Like any skill, breastfeeding can be improved with practice — just as long as you’re practicing it correctly. Fortunately, there are many professionals who can help you get a hang of it! There are actually so many types of professionals it can get kind of confusing — especially when all of your time, energy, and focus is spent raising your little one. But don’t worry, we’ve made a simple cheat sheet of your breastfeeding care options to help you identify the professional who can best help you!
Registered Nurse (RN)
How they can help: RNs are often the first to help with skin-to-skin, latching, positioning, and overcoming initial breastfeeding issues. RNs in Labor & Delivery or Postpartum units provide breastfeeding support on a daily basis. In cases of additional challenges to breastfeeding, RNs are also very knowledgeable about who and when to connect you to additional resources if needed. If you’re struggling, always feel empowered to ask for a consult with a CLC/IBCLC (detailed below in “For More Complex Challenges”).
Qualifications: Must pass a licensing exam and typically have a Bachelor’s (BSN) or Master’s (MSN) in nursing.
Midwife (sometimes also RNs):
How they can help: If you choose a midwife as a part of your birth plan, they can help answer breastfeeding questions before and immediately after delivery, as well as during postpartum appointments.
Qualifications: Specialized schooling in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care (including breastfeeding education).
Patient Care Attendant:
How they can help: Can assist with patient care needs including but not limited to helping locate and replenish supplies such as water and lanolin-based nipple cream. They can also help you find comfortable feeding positions.
Qualifications: Most hospitals do not require education beyond a high school diploma for these positions, but never underestimate their knowledge of the hospital and available supplies that can help you!
Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)
How they can help: These counselors are often medical professionals who pursue additional breastfeeding education focused on addressing challenges not covered during RN/midwife training. A lactation counselor is an expert in assisting new moms with lactation. While other healthcare professionals can help with some breastfeeding challenges, CLC’s focus their time and energy on giving you the breastfeeding attention you may need.
Qualifications: Complete a 45-hour course on breastfeeding counseling in addition to passing a comprehensive examination to obtain the CLC certification. Continuing education courses are required and recertification occurs every 3 years.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)
How they can help: IBCLC is the step beyond CLC and is considered the foremost expert in the field of lactation. They can help you overcome more complex challenges such as nipple pain, breast engorgement, or difficulty latching. In many places, IBCLC’s provide in-home visits to give new moms one-on-one attention.
Qualifications: Health professionals (such as RNs or midwives) or other individuals with lactation specific education. In addition to extensive clinical breastfeeding experience and 90+ hours of lactation specific education courses, they have passed a comprehensive exam (about twice the length of the CLC exam) which certifies them as an expert in lactation education. Continuing education is required (about 4 times as much as is required of CLCs) and recertification occurs every 5–10 years (depending on continuing education courses).
How they can help: Provides one-on-one physical and emotional support for families. Doulas can provide assistance during labor & delivery, postpartum, or both.
Qualifications: Take a course to become a certified doula and are commonly used as part of a birth team that includes an obstetrician or a midwife who will deliver the baby. Doulas are not medical professionals and as such are not able to help deliver your baby — instead they focus on providing support for the laboring woman.
Breastfeeding Peer Counselor
How they can help: A woman who has had a successful breastfeeding experience and wishes to help other women in their community do the same. Often utilized in community-based programs such as ones organized by WIC.
Qualifications: Training varies depending on the organization providing the certificate. Usually not a medical professional, just a mom looking to help others.
Still not sure who you need to talk to?
Start by chatting with Ellie
Ellie helps you overcome breastfeeding challenges with information verified by experienced IBCLC’s. She’ll help you identify and treat breastfeeding challenges and even connect you to Lactation Consultants for further care. Ellie is available 24/7 over Facebook Messenger. When in doubt, check with Ellie.
Interested in learning even more about Ellie?
Visit our site www.checkwithellie.com
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