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How a Lactation Consultant Can Help You Breastfeed

While breast/chest feeding is one of the healthiest and most natural ways to feed your baby, nursing doesn't come naturally to all new mothers. That's where lactation consultants come in.

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Many individuals give up on breast/chest feeding in the first month, though experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months, and continuing to breastfeed for at least the first year and as long as is beneficial. But even if you're not making enough milk, have sore nipples, or a baby who refuses to latch on, you shouldn't call it quits. Lactation consultants—health care professionals who specialize in breast/chest feeding and hold a special certification—can help.

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What is a lactation consultant?

Lactation consultants are nursing professionals who help individuals in their efforts to breast/chest feed, and also provide prenatal education and preparation for expecting couples. Anyone can call themselves a "lactation consultant", but it's best to find one who is certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

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How effective are these pros at helping individuals get started and stick with nursing? Very. A recent published review of 16 studies on chest/breastfeeding, comprised of more than 5,000 individuals, found that enlisting the help of breastfeeding consultants or counselors measurably increased the number of women initiating breast/chest feeding, boosted breast/chest feeding rates, and helped more individuals exclusively breastfeed their newborns.

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When to call a lactation consultant

The best time to call a lactation consultant is when you're expecting, as your counselor can help you mentally and physically prepare for breastfeeding. She'll have you practice holding your baby for optimal feeding, and offer tips on everything from the best pump to how to enlist your partner in breastfeeding. A consultant’s guidance can be especially helpful if your baby is premature (some preemies lack the coordination to suck, breath and swallow) or has physical or neurological disabilities. No matter your setback, your consultant can work directly with you to develop a personalized solution.

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