Josie is a private midwife, lactation consultant, and mama of three. She lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.
We talk to Josie about the role of a lactation consultant, the most common nursing problems and why support is the key to making breastfeeding work.
What is a Lactation Consultant?
A Lactation Consultant is a professional who assists mothers to breastfeed their babies - they have undertaken a specified amount of study and sat an exam with the International Board of Lactation Consultant examiners.
There is a great deal of overlap in my role as a midwife and as a Lactation Consultant - the further study I have done in breastfeeding enables me to help women with more complex problems.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Hmmm - this is a tough question, because I don't have a normal day!
In my capacity as an Lactation Consultant I may help a woman who has contacted me specifically to help them with a breastfeeding problem, or I may be using my knowledge to prepare women for breastfeeding (during pregnancy). I almost always provide support in the home of my client, which seems to make it easier for both the mum and the baby.
Why does breastfeeding just work for some women and not for others?
We exist within a culture that hides breastfeeding. We no longer grow up surrounded by women of our tribe feeding their babies.
Very often the first baby we ever hold is our own.
This puts us at a disadvantage - we come to breastfeeding without 'preloaded software' for troubleshooting or even knowing what 'normal' breastfeeding looks like.
Up to 98% of women in Australia intend to breastfeed and do initiate breastfeeding. By 6 weeks the percentage drops significantly and then by 6 months only around 14% of Australian women are still breastfeeding.
There may be many, many reasons that women stop feeding. Almost all women will experience some challenges, but almost ALL women can breastfeed with the right support. Sometimes it also requires perseverance and commitment, but most importantly support!
What are the most common problems you see in new nursing mothers?
I think probably nipple pain and damage is the most common problem. It's one of the most common reasons for early weaning too. Ensuring correct attachment is THE most important thing to sort out.
So, if it hurts, then something is not right. It is a weird feeling to get used to, but it is not supposed to hurt!
Is there anything women can do to prepare for nursing before their baby is born?
Yes, the Australian Breastfeeding association has a great website (www.breastfeeding.asn.au) and also runs classes about breastfeeding. In many areas around Australia they also have group meetings. They're a great organisation run by volunteers who've all had experience with breastfeeding their own babies.
I also recommend women check out the Milk Meg on Facebook - she has loads of great information to share.
Women should also speak to their midwives and find out if the hospital they are planning to birth in runs breastfeeding classes antenatally. If you want personal advice you can always contact me directly (see details below post).