Breastfeeding help… even before a baby is born
Whether you’re expecting your first baby or you’ve welcomed one before, visiting with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC or lactation consultant, for short) before your baby arrives can help you prepare to breastfeed or provide expressed milk. Here are some answers to common questions about prenatal breastfeeding visits.
Why should you visit a lactation consultant before delivery?
Breastfeeding is the natural conclusion to pregnancy and birth. But “natural” doesn’t always mean “easy”! Breastfeeding is a skill that takes some time for both parent and baby to learn, and each breastfeeding pair is unique. Breastfeeding is a social skill, passed along between generations, and that link has been broken for a lot of families. Prenatal education is one way we can continue to pass along knowledge of breastfeeding and caring for a new baby.
Prenatal breastfeeding education can take many forms such as books, breastfeeding classes, support groups like La Leche League, browsing websites, and talking to your midwife or doctor. Another option is having a one-on-one visit with a lactation consultant to discuss any specific questions or concerns you have.
What will you talk about?
During these prenatal consults, a lactation consultant will cover what to expect in the first few days after birth, and may cover other topics, such as using a breast pump at work, depending upon what you want to know! The goal of this appointment is to help you feel prepared and increase your confidence, so your lactation consultant will talk about the topics that matter most to you, after covering the basics.
Who should have a prenatal breastfeeding visit?
Anyone who is expecting a baby, no matter how long you’re planning to breastfeed, can benefit from a prenatal breastfeeding visit. Partners and other support people are welcome to come along; they can ask questions and hear the same expert information, so everyone understands what to expect once your baby is born.
There are some cases where a prenatal breastfeeding visit is highly recommended:
- Planned early delivery
- Breast surgery in the past (reduction, augmentation, biopsies)
- Diabetes or gestational diabetes
- Past breastfeeding problems, such as baby not latching well
- Twins and higher-order multiples
- Expecting a baby with cleft lip/palate; Down syndrome (Trisomy 21); heart conditions; or any other expected issues
- Adoption, surrogacy, or induced lactation
What should I bring to the visit?
Bring your questions and concerns to us to make the most of your visit. Many people bring a written list of things they’re curious about, such as advice they’ve heard from friends. If you have a breast pump already, bring that along with you and we can show you how to put it together. You can bring any tools or products you have questions about or even a baby doll if you’d like a more hands-on experience.
What if I need help after my baby arrives?
After your baby arrives, our lactation consultants are available for one-on-one consultations while you’re a patient at the Birth Center, or after discharge in the Breastfeeding Clinic. The Breastfeeding Clinic provides outpatient clinic services to anyone who needs them, whether they plan to give birth at the Birth Center or elsewhere.
The lactation consultants at the Birth Center at Hennepin Healthcare love meeting with families before and after their little ones arrive. Contact the appointment line at 612-873-6963 to schedule an appointment, or reach the Breastfeeding Clinic directly at 612-873-6455.
About the author
Tipper Gallagher, BA, IBCLC received a bachelor of arts in writing from Metropolitan State University before graduating from the University of California, San Diego’s lactation consultant program. She completed a clinical internship at Hennepin Healthcare’s Breastfeeding Clinic and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 2015. Currently, Tipper provides inpatient and outpatient lactation care at Hennepin Healthcare and is pursuing a PhD in Nursing at the University of Minnesota, with a research focus on breastfeeding and health disparities.