Breastfeeding Support People are called all kinds of things. (Not all of them kind or nice things but that’s another story.)
Breastfeeding support is one of those areas where there’s little or no regulation as to who can set themselves up as a breastfeeding supporter or what they call themselves. One of the consequences is that you can see a lactation consultant and they might be someone with a degree in breastfeeding and many hours of experience supporting breastfeeding. Or they might be someone who used to be a midwife or trained as a nanny and thinks they know from experience. The thing is, some midwives know loads about breastfeeding and some nannies are great at educating themselves and naturals at support. But, you have no guarantees that you pick a great one and just as much chance that you pick one who really doesn’t know that much and will give you information and advice that leads to you giving up breastfeeding before you want to.
So how can you find good quality well-trained breastfeeding support? In the UK the best way to start is to look for local groups or ring a helpline that’s supported by the reputable and knowledgeable volunteers from one of the four main breastfeeding charities. The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, the Breastfeeding Network, the La Leche League and the National Childbirth Trust. These organisations all train their volunteers to a great standard and also train them to be honest and refer mums to someone who knows even more than they do when they reach the limit of their knowledge.
But what if you need that top level of knowledge, that expertise? If someone calls themselves a lactation consultant what you need to know is are they certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Best way to find someone with this level of knowledge is to check the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain website.
It might be that you still need to do some research into local people, to find the right one for you.
But that’s just like you do with doulas, it’s about getting that feeling and clicking with someone when you already know they have the knowledge and training you’re looking for.
Here’s a personal tale on not stopping at the first person you ask for support with breastfeeding.
When my third baby was born I was already a qualified breastfeeding counsellor (with the ABM) you would think if anyone was going to find breastfeeding easy it would be me. This photo of our second feed is lovely because it shows how easy it is for even babies who struggle to get a good latch to keep hold of it in that laid back position. I love the photo of our first feed too (it’s not on the right storage device to share here now but maybe soon) because it really shows the truth
about the post-birth glamour (there really isn’t any glamour but there’s a kind of raw beauty to be sure). But what you can also see in that first feed photo is that from the very first feed I had to support my daughter’s latch. She had a try at breast crawl and self-attachment and while she had it all going on with trying to find the breast she just couldn’t get a good enough latch to be happy until I gave her a little support.
Well as the first two weeks went by I put all the effort into all the things I was so used to telling other mums about. We used skin to skin contact and laid-back feeding positions but still, I was in so much pain I wanted to cry every time she wanted to feed (which was basically all the time.) But also because of having my breastfeeding training, I started to notice things about the way she fed and the way her tongue looked and wonder if she might have a tongue tie. Luckily for me, I also knew that the infant feeding co-ordinator at my local hospital was an IBCLC and that I could call her direct and say “help!” As a breastfeeding counsellor, I could be pretty sure we were struggling with tongue tie but it was so good to be able to hand over the worry and be reassured by the next level of expert. She confirmed that yes, that was the problem, and I hadn’t just forgotten everything I knew and ‘done it wrong’ (there’s no right or wrong in mothering but sometimes it feels like that in the heat of the moment.) Also, luckily for me although the local hospital wasn’t treating tongue tie I could go to the one in the next town away and another wonderful IBCLC was able to divide my baby’s tongue tie and it was onward and upward (although of course not without twists and turns in the road) from there on.
So that is why I’m grateful for IBCLC’s on a personal level and a professional level and why I’m celebrating #happydayoftheibclc and that’s why I think it doesn’t matter what your breastfeeding supporter calls themselves it matters what they really know. I’m grateful there’s an easy way to tell if someone really knows their stuff or just likes the idea of being a lactation consultant.
Are you starting out with breastfeeding? Maybe our top tips can help it go smoothly for you and you won’t need the top level of support but at least if you do you know where to find it now.