if hospitals/consultants have strong breastfeeding support programs, and great follow-up calls/visits, breastfeeding will quickly become the preferred method of nutrition for infants.


  11. I loved my work as a hospital LC. My favorite thing was to invite the baby into the conversation and encourage the mother to put her baby skin to skin, then pull up a chair and sit and chat. Neither the mother nor I could see the baby because it was under a blanket on the mom’s chest.

    Half the time, in the middle of our conversation, the mother would get an amazing surprised look on her face and say,”My baby is breastfeeding”. I LOVE THAT!!. No work on her part, we were having a good time together, and the baby showed the mother that breastfeeding could be very easy.

    The stuff I didn’t like about the hospital experience was having to fight against the ignorance of some hospital staff who were suspicious of skin to skin and totally convinced that giving the baby a bottle of formula was the solution to most problems and challenges. I didn’t like that mothers and babies were never left alone to figure things out for themselves. I didn’t like the time presssure, that a baby would have to nurse by “X” number of minutes, or else.

    I really didn’t like how mothers and babies were injured and disconnected from each other as a result of birth technology and surgery and induction. It was so difficult to get breastfeeding going when a mother was recovering from surgery and her baby was premature.

    I also didn’t like that so many staff people wouldn’t want to know anything about breastfeeding even when invited to watch me and learn. They would just wait for me to come to work so that I could take care of all the mothers. Breastfeeding is everyone’s business, not only a LC’s!

    Every once in a while, I would encounter a mother that didn’t want my visit. Sometimes it was because she’d nursed a bunch of other babies and felt confident. Sometimes it was because she’d heard bad things about LCs. That was hard to hear.

    I loved to see the mothers that had chosen not to breastfeed. I wanted to be sure they knew how to be comfortable with their breasts that would have to dry up. I would sit down and chat with these mothers, and after some conversation, ask how she made her infant feeding decision. Half the time, the reason she’d made her choice was out of some misconception about breastfeeding. When that misconception was corrected, some mothers would change their minds. That was exciting. The other times, where the mothers were absolutely definite about their choice, I would ask them to tell me more so I could learn about their lives and the reasons for their choice. This was important and humbling.

    I am totally grateful to Bettina and Danielle for sharing their wisdom with all of us who attended their workshop at the International Conference in Orlando today. I needed my skills updated for the 21st century, and they did that with passion and power.



  12. This is such a timely post. Today I was at a friend’s house, she has a 1.5 week old and is nursing. Though she thought her latch was good, things have declined. At her hospital the LC popped in the door and asked how things were going. She replied “Pretty Good.” And she never saw that LC again. Now, she has pinched nipples and the latch is clearly not good. I gave her my BTDT advice and encouraged her to call the LC I saw over a year ago. I hope she calls.

    My experience, on the other hand, was phenomenal and I owe my success to my LC. I am still nursing my 13.5 month old. He started out with a terrible and STRONG latch. After more pain than I ever thought possible, and constant nursing, the LC reluctantly suggested the nipple shield. This was given with much caution, but we were all desperate. The same LC manually expressed colostrum when my son wouldn’t latch and fed him with a dropper. They were all extremely determined to not have my son ever use a bottle.

    The shield worked like a charm, my nipples healed, and I saw the LC two more times to help wean my son from it. The first time wasn’t successful, even though she was able to get him latched I failed at home. At 5 weeks we went back and tried again. She got him latched, and after that visit I swore never to use the shield. I didn’t!

    This LC called me at home every 3 days until I told her we were on the path to 100% success. I get teary eyed just thinking of everything she did for us. As determined as I was, I needed support from a professional who understood the mechanics of latching. No amount of reading or videos helped me the way she did.

    I was completely unprepared for how hard breastfeeding can be. It is natural and wonderful and everything I imagined, but not all babies are born knowing how to latch themselves. When a pediatrician suggested I should just pump and bottle feed and give up, the LC’s gave me the encouragement I needed.

    I wish everyone could have Michelle. She may have been referred to as the “breastfeeding Nazi” by someone I know… but that is precisely what I needed. If anyone is in the Central New York Region, deliver at St. Joseph’s.

    And I want to add a special thank you to the Lactation Consultants who do their job well. You make a difference in so many women’s lives. You are amazing!


  13. I had to use a nipple shield because of bleeding after delivering my son. I didn’t get off of it until 2 months and when I did I got Thrush. My midwife told me to get back on the shield and go to see the LC. She was so great in helping me with his latch to keep my nipples from getting so sore. With the LC and LLL I have had the support to BF my son for 12 months!
    I just wish I had gone to see the LC sooner. I’m going to suggest to my birthing center that all new mothers are encouraged to see the LC as soon as they can after the birth.


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