Lactation consultant vs Postpartum doula

What is the difference between a lactation consultant and a postpartum doula? Can a postpartum doula offer breastfeeding support?

There are lots of normal challenges and questions surrounding breastfeeding that a postpartum doula can help with. In fact, for most people all that is needed is some education, tips and tricks, and a heapful of support to take care of the breastfeeding parent physically and emotionally. Postpartum doulas have you covered there!

Postpartum doulas have experience helping families with basic latch techniques, positioning, breast pumps, encouragement, and making sure people are taken care of with rest, nourishing food and plenty of water (you don’t know thirst until your body is producing food for another!). We can also help you set up your night time feeds to be as seamless as possible.

Postpartum doulas have experience supporting all kinds of breastfeeding families.

Most importantly, we have seen the incredible variation of what a typical breastfeeding experience can look like. There’s no singing angels in the background, it’s often a messier scene complete with clusterfeeding, plugged ducts and milk getting everywhere. Sometimes gaining some perspective and information about the normalcies of breastfeeding from your postpartum doula can give you the confidence to continue.

But there are situations that require the eyes of trained professionals called international board-certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs). We love IBCLCs! Lactation consultants have had a profound impact on our clients’ (and our own!) breastfeeding stories. IBCLCs help people through particularly challenging roadblocks in lactation like painful latches or concerns about baby’s weight gain. IBCLCs encourage and compassionately help you resolve difficulties so you can meet your breastfeeding goals.

Let’s tackle an example of when you might want to see a lactation consultant and how both your doula and lactation consultant fit into your support team.

Let’s say you experience pain during breastfeeding. Toe-curling pain while breastfeeding is NOT normal (but that’s a whole post for another day!) and there is generally an underlying cause.

How can your postpartum doula help with initial issues?

Basic positioning advice may ease certain kinds of pain. Your postpartum doula can help tweak your positioning to see if that has an effect.

We also ask questions to get a better sense of what is happening. Is the pain only at the beginning of a feed or throughout? Does it happen when baby is fussy or when you are too tired to correct a shallow latch? Or is this happening all the time, every time? Is baby gaining well? What did your nurse(s) say? We help you figure out if this is something you can work on by yourself or if this is something that needs more attention. We also know where and how to seek additional help, Montreal has some excellent breastfeeding resources.

How can a lactation consultant / IBCLC help?

If it’s a persistent pain we know that the root of the problem needs to be addressed and ultimately consulting with a lactation consultant is the best course of action. Whether a lactation consultant is seen privately or publically, they will assess for a tongue tie and other things that may be affecting baby’s ability to get a deeper pain-free latch. After an assessment of you and baby, an IBCLC will develop a plan of action with your goals and preferences in mind. If supplementation is needed an IBCLC will work with a family to come up with a feeding plan, how often and how much. If a tongue tie requires revision they will discuss options, risks and benefits.

And how can your postpartum doula help with a plan created with a lactation consultant?

Postpartum doulas help families execute their plans! In a practical way and in an emotional one.

Postpartum doulas can help with the practical aspects of carrying out your plan. We are there as in-person or phone support for a smoother transition by helping you adjust to a new schedule, offering baby care, practical tips, caring for you and encouragement. For instance if you are adding in a pumping session or two, we can help you sterilize pump parts, hold baby while you pump, and also come up with a system that is going to work for you long term. Sometimes it’s the simple things that can have a really big impact.

A mix of pumping and at the breast

We are also there for any emotions that may come up with changes in breastfeeding plans. We listen as you talk through your thoughts.

Need a pep talk? Yes that’s us too. Postpartum doulas encourage you to connect with your *why*. Because having a why is what will keep you motivated!

So we are the helpers, the listeners and the encouragers.

Postpartum doulas: We help, we listen, we encourage

TL;DR – Postpartum doulas vs Lactation consultants

Postpartum doulas offer support for typical breastfeeding difficulties as well as knowledge on when to seek more in-depth help from a lactation consultant/IBCLC. Importantly, we support you in executing the plans discussed with your IBCLC so you can achieve your breastfeeding goals.

Questions? Feel free to contact us.