I have been a lactation consultant in private practice for quite a while now. I love it. I have the opportunity to work with mothers and babies who are appreciative of the much needed breastfeeding support. Over the years, I had my hopes that lactation services would be covered by insurance as a preventive service. After all, we all know that breastfeeding has been proven to strengthen immune systems of our babies, help keep them healthier, and also offer important health benefits for mothers as well. All of this will keep the cost of health care down over time, so you’d think the insurance companies would be all over this! Well, unfortunately, some are, and some aren’t. Of course, this is also dependent on where you live. Where I am, it is difficult to get insurance to cover the cost of a private lactation consultant, so many are left paying out of pocket. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Let’s break it down in a way that makes sense.
I feel like this is important. Well, all of it is important, but new mothers are at a pretty vulnerable place when they come to you for breastfeeding support. What they need is someone who is able to dedicate a block of time to them, take a full history, develop a plan WITH the family and make sure the mother (and anyone else who is present for the consultation) feels like their concerns have been heard. They don’t want to feel rushed, unheard or feel like the problem was not addressed. They want advice and solutions that are connected to their particular problem, not a blanket response to common breastfeeding problems. New families also want evidence based information, and they want to feel supported. I am not saying this won’t happen if you don’t have a private lactation consultant, but if you want one on one attention that doesn’t feel rushed, you may not get that at your doctor’s office or pediatrician appointment. Unfortunately, pediatricians, doctors, midwives, etc. only have so much time slotted in their schedule to see you. They may not be able to address the questions you have, and they may not have the training to do it either.
“I hear something different from everyone I talk to”
This is the most frequent complaint I hear from new families. Usually this is directed at hospital staff, where they may get different advice from each nurse or lactation consultant they see. It also happens with medical offices where families may see different doctors or nurses for their appointments. Pair this with random advice from family, friends and social media, and being a new mother can be a really confusing place. Enter the private practice lactation consultant, who will be able to provide consistent, realistic information and advice that families can feel comfortable with. It is really difficult to maneuver through this foggy post partum period when you feel like you are being given different advice at every turn. Babies can be scary and confusing for even the most prepared family (and I use the word prepared loosely), consistent information is really important.
Many breastfeeding problems are common and easy to address. However, each baby is different, each mother is different, each family is different. Shouldn’t you have someone who will address your specific situation to meet your needs? You will get that with a private practice lactation consultant. They will be able to talk with you about that medication you need to take or the breast surgery you had when you were younger or the worries you have about weight gain for your baby. They can address your unique workplace situation or pumping problems and offer support specific to each of these things.
Higher Breastfeeding Success
A literature review by Patel and Patel (2016) chronicles the many research studies that have been published to support the increased success rate for breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for mothers and babies when exposed to lactation specialists. And, quite honestly, if a mother is planning to breastfeed and wants to breastfeed, she should be offered any and all support necessary to make this happen.
Cheaper in the Long Run
I wasn’t sure if I should mention this, but then figured why not?? It’s the truth, after all. Especially now that many insurance companies are covering the expense of breast pumps (or partially, anyway) the cost of breastfeeding became that much cheaper. I have had plenty of people ask about rates, feel discouraged that they have to pay out of pocket, and decline the help. I completely understand this, as it is a service that you should be able to access without worrying about cost. However, if you take the time to consider the cost of formula feeding for a year, the rates of even the most expensive private practice lactation consultant will pale in comparison. Formula feeding is expensive. Maybe it’s because it is happening over the course of months, not a lump sum up front, that makes it seem affordable. However, if you look at the numbers, you can’t help but agree that paying for lactation support when you need it is much better deal.
In many cases, when you develop a relationship with a lactation consultant, that relationship will stay with you throughout your breastfeeding journey and beyond. I have many families who contact me when they are pregnant with the next baby, just to set up their support system in advance. They feel comfortable texting, emailing or calling me with questions, knowing they will probably get an answer faster than calling another medical professional. Confidence grows stronger. Every breastfeeding mother and baby should have this experience.
~ Patel, S., Patel, S. (2016) The effectiveness of lactation consultants and lactation counselors on breastfeeding outcomes. Journal of Human Lactation. 2016; 32(3) 530-541.