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Lactation specialists: what they do and how they can help

Lactation specialists: what they do and how they can help

As a new mom or parent, feeding your baby is such an important job – no matter how you do it. Whether you breastfeed, bottle-feed or feed through a tube, you are helping your baby grow and feel loved by feeding them.

The Mother Baby Center is a partnership between Allina Health and Children’s Minnesota, which means you and your baby receive expert, respectful, and personalized care across your whole journey. To help moms and their babies, we have lactation consultants that are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and they help new moms feed their baby.

Lactation consultant helping mom breastfeed her baby.

We talked with Emily Ross, staff registered nurse (RN) in the Lactation Support Program at Children’s Minnesota, St. Paul, and Katie Tocko, staff RN at Children’s Minnesota, St. Paul, about the importance of having lactation consultants help our patients and families.

What do lactation consultants help with?

While research shows the positive benefits of breastfeeding, it doesn’t always come easily. Our lactation consultants offer support to families and babies learning how to breastfeed. They can help you address concerns such as:

  • Breastfeeding/chestfeeding problems.
  • Latch-on difficulty.
  • Sore/damaged nipples.
  • Engorgement.
  • Slow weight gain.
  • No weight gain.
  • Need for supplemental feedings.
  • Milk supply concerns.
  • Baby fussiness related to feedings.
  • Plugged ducts/mastitis.
  • Advice on breastfeeding equipment.
  • Infants with special health concerns/problems.
  • Returning to work while breastfeeding.
  • Milk expression information.
  • Weaning advice.
  • Premature infants.
  • Milk storage information.

“New moms are in a very vulnerable position after birth and need support from their health care providers, partners and the community to make a successful transition to breastfeeding,” said Emily. “There is nothing quite like watching a mother and baby have that first moment of latch-on success.”

Why is breastfeeding important?

Emily Ross, staff registered nurse (RN) in the Lactation Support Program at Children’s Minnesota, St. Paul, and Katie Tocko, staff RN at Children’s Minnesota, St. Paul

“Breastfeeding is the biological norm for infant care,” says Emily. “It allows a mother to provide her new baby all the nutritional, socio-emotional, and developmental care that is necessary in the early months – and reaching into the first years of life.”

Breastfeeding can be extremely important for emotional reasons, too. One of the main ones being: “It’s an incredible bonding experience for the mother and child,” said Katie. If successful, breastfeeding/chestfeeding a baby can have amazing effects on a new parent’s emotional and mental health.

But not all new parents are able to breastfeed or chestfeed right away, or maybe ever.

What if I can’t breastfeed? What should I do?

Everyone’s breastfeeding journey looks different. And breastfeeding can be very hard and exhausting, both physically and mentally. But remember that breastfeeding success comes in baby steps. Our lactation consultant, Katie’s, advice? Don’t give up.

Breastfeeding success may also come in different ways.

“For some mothers it may be feeding directly from the chest. In other families it may mean lots of pumping and bottles or feeding through a tube, said Emily. “Some mothers may need to supplement their milk supply, but are able to do so with a breast supplementer.”

And, “If none of it goes in the direction a mother wants, the baby will remember the love you gave,” said Katie.

Lactation consultants are here to help

Lactation consultants are dedicated to helping mothers, parents, babies and families through their first few months after birth (and sometimes, even longer!). They support moms in every way they need them and help them through some possibly difficult times.

When asked why she loves what she does, lactation consultant Katie said, “I love what I do because I get to meet mothers and families from so many different places and help them attain their breastfeeding and pumping goals.”

Lactation consultants at The Mother Baby Center and Children’s Minnesota

While in the midst of COVID-19, we are supporting families and babies in new ways. Virtual, as well as in-person, outpatient lactation visits are available at The Mother Baby Centers. Please call our lactation office to see how we can best support you.