Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not always easy. Before your baby was born, you may have watched videos and read books to help you craft a breastfeeding plan. Now that your baby’s here, though, you may discover that you need even more help.
Nursing can be tough, but here’s a dose of encouragement: someone is waiting to lend you a hand.
In other words? You don’t have to do it alone.
You can find resources in your local area or from a national organization. With the help of a support team, you and your little one can build your breastfeeding bond. Here’s how to get started when you need help with breastfeeding.
#1) The hospital nursing staff
The nurses in your hospital’s postpartum unit may have breastfeeding training. Before you’re discharged from the hospital, they can help you get started with nursing.
If you have questions right off the bat, your hospital stay is a great time to get answers. The nurses are right there with you. They can watch what you’re doing and provide specific tips. Some maternity units may even have lactation consultants on hand.
And if the nursing staff isn’t quite sure how to help you troubleshoot your specific issues, then they can at least recommend who to turn to next. So don’t hesitate to ask if you’re not getting the help you need right away.
#2) Lactation consultants
Trained breastfeeding professionals are known as lactation consultants (LC). Their job is to assist with all kinds of breastfeeding questions and problems. Lactation consultations have a medical background. They’ve also received breastfeeding-specific training. You can go to an LC with simple questions or complicated nursing dilemmas.
To find a lactation consultant:
- Check whether your hospital offers sessions with one. You might meet in person or through video chat.
- Ask your obstetrician or your baby’s pediatrician for a referral.
- Contact your local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office.
- Use the International Lactation Consultant Association’s online directory.
When you’re seeking out support, look for the IBCLC designation after a consultant’s name. That stands for International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Setting up a one-on-one appointment with an LC may cost money. But your health insurance plan may pay for the visit. Just ask about costs up front to be sure, and check with local free resources if you need to.
#3) Breastfeeding counselors
While IBCLC is one of the highest certifications in this field, it’s not the only one. People interested in supporting nursing moms could also become Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC). Another option is to become a Certified Breastfeeding Educator (CBE).
CLCs and CBEs sometimes head up support groups. La Leche League is an example of an organization where you might find one of these trained counselors. Nurses and other medical professionals sometimes hold these titles, too.
A CLC or a CBE can help with basic questions. But if you have a complicated problem, she may refer you to an IBCLC.
To find a counselor in your area, check out the online map from Breastfeeding USA.
#4) Peer counselors
Sometimes, all you want is to talk to someone who’s been there before. Maybe you don’t have any medical or other reasons making breastfeeding harder than it has to be. Instead, you need a fellow mom who can provide tips and tricks, someone who can also offer the encouragement that you need.
In that case, a peer counselor might be just what you’re looking for. This is a mother who’s not only nursed her own babies but who’s also received some breastfeeding training as well. Now, she’s committed to helping other new moms find success.
Many WIC offices run peer counseling programs. Call your local agency to ask about them. You may not even need to qualify for WIC to benefit from this service.
#5) Breastfeeding support group
Similar to the idea of a direct peer counselor, a breastfeeding support group can give you the experience of other breastfeeding moms in a group setting.
In a support group for nursing moms, you’d be surrounded by others in a similar stage of life. You might also have the companionship of experienced mothers who have been there before. Many new parents also build lasting friendships through breastfeeding support groups.
Local hospitals may offer these groups, headed by a lactation counselor or a breastfeeding educator. The cost can vary, but some groups might charge a small registration fee.
La Leche League is one of the best-known organizations for breastfeeding support. This international group has chapters all over the world. In the U.S., you can find a group by visiting the websites of La Leche League USA or La Leche League Alliance. You can also run an internet search for “La Leche League” paired with the name of your state.
If you can’t find a support group near you, check out virtual groups. The popular pro-breastfeeding site KellyMom runs a Facebook group for nursing parents. The website also provides a list of local support organizations.
#6) Breastfeeding hotlines
When you’re hoping for a quick answer, consider calling a breastfeeding call center. Most nursing hotlines are free.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline, which is staffed by peer counselors. Call (800) 994-9662 to get started. Counselors are standing by during regular business hours. This resource is available in English and Spanish.
When you need info about taking medicine while breastfeeding, consult the InfantRisk Center. This hotline is available daily during business hours. Have your medication name and dosage handy when you call. Dial (806) 352-2519 to speak to a trained advisor.
Your local hospital or lactation center may offer a call line, too.
Of course, these hotlines can be helpful, but they’re no substitute for a call to your own doctor or child’s pediatrician. But if you’re in a pinch and you have a quick question, these resources could help you out while you’re waiting to hear back from your own provider.
#7) Helpful apps
Yep, there are breastfeeding apps. And when you need an answer right away, the Breastfeeding Central app may offer what you’re looking for. This app was designed by an IBCLC. There’s a small fee to download it, but then you’ll have a wealth of nursing info at your fingertips.
Plus, the app includes a directory of IBCLCs so that you can connect with in-person help in your area.
There are other apps out there to help you track your breastfeeding and troubleshoot common problems. Medela, for example, a maker of breastfeeding pumps and supplies, has an app called the Medela Family App. The app offers a variety of features, from pregnancy through postpartum, and is available for free download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. (Note: this post is not sponsored or endorsed by Medela in any way.)
Professional help is invaluable. But there’s something to be said for good friends who will support your choice to breastfeed and offer practical and emotional help when you need it. Every new parent needs to hear encouraging words. Having a friend who says, “I know it’s hard, but I’m here to help,” is an incredible gift.
Hopefully, you already have those people in your life.
If not, it’s a great reason to join a breastfeeding support group. Or, to build relationships with mothers in all stages of family life, consider seeking out a parenting group instead. Look for a local MOMS Club chapter in your area, or use a social site like Meetup to find a group that appeals to you.
Your mom friends are people you can turn to when you need an encouraging word or a shoulder to cry on. The best of them will also let you know when you need professional guidance. They’ll help you track down the number of a lactation consultant or schedule an appointment at the hospital’s breastfeeding center.
Cultivating your current friendships or meeting new people may feel daunting when you’re in the throes of new parenthood. But when one of those people shows up at your door with a drink and a snack you can enjoy one-handed while nursing a hungry babe, you’ll know it was worth the effort.