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IBCLC’S: the myths, the stories and the truth!

Every mom who has breast-fed has a story about her lactation consultant. I like to believe most mammas gush about how blessed they feel to have worked with a lactation consultant. About how a lactation consultant literally saved their breastfeeding relationship. As a lactation consultant I love these stories!! However, every now and again I also hear stories about how breastfeeding did not go as planned. A mother tried to latch her baby and wasn’t successful, her breasts were very sore, all baby wanted to do was eat all night long, baby lost weight etc. Often all or most of the parent’s blame goes to a lactation consultant or healthcare provider who failed to meet their expectations or provide the support they needed to guide them appropriately. 

These stories break my heart. I know that the breastfeeding advice and assistance received by mothers has the potential to make or break a breastfeeding relationship. When I hear these stories I can’t help but wonder what went wrong. These experiences and stories have the potential to discourage mothers from seeking help.  As a lactation consultant I want mothers to know that quality breastfeeding support is possible. So I’ve taken some of the ‘myths’ that have been shared with me and separated the stories moms hear from what you can really expect from professional IBCLC’s!

Myth #1: My lactation consultant was so pushy!

The story: 

From time to time I hear about the ‘pushy lactation consultant’. She comes in the hospital room and grabs the pacifier out of your babies mouth and dramatically throws it in the trash. A wave  of panic runs across her face as she glances at the clock and tells you your baby is due to eat ‘right now’! She starts using every tactic in the book to wake your sleeping baby up. When your baby finally wakes she hastily places your baby in your arms and attempts to force a latch. By the time she leaves you’re completely shell-shocked!

The truth:

Some lactation consultants are pushy because lets face it, some people are just pushy! Most lactation consultants understand that you’ve been though so many changes in the last few days and more than ever before you need a delicate approach. As lactation consultants and even healthcare providers it is never our job to boss you around. Our roll is to educate and assist you with breastfeeding. We hope to guide you to be the best version of yourself as you dive into your next phase of motherhood. What you do with the information we provide is entirely up to you.

Myth # 2: My lactation consultant had no boundaries!

The story:

One of the stories that tugs at my heart strings is the story about the consultant that had no boundaries. Your resting in your hospital bed holding your beautiful baby. You are so relaxed. A few of you friends and family are in the room with you enjoying this magical time. Next thing you know your lactation consultant rushes in. She says its time for baby to eat and hastily unwraps baby, removes your gown, and grabs your breast without giving you a half second to process whats happening; and if your even okay with her touching your or breastfeeding in-front of everyone. 

The truth:

This is a classic story of a consultant who has been going through the motions and lost sight of intimate and personal nature of breastfeeding. A quality consultant should always knock on the door and identify themselves (the lactation consultant), their purpose (to offer breastfeeding education and support), and get your consent before they even enter your space or help you with a feeding. Quality consultants will often offer to help you wake and feed your baby; however it is your decision when and if they do. 

Myth #3:

My lactation consult didn’t listen!

The story:

Sometimes I hear about the lactation consultant who didn’t listen. You find yourself in a word-war with a consultant who has vastly different goals or concerns. You tell the lactation consultant what you need and want and she could careless and insists that you do it her way or not at all. 

The truth:

As lactation consults it is extremely important to listen to new parents. We can’t provide helpful information and support if we don’t know what you want. If a parent tells me they don’t want to exclusively breastfeed its my job to explain why (from a lactation standpoint) it is considered best practice. I make sure they are aware of the current infant feeding guidelines and evidence-based recommendations. I also get clarification as to the reason for their choice. Sometimes the reason for not wanting to exclusively breastfeeding is based on misinformation. Maybe a parent simply didn’t know her insurance would provide a breast pump. However, after educating and clarifying, if a parent has breastfeeding goals that are different from the guidelines I help them safely reach those goals in a kind and non-judgmental manner. 

I’m sharing these stories to show parents that most lactation consults are not like those in the ‘horror stories’ you hear. If one consultant wasn’t right for you doesn’t and your family, there are others who can be. Your breastfeeding relationship matters and a professional IBCLC will recognize your goals and wishes and do everything in her power to educate, encourage and empower you – after all we are women supporting women! 

– Rebecca Clark RN, IBCLC

Disclaimer: The following stories are a mix of common themes and are not based on any actual person or event.

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