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  • Writer's pictureJacinta

What's the difference between a postpartum doula and a lactation consultant when it comes to breast/chest feeding?

Updated: Feb 27

Newborn baby on mother's chest

I get asked this question quite a lot so I thought here was a great place to break it down for you!

A postpartum doula offers basic breast/chest feeding workshops or in-home support, as well as providing in-home assistance so both baby and parent can learn this new skill. By "basics", I'm referring to:

- helping families understand what a good latch looks and feels like

- different positions in which to feed

- understanding baby hunger cues

- helping with how to pump and store milk safely

- how to hand express

- helping relieve engorgement or deal with oversupply

- weaning

- assessing when further breast/chest feeding assistance may be required.

As well as providing this guidance and support, part of a postpartum doula's scope is to support families in other areas in order for the feeding parent to rest, do some kangaroo care (skin-to-skin) and continue to practice feeding without having to worry about other household responsibilities. This breast/chest feeding thing is a physically and mentally draining, around-the-clock job! However, a postpartum doula does not have the specialized training of a lactation consultant, especially one who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

An IBCLC can provide all of these things to clients, too (minus the in-home practical care). An IBCLC not only has clocked an impressive amount of hours of study and training, but they need to sit an exam and re-certify every 5 years, so they know their stuff! They are also able to weigh the baby, evaluate for lip, tongue and cheek ties, create specialized plans, and they also help families regarding feeding multiples, premature babies or babies with other physicalities that may make latching or positioning a little more difficult.

Postpartum doulas often refer families to a lactation consultant when breastfeeding basics have been tried but aren't enough or a more thorough assessment is warranted. Postpartum doulas can also help families implement any action plans or assist with alternative feeding methods which have been recommended by the lactation consultant.

So, who do you go to for breast/chest feeding support then? At the end of the day, it's a personal choice. You can just go straight to a lactation consultant to get both your basics and more specialized support. But the cost of a consultation, or knowing you may also want in-home support after birth might influence your decision to choose a postpartum doula instead. When all is said and done, both postpartum doulas and lactation consultants want to support and ease any anxieties parents may have with their breast/chest feeding journey, so as I always advocate - do your research and find which one works best for you.

With that in mind, if you want to have a chat, feel free to message me to book a free consultation to see how I can help you!

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