Breastfeeding may be natural, but isn’t always easy, especially for new moms. Many women experience unexpected struggles, but there’s good news – help is available. A lactation consultant (LC) may provide the support and guidance you need as you navigate these new waters.

What is lactation?

Lactation is when glands in your breasts secrete milk after you have given birth. This milk is rich is all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop healthily.

If you choose to breastfeed your baby, you may want to consider talking to a LC to make this special bonding time with your baby a good experience.

What is a lactation consultant?

A lactation consultant is a specialist, who is professionally trained to advise and support you with common lactation and breastfeeding difficulties. A LC also monitors your baby closely to make sure that they are gaining weight normally and passing normal stools. LCs also understand chronic and acute conditions, and have knowledge of various medications and natural remedies that are compatible with breastfeeding.

What are the benefits of a lactation consultation?

There are many benefits of consulting a LC:

  1. Feeding cues

A LC can teach you what signs to look for when your baby is hungry, for how long to feed and to record your newborn’s feeding schedule, as well as their wet and dirty nappies.

  1. Latching problems solved

One of the most common problems with breastfeeding is getting your baby to latch onto your breast properly. There could be many reasons for your baby’s struggles, including a lip tie, tongue tie, inverted nipples, a breast milk oversupply, or any health issues. A LC can help you to narrow down the cause(s) of the problem and offer individualised advice to help solve any issues.

  1. Finding the right feeding position

Every baby is different, so trying to find the best comfortable position for you and your baby while feeding can be quite tricky. For example, the common cradling position may hurt you if you’ve had a C-section, while another position may be uncomfortable for your baby if they have tummy issues. A LC can advise you on different feeding positions that will benefit both you and your baby.

  1. Managing pain

Many women experience pain while breastfeeding, especially during the first few weeks. However, it’s abnormal to experience long-term pain. If this is the case, many issues could be the cause of pain, including, but not limited to:

  • bleeding, cracked nipples
  • clogged milk ducts
  • mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue)
  • a lip tie or tongue tie

A LC is able to detect the problem and advise on an individualised treatment plan for you and/or different techniques to help improve your baby’s latch, for example, to reduce pain.

  1. Milk supply issues

Sometimes, even if everything else is going well, your baby may still be niggly when breastfeeding, either pulling away from your breast, or crying while nursing. This may be either because your body is overproducing or underproducing breast milk. A LC can help pinpoint the problem and advise on what you can do in either situation, so that your baby gets enough breast milk.

  1. Twins or more? No problem!

Twins or multiple babies can take up more time and energy if you’re trying to breastfeed one baby at a time. A LC can show you how to support and feed two babies at the same time, as well as manage your breast milk supply for their needs.

  1. Products for special needs

Though it may be more challenging to breastfeed your little one with a condition, such as Down Syndrome or a cleft palate, it is possible. Your LC can advise on and show you how to use products that will help you to enjoy this special time with your baby.

  1. Baby growth and development

If your baby is not gaining weight as they should, it may be because of a low breast milk supply, or latching issues. A good LC should be able to offer solutions, as well as monitor your baby’s growth and development.

  1. Planning for after maternity leave

Many mothers return to work after maternity leave. A LC can help you to plan ahead. They can offer recommendations on the best breast pumps and storage containers for your budget, as well as information on how to preserve expressed breast milk.

At a later stage, a LC can help with how to wean your baby from breastfeeding and offer advice on what kinds of food and textures to begin feeding your baby.

Bestmed’s Maternity care programme

Bestmed Medical Scheme’s maternity benefits include one lactation consultation with a registered nurse or lactation specialist across all benefit options, except Rhythm1.

They are there to help advise, support and motivate you, so that you may have the best breastfeeding experience possible during this special bonding time with your baby.