Hiring a Lactation Specialist

Hire A CLC

Ideally, mothers and babies would have lactation support starting in pregnancy through weaning.  During this time, there are lots of opinions being offered by doctors, midwives, family, friends, and even strangers.  How do you know which is evidence based, safe, or right for you and your baby? If your connected to a compassionate and knowledge lactation counselor, you'll know the suggestions are tailored specifically to you and your baby.  Remember, doctors, nurses, even midwives may not have any training in breastfeeding.  The hospital based lactation specialists may have less training, or be constricted by hospital policy or time limits, so finding someone outside in private practice may be a better option.

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Here are some questions to ask when selecting a lactation specialist:

  • What are you certifications and how long have you been practicing?  (See below to learn about different specialists.)
  • Do you have any areas of specialty or expertise?
  • How long are your consultations? (1.5 hours should be the minimum length for an initial postpartum consultation, and an hour for a prenatal.)

What is your opinion of / experience with:

  • Bottle-feeding approaches that support breastfeeding?  (Answers should include paced bottle-feeding, skin to skin, or even alternatives to bottles depending on the situation, etc.)
  • Tongue tie and lip tie?
  • Nipple pain in the early weeks – how do you assess for causes?
  • High-need babies?
  • Low milk supply and/or slow weight gain?  (Answers should be around finding the root cause and checking milk transfer and appropriate growth charts for a breastfed baby.)

Look for answers to include “concerns should be address as soon as possible” and that the provider has training and experience with assessing the above issues.  If it sounds like there’s a one-size-fits-all approach, or your concerns are not being taken seriously, then this may not be the best provider for you.  

Types of Specialists:  
You may need to call one or more of following as each group has their own strength in helping breastfeeding mothers.  

  • La Leche League:  A La Leche League Leader (LLL) is a mother who has breastfed a baby for at least 9 month (and usually much longer) and has completed specific reading and introspection, and has finished the extensive written training curriculum established by LLLI to become an accredited leader.  Help from LLL is always free but they refer to a CLC or IBCLC for some situations.  
  • Lactation Counselor or Lactation Consultant:  Certified Lactation Counselors® (CLC) are accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  This certification is the premier National Certification in Lactation Management for the United States.  CLC certification means that a person has received training and competency verification in breastfeeding and human lactation support. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding.  An IBCLC is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners®, Inc. under the direction of the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies.  A CLC or IBCLC may not have personal breastfeeding experience.  
  • Health care provider:  A health care provider may or may not have training or experience breastfeeding, but can treat breast infections, postpartum depression, evaluate baby for dehydration, treat any infections baby develops, etc.  If you’re unsure about breastfeeding information given by your healthcare provider, you can always seek a second opinion from an LLL Leader, CLC, or IBCLC.  
Amanda@NaturalBirthCO.com | 303.601.5689
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The contents of this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It does not replace the need for services provided by a medical professional. Always seek the advice of your health care provider before taking any prescription, over the counter drugs, herbs, following a treatment, etc. Only your health care provider can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for you and your baby in your specific situation. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.