Lactation Consultants: Are They Really Worth the Price?

Just three days after Barrett was born, I noticed a sizable plug in one of my breasts. Delirious from exhaustion but determined to resolve the issue quickly, I emailed Dana at 2 a.m. She responded and came to my house ON EASTER SUNDAY to help. Over the next several weeks and months, Dana was an incredible resource and sounding board for all my breastfeeding challenges with Barrett. I am confident I would have quit long ago if it weren’t for her warm, knowledgeable and generous support! Please welcome my first-ever guest blogger, the wonderful Dana DeFreece. 

Concerns about feeding your baby properly seem to top the worry list of most parents. For moms, being able to nourish a baby is a primal drive that can surface with a surprising intensity once the baby is born. Breastfeeding matters more than just how a baby is fed. Breastfeeding is about holding your child close to your heart, watching him gaze in complete openness and wonder at your face while he suckles life-giving milk from your breast, the sense of accomplishment you feel when you get yourself awake at 3:30 a.m. just after (finally!) falling asleep at 2:45 a.m. from a marathon feeding session. It’s about giving yourself to your baby for the best start in life, no matter how much milk he gets from you. Your breastfeeding experience is unique to you and your baby.

Despite best efforts most breastfeeding pairs experience some hiccups that may require additional help. The top issues moms call me for help with include nipple or breast pain, difficulty with latching, engorgement, milk supply issues, or pumping while working. Many moms are surprised that just because they’ve breastfed a baby before doesn’t mean they are a breastfeeding expert with their newest baby. I get many consult requests from repeat moms; each baby is different!

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are specialists who help mothers and babies with breastfeeding. They have studied specific classes about breastfeeding and have passed a test to become certified. Some IBCLCs are also nurses, doctors or nutritionists. They work in hospitals, doctors’ offices and some have private practices and can even help you in your home.

Between the internet, and well-meaning friends and family, breastfeeding information (and sometimes mis-information) is readily available. While moms can usually find an answer for their concern, they may not know whether it is the correct or complete solution for their situation. What works for some moms may not work for others. This can make it difficult to determine if additional support from an IBCLC is needed.

The first and often most important way an IBCLC can help moms is to decide whether her breastfeeding issues can be resolved simply with a brief phone conversation, or if a more intensive, individual consultation is warranted. A good IBCLC will help moms feel successful with breastfeeding and provide support with specific skills and information to reach their breastfeeding goals. Each mom and baby pair is unique and an IBCLC can assist in finding custom, workable solutions. For example, one mom I worked with, came to me concerned that her baby would not stay awake to eat, wasn’t crying or fussing much, and wasn’t gaining weight well. What the mom thought was a sleepiness issue really turned out to be a supply and latch issue – the baby was struggling to stay latched because of his tongue tie. Once we identified the real issue, the mom was able to discuss treatment options with her pediatrician and worked together on a plan to boost her milk supply and baby’s ability to latch.

Moms can find an IBCLC through recommendations from friends, hospital, or through the International Lactation Consultant Association. Some hospitals offer free or low-cost support groups for nursing mothers and La Leche League is active in most areas. The Women, Infants and Children federal aid program also supports breastfeeding moms through programs and peer counselors.

IBCLCs should be covered by medical insurance per the Affordable Care Act, but some parents have to pay out of pocket. As of yet, Medicaid does not cover private lactation consultations. A good first step would be to call your insurance provider for specific names of local IBCLCs. For various reasons, some IBCLCs are in-network providers and others are not. In Colorado, the cost for a private IBCLC can range from $80-150 per visit and most moms need only one or two visits before they are up and running on their own.

While breastfeeding is a lower cost option than formula, feeding children is not free. There are countless ways breastmilk supports growing babies and several notable health risks to both moms and babies for not breastfeeding, but the decision ultimately falls on what value and importance breastfeeding holds for you and your family.

Still struggling to decide if hiring an IBCLC is worth it for you? First think about what you would like to experience in your breastfeeding journey and spend a few minutes visualizing yourself and your baby. Next, consider what is happening currently, and ask yourself what else you need to know to achieve your vision. How do you want to remember this period of time with your baby and how do you want to feel as a new parent? A little support from an IBCLC in the beginning may not only help you reach a long-term goal but also give you strong memories of your amazing abilities as a new mom.

dana-headshotDana has worked with moms, babies and children as an RN for over 20 years. As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 2002, she has gained expertise in basic and complicated breastfeeding issues including difficulty with latching, concerns about milk supply, full term and pre-term babies, breastfeeding and working, tandem nursing, multiples and many more. She is also conversant in Spanish. For more details, please visit her website at www.morningstarmoms.com or call 303-902-9025.

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