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Lactation Consultants: Nursing Support at Home continued...

When Kitchingham brought Sydney home from the hospital, the baby's weight was fine, but she'd still occasionally pull away from the breast and cry during nursing for no apparent reason.

Kitchingham contacted lactation consultant Michele Mason, and a single visit helped restore her confidence and allowed her to relax. "I think we were all kind of stressed out," Kitchingham says. "The hospital had us worried about her weight, and my mother thought we should be waking her up to feed her -- I felt like I was doing everything wrong.

"When Michele came over, she alleviated my worries. She demonstrated different nursing positions and showed us how to hold the baby to relieve gas. She told us that during the first few weeks, all we needed to do was bond with our baby and not to worry about anything else."

What to Expect From a Lactation Consultant

Mason, a mother of three, has worked as a lactation coach in the San Francisco Bay Area for 13 years. Like many lactation consultants, she also offers information on infant care, how to calm a fussy baby, and basic newborn behavior and development.

"I strongly believe that a new mom should stay at home with her baby and that help should come to her, so I do home visits," Mason says. "I come when the baby is awake and I can make a good assessment and observe the baby nursing. I stay for about 1 and a half hours. During this time, I gather information from Mom, observe the baby nursing and latching on, and then provide Mom with a plan of action to address her breastfeeding questions and concerns."

It helps to get the names of a few lactation consultants before your baby arrives, whether you end up using them or not, so you won't have to scramble right after the birth. Your doctor, pediatrician, hospital, or midwife should be able to refer you to one, and many hospitals now offer lactation consultant services. 

You can also find names in your area at the International Lactation Consultant Association web site, which features an international directory.