Why hire a lactation consultant?

August 21, 2009 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


A little story.

My brave and beautiful friend has just had a baby.  Her labour was fine, but with a long pushing stage and three exhausting hemorrhages afterwards, so she was tired. She sent me a text as her daughter was having her ‘first beautiful breastfeed’.

She got home on Tuesday, and rang me the next day. The baby was putting on weight and doing fine. But she said the feeding was a little painful. I asked if it got better after a while, and she said, well, a bit. Hmm. We talked, it didn’t really sound like thrush.

I said that it was really worth being diligent about taking her on and off til the latch felt good, making sure it was ok each time, not feeding through the pain.

She said she didn’t know how to check the latch, wasn’t sure how to get a good one. Apparently the midwives AND the hospital lactation consultant had both said that the latch was good.

 I worried: if it’s painful and stays painful throughout the feed, that sounds like a recipe for cracked nipples.

‘Oh, well, I already have something on one of them.’

If my booby senses (let’s not bring spiders into this) had been tingling before, now they were on full alert. Nipple cracks or cuts don’t get better if there’s a persisting bad latch. And the fact that one was starting was scary.

So I went to www.breastfeedingsupport.ie and found a private consultant in her area and sent her the number. And I suggested she ring Pamela Synge  the osteopath (Merrion Square, Tel: 6616143) and book an appointment, as often babies can’t latch on right if they’re sore and out of alignment from the birth. I’ve heard several stories of babies latching on perfectly directly after their first session.

Shortly thereafter (there are no flies on my girl) I got a text to say the lactation consultant was coming in an hour and a half and she’d got an osteopath appointment for the following week (with Pam, it’s always worth mentioning if it’s a breastfeeding issue, she wants to help out).

That evening, my friend sent me a text saying things were vastly improved. The next day they were better again, and the cut had gone completely. Also, since birth, the baby had been feeding very regularly, at least each hour, and it was exhausting. The LC thought that the mislatch had resulted in the baby not getting enough hindmilk down, and suggested some ways to help that.

She’s coming again tomorrow to show her some different holds and check on things.

I’m posting this story, in this detail, because I know what it’s like to have a problem, and not be sure what to do about it, and to dither and wait, and get into trouble.

Especially when the ‘experts’ have assured you all is fine.

But what I think we could all take from this story is the point that if you address the problem of pain early on, it is far easier solved.

If you wait til you have cracked, bleeding nipples and are in agony, then you will have a far harder time healing, the challenge will be greater as you will be worn down by the pain and stress and difficulty during what is already and emotional and exhausting time. ACT FAST and listen to your instincts – don’t accept the midwives’ assurances if you feel something’s not right. If my friend hadn’t made that call, I firmly believe her problem would have escalated fast, and she would have had a far harder time dealing with it. It’s happened to so many, who have understandably but reluctantly stopped breastfeeding, because they didn’t have the right support and solutions to hand.

I’ve always been a firm believer in throwing everything you’ve got at pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. My friends insurance paid for half the LC’S visit, make sure you check that. If you can’t afford a private LC, get on to Cuidiú – preferably before the birth, so you feel comfortable ringing. I did a course before my last birth, so I already knew my local LC, which I think is great. It’s easier to call someone you know already.

And for me, one of the best reasons to do it is so that you have a support system. Doesn’t that picture at the top of the page look right? New mothers need mothering, so much. I love the idea of being surrounded by compassionate, expert women, who hold me (figuratively or physically!) so I can hold my baby.

Do not deny yourselves that support. Grab it with both hands. It’s a worthwhile investment, I believe.



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  1. This is a fabulous post and I hope lots of mums to be read and heed the message in it. Its unfortunate that the latch issue wasn’t picked up on in hospital. Personally I would blame some of that on the staff just not having the time to dedicate. The optimist in me wants to believe that SOMEONE there did have the expertise to give proper support to correct latch even if they didn’t have the time to offer to do so. Your friend is lucky to have you 🙂

  2. What a great post! Very well addressed on your part.

  3. I had cracked nipples with both children, but they did heal after using shields for a few days. Afterwards, I was fine. Do you think that was due to a wrong latch as well then, or do they sometimes just crack for other reasons?

    I love that picture.

    • Hi Mwa,
      I am not an expert, a trainee, but I would like to respond. Generally cracks are caused by bad latch and sometimes there are other issues which cause the bad latch that need to be addressed. If a baby is latched on correctly then the nipple is against the soft palate at the back of its mouth, so there is nothing that can cause cracks. If the nipple is further forward in the mouth, against the hard palate, thats when cracks happen.

  4. Thanks MD.

    Mwa, my guess is yes, it was because of an incorrect latch.

    I had a really hard first few days wit hmy first, and I was getting a crack, but for some reason when my milk came in, it got better. Maybe because she wasn’t so ravenous then and would take the time to latch on properly?

    Possibly as they get a bit older and stronger they can hold themselves up better and go on more accurately. But I might let Chris field any questions, she’s the expert in training 🙂

  5. it was similar for me, i got ‘tips’ from many different midwives and nurses in the hospital, but it was sore, and my baby kept latching off. my nipples were badly cracked, i was so engorged. for weeks i had problems and people left right and centre were advising me to just give up. but thanks to a great lactation consultant (and jo!) i found a way to breastfeed. expressing at first, then using nipple shields, and after 4 months just feeding. one of the PHNs was also good, but more emotional support than technical.

    my little one’s nearly 10 months now and i’m still happily feeding her.

    i went from a quite easy birth and feeling like i could do anything, to having all confidence knocked out of me and feeling down for weeks, to being so proud and happy to have stuck with it, to be feeding my daughter, to have given her the best start.

    i feel so strongly about breastfeeding now, i get upset when i hear of women giving up because they don’t get the right support, and i’m offering all my pregnant friends my LCs contact number… the right latch is so important, and midwives and nurses just don’t have the time or training to teach it, and there are nowhere near enough hse lactation consultants available in the hospitals and for afterwards.

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