When I was just starting out on my breastfeeding journey, I ended up in rough shape just a few days in. I had no idea why my nipples were cracked and bleeding, but I knew I couldn’t go on that way and I was determined to find a solution.
While it was a great, positive mindset and I’m happy I didn’t give up, my search for a solution wasn’t easy. During my unpaid maternity leave, I was stretching every dollar for essentials. Unfortunately, I wasted a lot of time and money trying to troubleshoot a solution on my own.
*Nipple cream for the pain
*A Manual Breast Pump to relieve engorgement
*Disposable Breast Pads to catch the drips
*Bottles and Pacifiers to give me a break
And all of it was a waste and actually NOT AT ALL WHAT WE NEEDED! Great. Here's what those products ended up doing for me....... They wasted my time. They wasted my energy. And I was still in a really rough place with breastfeeding.
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What I didn't know..... Nipple cream will actually increase chances of getting an infection. And it doesn't help at all anyway if baby's latch is still off. I got the manual breast pump to give my nipples a break, but what I didn't know is that it wasn't a good fit, and was adding more damage to my already damaged nipples. OH and not to mention creating an oversupply for me. (which is best left avoided and can cause some awful symptoms for you and baby. Read about that here.) The breast pads just stuck to my scabs and caused more pain, ripping the scabs open every time.The bottles and pacifiers my daughter refused to use, which ended up actually being a good thing because I didn't know that topping baby up could actually lead to my milk supply tanking and baby being overfed. UGH!
The common theme here is that I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing, and everything people suggested and I read online was the wrong advice for my situation.
If you’d asked me if I wanted to pay for a lactation specialist to help me figure things out, I would have really wanted the support, but I would have said I couldn’t afford it. ...... buuuuutttt here's the thing.... the reality is I got lucky and things worked out. But statistically speaking, that's not going to be the case for many of you if you don't have the support.
Maternity leave in the US is often unpaid or underpaid, and paternity leave is even more rare, so partners are back to work instead of home offering help and support, leaving moms to struggle at home by themselves.
Many moms turn to the online mommy message boards and Facebook groups because they’re alone and can’t easily leave the house with a newborn who’s struggling to breastfeed. Here is the problem: The internet can be a wild place, and moms in message boards are absolutely NOT breastfeeding experts, and are speaking only about what they know from their personal experience. This is dangerous!
A mom with a jaundiced, sleepy one week old who is feeding poorly might get told, “Never wake a sleeping baby. They’ll wake up when they’re hungry,” and end up with a dangerously underfed, dehydrated baby and low supply that’s difficult to reverse. “Breastfeeding is supposed to hurt until your nipples toughen up,” is what I was told by strangers who didn’t know my daughter had a poor latch because of a lip tie and other factors. “Try coconut oil. Cut out dairy. Take probiotics. Give formula to get them to sleep longer at night. Use this supplement to increase your supply.”
Advice can be harmful if it doesn’t apply to your situation with your baby. Every breastfeeding relationship is unique and comes with its own set of challenges and strengths. I’ve worked with so many experienced mothers who have said, “I nursed my other kids and I never had this issue before.” Those moms have already tried all of the common sense stuff to try to correct the problem and are still struggling. It isn’t a lack of knowing how to breastfeed a baby in those cases. It’s having a new baby with an issue they’ve never encountered before. Mom groups are great for solidarity and support (sometimes), but the advice you get there can be judgmental, contradictory, confusing, and occasionally even dangerous. Support groups need to be used for what they are..... emotional support.... and that's it.
Turning to your pediatrician is not usually the way to go either. Doctors and nurses receive a surprisingly minimal amount of breastfeeding education, and many times, it’s incredibly outdated. “Babies need to eat every 2-3 hours like clockwork. If your baby is fussy, cut these foods out of your diet. Pump and dump if you’re taking antibiotics or getting a cavity filled. Stop breastfeeding if your baby has bloody stools and put them on this hypoallergenic formula (which costs about $50/can).”
Ok.... so if support groups are out, and my pediatrician isn't a breastfeeding expert..... what are your options??
You could go to a lactation clinic set in a hospital or stand alone center. There are definitely benefits to this. It's (usually) covered by your insurance, which is amazing, and I am so glad we have this option for those who cannot afford support otherwise. Although, you'll be in a clinical environment, rushed for time when you're there, and you may find yourself waiting a couple weeks to get in and by that time you're no longer breastfeeding.
There are WIC clinics for low income moms, but the lactation support teams are usually not lactation experts, but peers there to cheer you on for emotional support. They do often have other community resources that you can utilize as well. (Side note: I actually love WIC, and encourage anyone who could benefit from nutritional education and supplemental foods to use this amazing resource for yourselves and children.)
The same is true for La Leche League (LLL), and Breastfeeding USA, which is another great option for emotional support, and awesome way to connect with other breastfeeding moms- but again this is a community environment meant for cheering you on, NOT for expert advice.
You DO have another option, and in our opinion the best option, And that is to hire a lactation professional to come to your home. This is exactly what we do. Both in person and with our most popular service- Virtual Breastfeeding Support.
Why is this better? Well, for one, we are supporting you in your home. With your things. In your nursing chair or bed or on your couch. We take our time with you. Our appointments are not rushed. WE provide you with what you need so you're not searching the internet for not helpful advice. We'll be there for follow up support and work with your OB or pediatrician so everyone is on the same page. If our initial plan doesn’t work for you, we’ll work to find a new one. a AND more importantly than anything else- WE ARE LACTATION EXPERTS. (OH! and did I mention we can write a super bill for your insurance to reimburse you??)
Lactation experts, whether they’re CLCs or IBCLCs, have to spend time and money on breastfeeding specific education. I’m an IBCLC and have my degree in nursing, 90 hours of breastfeeding education on top of that, and 1000 hours in supervised, hands-on support to breastfeeding moms and babies. I had to pay for books, classes, and exam fees so an International Board could feel confident that the advice and support I give is evidence based and based on the most current research out there. I continue to pay for continued education to stay up to date with the most current breastfeeding research and practices. I also have to recertify every five years. These are my responsibilities to you as your Lactation Expert.
So, when you contact me for help, you can feel confident that I’m not a stranger on the internet throwing out random advice that worked for my cousin’s neighbor’s friend, or a medical professional whose education is from a time when we knew way less about lactation than we do today. You can be sure that it’s an investment in your breastfeeding relationship.
This chart compares the cost of breastfeeding support to the cost of formula. Keep in mind this is just formula. This doesn’t include the cost of doctor co-pays for infections, special creams or antibiotics, medication costs for babies for reflux or colic, pumps, bottles, supplements, lactation cookies, special teas, or anything else marketed to help cure the problems breastfeeding moms may be having.
Unfortunately, breastfeeding support from a professional isn’t free in this country. I wish it was. I wish my expertise could be available to all moms without them spending a dime out of pocket. I wish insurance companies and the American healthcare system saw the value in preventing problems instead of treating them after they happened. I wish they would weigh the cost of lower rates of obesity, allergies, asthma, ear infections, respiratory illness, and diarrhea for babies, and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer for moms.
Since that isn’t the country we live in, we have to work with what we have. If you’re struggling, please reach out to a professional for help. Consider it an investment in you and your baby. You’re both worth it, and more often than not, even though it isn’t free, it can save you money in the long run.
We’re here to give you evidence-based, judgement-free support that’s tailored to you and your baby. We believe in you, we've been through this with many, many other mommas who've been in your shoes before. We know what it is you need to get to the light at the end of the tunnel.
You've got this momma, and we're here to help.
After meeting with a number of consultants who were unable to help us, I worked with Kelly, who was incredible and saved my breastfeeding relationship with my son. She is knowledgeable, experienced, and sensitive. I would recommend her to anyone, hands-down, who is looking for support. She is amazing!" -Natalie M.
Allison Alexander, IBCLC, Successful Breastfeeding Expert
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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