Lactation consultants assist lactating mothers in self-care and management techniques related to breastfeeding.
Lactation consulting has emerged as a new field over the past twenty years. Because scientific inquiry has consistently shown breastfeeding to be the recommended source of nutrition for infants through the first year of life, more mothers are opting to nurse their infants. Lactation consultants try to meet the educational needs of these mothers and sometimes of other health care providers who have an interest in their patients' breastfeeding needs.
Lactation consulting is the only specialty within health care that places the advocation of the woman who wishes to breastfeed her baby as its primary responsibility. The mother and her baby are described as a nursing couple or a nursing dyad—two separate people forming one unit. If other members of the health care team choose a plan of care that could be detrimental to the nursing dyad relationship, then the lactation consultant may need to suggest an alternate course if one is available.
Caring for the mother and baby
The primary function of the lactation consultant is to gently guide the mother's breastfeeding in a manner that involves the least intrusion and generates a minimal amount of complications. The consultant's skills are based on scientific information and familiarity with breastfeeding.
A useful approach for the consultant is to make suggestions to the mother while explaining the rationale behind these recommendations. The mother can then determine how to adapt these recommendations to best promote her needs and the needs of her baby. Potential problems that a lactation consultant would assist a client with are nipple soreness, breast engorgement, and milk production. A lactation consultant should be knowledgeable in the various components of science of lactation: milk production, normal breastfeeding behaviors, and factors that may impact the breastfeeding relationship.
Nadine M. Jacobson R.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,