Finding the right person to help you learn how to breastfeed can be a big task for many mothers. Who should I choose? Will they really help me? How do I know he or she really knows what s/he is talking about? What’s the best option? Will they be worth the money?
Yikes! That’s a lot of questions. Let me help you answer them.
Where to Start Looking
The best way to find the right breastfeeding coach is to look at what they stand for, promote, and advise. Often, these views clarify everything you need to know and will leave you feeling comfortable with your choice.
A great place to start looking is through the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBLCE database. They’re a worldwide organization registering, testing, and maintaining the integrity and knowledge of lactation consultants (LCs). The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) is the professional body to which registered lactation consultants belong. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants require hundreds of hours of in person and class training and are a standard for anyone practicing breastfeeding coaching.
You can always trust in the advice provided by La Leche League, a worldwide leader in breastfeeding peer support for pregnant and nursing mothers, and they have country-specific resources as well.
If your local hospital has a breastfeeding clinic on site staffed with IBCLCs, they may be a great first place to try.
Finally, midwives and Doulas (labour support person) may also be well-trained in breastfeeding advice and will be able to point you toward other amazing resources during pregnancy and after birth. Here are links to find midwives in Ontario and Canada, and Doulas can be found at DONA or CAPPA.
Phew, lot’s of links! All these resources will support you and help notice anti-breastfeeding signs. Now we can talk about the juicy stuff.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Pick someone who will provide a holistic approach to breastfeeding. It’s important that they look at breastfeeding from all angles; including birth, skin-to-skin contact, sleep methods, the best start, etc. They should have the knowledge and the tools to guide you along this natural and wonderful process!
- You don’t need to pick the most expensive coach to get the best. Although I’ve seen rates as low as $35 and as high as $350—these are both rare amounts—the average is closer to $100-200 for a two-hour home visit. This might sound expensive to some, but the help of a good coach goes a long way and is well-worth the money. Just remember, more expensive doesn’t always mean better! Clinics can often be more reasonably-priced and may be subsidized depending on your country/region.
- Try to find someone you like. It’s important to have a coach that you’re comfortable with. Trust and communication with your breastfeeding coach will improve your response to their teaching.
Signs Your Coach Might Not Be the Best for You: Anti-Breastfeeding Signs
- S/he states : Your baby needs to feed x number of times per day. Really? Where is the science? Can’t find any? Oh yeah, that’s right, there is none! Time and length of feeding are irrelevant if infants aren’t getting enough milk. It’s more important to ensure proper breastfeeding than number of times sucking at the breast because sucking in itself is just an action. Actually getting milk while sucking is a whole other thing.
- You need to wake your baby every x number of hour. If your baby is hungry, and has been kept skin to skin, s/he will wake up. If they’re too tired from not feeding in order to wake up, another poor feeding won’t help. Get your baby feeding well and you won’t need to worry! The GamePlan is a great way to start.
- Your breastfeeding coach wants to weigh your baby before and after each feeding. What does this really tell us? Unfortunately, not much. Even if the scales are always accurate (they aren’t), what kind of breastmilk are infants getting? High fat, low fat, high calorie, low calorie—breastmilk changes in composition throughout the day and throughout the feeding. This isn’t the best way to tell if a baby is getting enough. Check out this handout for better information on breastmilk intake. Also, our L-eat Latch and Transfer Tool is a simple step-by-step guide that helps you determine whether or not baby is getting enough, and shows how to problem solve on the spot.
- Breast pain and sore nipples are normal, and you need to endure the pain. No no no! First off, a proper latch prevents pain and totally helps prevent sore nipples. If your pain lasts for many days or even weeks then it may be indicative of a larger problem—see a lactation consultant to get it fixed! Nipple shields aren’t the answer, an optimized latch is!
- They bring you infant formula samples or company literature. Not allowed! Whether it’s while pregnant or after birth, your breastfeeding coach should not promote infant formula products or companies. This distribution is marketing, and no formula is better than the others. The literature is a means of glorifying formula and undermining breastfeeding. Be wary of healthcare professionals who suggest this option, especially right in the beginning! If your baby truly needs supplementation, a trustworthy lactation consultant will share with you why, what kind of supplement, and how best to supplement, without undermining or hurting your breastfeeding.
- S/he tells you that breastfeeding and bottle feeding are essentially the same. We are constantly learning new things about breastmilk and its properties that formula companies just can’t keep up. By not breastfeeding we are exposing our babies to substances their bodies weren’t designed to handle, since babies experience physiologic changes and growth while they breastfeed. Breastmilk helps build antibodies and immune support, along with creating a bond that promotes emotional and cognitive development. It’s unfortunate that some mothers have not received the help they needed so they could overcome their breastfeeding challenges—challenges that often were created by healthcare practitioners interfering in ways that were unsupportive in the first place.
- Nipple confusion doesn’t exist, so you need to use a bottle nipple early to avoid nipple confusion later. This just sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how many times mothers tell me they hear this. Babies get used to the fast flow of a bottle. And they start to equate this fast flow with survival, and panic when the flow slows down. Breasts flow at irregular speeds and this is a good thing. This allows baby time to digest and ensure they don’t overeat. Suggesting bottle feeding early shows that the healthcare provider is looking at bottle feeding as the same as breastfeeding. Baby could get used to that fast flow, therefore they may refuse the breast altogether. Who benefits then? Hmm…
- S/he is surprised that you’re breastfeeding after 6 months. Yet many paediatricians and healthcare professionals suggest infant formula up to 9, 12, and 18 months. Why would the imitation be better than the original? Breastmilk continues to evolve as your baby grows and adapts to their needs. In most of the world outside the west, breastfeeding is continued up to 2 and 3 and 4 years and beyond.
- They say that your baby should not fall asleep at the breast. Kind of a silly suggestion since breastfeeding is an amazing way to get your baby to sleep. It doesn’t harm mother or baby and is even quite pleasurable! A lot of parents worry about attachment parenting but that is an unfounded and sorry excuse to not let baby fall asleep at the breast. Watch my chapter on sleep in my Parenting 101 Course and see why breastsleeping is a critical stage in your child’s development. It’s also a key component in their neural developmental sleep cycle.
- They tell you that if you or your baby is sick that you should stop breastfeeding or rest at home. First, a sick baby needs breastmilk and love almost more than a healthy baby does. Second, you probably won’t rest well if your sick baby is in the hospital, and many hospitals will help you stay to breastfeed. If you need to take medication, there are very few medications that are unsafe for breastfeeding and your doctor should provide you with options. If their first and only option prevents you from breastfeeding, you may want to question how supportive they are of breastfeeding.
To see a few more anti-breastfeeding signs and resources to help check out the handouts How to Know a Healthcare Practitioner is not Supportive of Breastfeeding and Finding a Breastfeeding Support Person.