infant breastfeeding

Here’s what you need to know before your visit with a lactation consultant.

Whether you’re pregnant and planning ahead, heading back to work and need to start pumping or are experiencing complications while breastfeeding, scheduling a visit with an IBCLC can be the best thing for you and your baby. An IBCLC is a breastfeeding expert. They will work with you and your baby in your home to make the breastfeeding experience a success, troubleshoot any issues and provide you with tips and tricks for after the visit.

How do you make the most out of this visit with your own personal breastfeeding champion? There are a few things you should do as you set up the visit, during the visit and after so you and your little one can get the most out of your visit.

Before your Visit

Because IBCLCs can help you will all-things breastfeeding, think about what you want to discuss during your consultation! You can dedicate the entire session to going over breastfeeding positions, working on latching or talking through emotional challenges you’re facing. Remember, they’re here to help you.

Plan Ahead

If possible, preparing for a lactation home visit while you’re pregnant is ideal. That way you won’t have to worry about setting up an appointment while you’re bringing baby home. The first two weeks of lactation is the most critical time period, this is where most complications occur. During these early weeks, small challenges can quickly turn into large problems. That’s why getting help early on is so important. After that, boosting supply, for example, becomes more challenging.

Make the Most of Pre-Visit Communication

While every IBCLC has her own communication style, whether that is through in-person, email or phone correspondence, it is important to provide them with as much information ahead of time as you can. Let your IBCLC know of any surgical or medical history. Don’t hold back any past medical history. Even small procedures or hormonal imbalances may impact lactation. Make sure to include information about your social situations and stressors as well, be thorough in offering information and allow the IBCLC to determine what factors may potentially impact lactation.

There may be several positive steps you can take after this initial contact, prior to meeting in person. For example, it is not uncommon for an IBCLC to recommend a more powerful pump, an intervention for sore nipples or a change in pumping procedure just based on information gathered by phone or email.

Set Goals for the Visit

Make sure you’re communicating the desired goals of your visit with your lactation consultant.  Whether you want to increase your supply, set up a pumping routine for going back to work, and so much more, let your IBCLC know what you’d like to get out of this visit. Keep in mind that visits have limitations. If you have several areas of concern, it may take a series of several visits (with phone calls in between) to get you on the right track. If you have concerns that are out of the IBCLC’s scope of practice, she may refer you to your physician or contact your physician herself.

Pick the Right Spot

As nicely decorated as many are, lactation clinics aren’t a substitute for your home. That’s why choosing to have a lactation consultant come to your home is often the best option for you and your little one. Your home is where you’ll actually be breastfeeding a lot of the time. Plus, with a newborn, you don’t want to add any more stress to your plate, like having to pack up all your equipment just to unpack it again.

If you want to get more granular, think about where you’ll be pumping in your home. If you usually nurse in a favorite chair, pump in bed, or breastfeed in a recliner, let your IBCLC know so that you can receive help in the exact location in your house you prefer. She’s there to help you and your baby, so make the most out of this visit.

During Your Visit

The day of your in-home lactation visit is here! Relax and enjoy getting the one-on-one attention you and your baby deserve from a true breastfeeding expert.

Visits typically last between 60 to 90 minutes. During this time, you can expect to have her weight you baby pre- and post-feeding. In an ideal situation, plan to time your breastfeeding and pumping so that the baby is most likely going to be hungry upon the arrival of the IBCLC. IBCLCs realize this is easier said than done, and know newborns can’t wait. If you need to, feed your baby, but let your IBCLC know. Likewise, don’t pump an hour or two prior to the home visit. Full breasts and a getting-hungry baby are ideal as you begin your meeting with an IBCLC.

Also, make sure to go over any issues and goals you may have brought up in your pre-visit communications. (Pro tip: write down any questions ahead of time, so you don’t forget in the moment.) The IBCLC is here to help you during what is one of the most precious and fleeting times of new motherhood. We want you to be comfortable and hope that you gain confidence during the visit. Before the IBCLC departs, but sure to discuss the timing of any potential additional visits.

Only small preparations for your home are needed:

  • Access to a sink so your IBCLC can wash her hands
  • An accessible flat surface near an outlet to set up her feeding scale
  • An assembled pump, cleaned pump parts, nursing pillows, and any other lactation technology you use (such as shields) in the area of the meeting
  • Contain all (even friendly) pets

After Your Visit

Use the new tips and tricks your IBCLC worked with you on to enhance your breastfeeding journey. Remember, practice makes perfect for you and your baby.

After your visit, you will most likely receive a summary at the time of your visit or shortly thereafter. This is a recap of what was covered and any instructions or direction going forward. You can share this with physicians and the recap may be faxed or emailed to your doctor. Typically, another phone call is placed by the IBCLC as a follow up to adjust the plan developed with the mother during the visit.

Feel free to keep in touch and set up any additional meetings with your IBCLC—they love to hear from you and see how you’re little one is progressing.

If you’re looking for expert breastfeeding advice, contact the Lactation Network through Ashland Women’s Health. We offer free in-home lactation consultations to mom’s in the Chicagoland area (and growing!) with specific insurance plans.