Learning to breastfeed can be a challenging experience for some mothers, so it’s good to know where to go whether you have a couple questions, want to take a breastfeeding class, need help with a specific problem, or just need some emotional support. Here’s where to look and who to call:
- Lactation Consultants. The health care providers who have received special training in breastfeeding are called lactation consultants. Many are nurses or dietitians who have become International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). This means they have prepared for and passed an independent exam administered by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and met the organization’s requirements, including clinical experience and continuing education. IBCLCs may be in private practice, on staff at hospitals, or working at doctor’s offices. Their professional organization, the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) maintains a directory of IBCLCs. You can reach them by phone at (888) 452-2478 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- La Leche League (LLL) Leaders. La Leche League Leaders are experienced mothers who have breastfed their own children and been trained by La Leche League International to answer your questions. Leaders often organize weekly or monthly support groups of breastfeeding mothers, where you can drop-in with questions or concerns. In addition, they typically answer questions over the phone. To find a Leader in your area, contact LLL by phone at (877) 452-5324 or check their website.
- Hospital departments. The hospital where you deliver your baby may have a lactation department on-site. In many cases, lactation department staff are part of the maternity care team and available for any problems or questions new mothers have during their hospital stay and, sometimes, afterwards. Your nurse should be able to tell you if there is a lactation consultant on staff and/or available to you after you leave the hospital.
- WIC clinics. Many local or regional Women Infants and Children (WIC) clinics have breastfeeding support hotlines and/or lactation consultants on staff. WIC clients (mothers and babies) can access breastfeeding support for the entire first year after their babies are born. To locate a WIC clinic in your area, contact (703) 305-2746 or visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
- National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC). The Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Women’s Health has a breastfeeding hotline available at (800) 994-9662. The staff of NWHIC cannot provide in-person assistance, but they can answer questions over the phone.
- Your Insurance Company. If you have health insurance, reach out to your provider to find out if they offer pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding resources that are covered under your policy—such as educational classes (birthing, breastfeeding, infant care), breast pumps, and lactation consultant services. Also, find out what's not covered and what those costs will be to avoid financial surprises or missing out on benefits you already pay for. Once baby arrives, the last thing you'll want to do is spend time getting answers from your insurance company, so be sure to reach out to them during your pregnancy.
Some infant formula companies now have toll-free “helplines” available, too. Despite marketing themselves as reliable resources, formula companies profit when women formula-feed, making them poor sources for breastfeeding information and ones that should be avoided by mothers planning to breastfeed.