Over the years, I have written and discussed and made all kinds of graphics about how a lactation consultant can support families through breastfeeding. Sore nipples? -We can fix that! Fussy baby? We’re all over it! Low weight gain? Low supply? Oversupply? Tongue, lip, buccal ties? We. Have. Got. You. Covered.
And you know what? IBCLCs do deal with all of these issues. We go through a lot of training and clinical practice before even sitting for our board exam because we want to dive into all of the ways we can support you in feeding your baby.
We make feedings plans. We make sure babies are growing and thriving. We make sure parents are met right where they are and that they are getting the support they need to navigate feeding their baby. Some of these feeding issues aren’t always quick fixes, and that's OK too. We’re in it for the long haul.
BUT, as I sit here thinking today, while all of these things are indeed true, they aren't the bulk of what an IBCLC (a good one) really does.
So what does an IBCLC really do?
An IBCLC listens to you.
Of course we listen to you. I haven’t met any family yet that has the exact same needs, wants, or past experiences as the family I saw before them. It’s in really listening to you that I can hear your needs, wants, and goals for feeding your baby.
An IBCLC asks questions (lots of them!)
We do this for several reasons. We want to know who you are. We want to know the things you care about and the things you are concerned about. We also want to know what might impact the way you want to feed your baby. I will ask a ton of questions, and I will get some really great and insightful answers.
A good IBCLC is honest and unbiased.
We listen and we ask questions so that we can have the best understanding of how to navigate feeding your baby in a way that works for you. We want your baby to be growing and thriving, and we want to help you find the best way to get there.
A good IBCLC will give you the information you need to make an informed choice about how you will feed your baby. These plans may include breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, pumping, supplementing, using donor milk, using formula, and so on and so on. It will never be a breast is best or fed is best answer. It will be an informed and supported is best choice. No one feeding plan will ever work for all families. This brings me to:
An IBCLC will create a feeding plan that works for you.
Sure, we could check off boxes in a care plan and hand it out to everyone we see, but that just won’t work. Different people have different needs, and this is something a good IBCLC will take into account when working with you. And,
An IBCLC will adjust your plan as you go.
Sometimes everything just clicks and works so well after an appointment, and that is a wonderful and joyous feeling for everyone! But sometimes feeding situations can be tricky or need lots of support and checking in. We do that too.
When something isn’t working, we change it. We look at your goals, and we make a feeding plan that works.
There is success found in all kinds of breastfeeding situations - parents who want to exclusively breastfeed - moms who want to pump and feed, families who see that combo feeding is what works best for them. All of these situations can work, and they can work well.
When do they work best?
When families are informed and involved in the feeding process. And that’s what we do.