Breastfeeding Awareness Week: Who is a lactation consultant and when to see one?

Many nursing mothers go to a lactation consultant, who is a health professional specialising in breastfeeding. They offer advice, support and guidance to women who choose to breastfeed.

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“A lactation expert is usually needed in the first few weeks after delivery, when your baby is still learning how to feed themselves from your breast. You can visit or consult a lactation specialist during pregnancy, after birth, several weeks into breastfeeding or even after several months into breastfeeding,” says Dr Varija Pai, consultant-lactation, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bangalore.

According to the doctor, breastfeeding is a personal choice. “But, it is advised to breastfeed for at least the first 6 months. Some mothers choose to stop because of challenges like painful nipples or lack of milk supply. If you want to resolve these problems, a lactation expert can give you guidance and support.”

When to consult a lactation expert?

Dr Pai says breastfeeding can be difficult — both emotionally and physically. “A lactation expert will not only provide you with the right guidance, but will also be a good source of emotional support and encouragement. Consulting one will increase your chances of having a healthy and successful breastfeeding experience,” she explains.

A lactation expert can give guidance and support to a new mother. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

She lists some reasons for a consultation as follows:

1. You can experience breast engorgement in the early days of breastfeeding, with swelling, tightness and increased size of breasts. It usually occurs in the first 3-5 days into breastfeeding.
2. If you have sore, cracked or painful nipples.
3. If you are concerned about milk supply.
4. Don’t know what breastfeeding position is best for your baby.
5. Plugged ducts, or if you are experiencing breast infections like mastitis, a painful infection of the breast tissue which occurs within the first three months of breastfeeding.
6. Issues with latching, sucking or tongue tie.
7. If even after days of breastfeeding, your baby is not gaining any weight.
8. If your baby is refusing to feed from your breast.

The first few weeks after giving birth are crucial to establish a breastfeeding habit, says the expert, adding that a lactation consultant will also review your health history and other information that concerns the baby’s health.

“They may watch you breastfeed your baby to see the pattern of breastfeeding,” the doctor concludes.

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