Lactation consulting can occur in a variety of settings—within the hospital, in the home, in a clinic or physician's office, in prenatal classes, as part of routine postpartum care, by operating a telephone help line, or through referrals to peer support groups. The location of practice is frequently determined by what other credentials the individual had prior to becoming a lactation consultant. In the hospital setting, the lactation consultant often is a registered nurse on the maternity unit. In a clinic such as the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the consultant may be a registered dietician.
Every postpartum mother who is breastfeeding should ideally be observed feeding her newborn at least one time prior to being discharged home. In the hospital setting, the role of the lactation consultant is to observe every mother breastfeeding and to ensure that maternity staff receive training in basic breastfeeding management and common problems and are capable of making such observations. The maternity staff can then refer complicated problems to the lactation consultant.
Lactation consultants in the hospital setting also act as an advisor in the development of breastfeeding policies and procedures for the facility. The consultant may compile handouts and other reading resource materials for breastfeeding mothers, as well as design forms for documentation of breastfeeding activities. If the nursing mother needs to use a breast pump or other breastfeeding device, the consultant may be the one responsible for assisting the mother in obtaining the equipment and training the client in its use.
Nadine M. Jacobson R.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,