Hiring the right lactation consultant requires a little thinking. Consider your situation, then formulate several questions, and get some answers before you hire anyone.
What about certifications and qualifications?
Anyone can claim to be a “lactation consultant.” This may surprise you, but it’s true. (My husband could call himself a lactation consultant!) But only those who are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners™ can call themselves an IBCLC™.
For me, hiring the right lactation consultant would mean hiring an IBCLC. I would not consider paying money for breastfeeding and lactation help from anyone else.
That said, I admit that I’ve seen some very knowledgeable, helpful helpers. But I would not pay money for the service they are selling.
What about experience?
I’m not just talking length of time in the field. Rather, I’m suggesting you look at the person’s experience with the type of issue you’re seeking help for.
For example, if you have a newborn, try to find someone who has substantial experience with newborns. If you have an older infant, seek a lactation consultant who has experience dealing with older children.
If you have an infant or child with a special issue? Do you have a preterm baby, twins, or higher-order multiples? Or, do you have a baby with a special issue, such as Down Syndrome or a craniofacial defect? In those special cases, hiring the right lactation consultant means looking for someone with special experience.
Most, if not all, lactation consultants have dealt with sore nipples, mastitis, and other commonly-encountered issues. Far fewer have served the populations with less common problems.
Where do the visits occur?
In a previous post, I described the different settings where lactation consultants may provide services. When you are considering hiring a lactation consultant, consider:
- Does the visit occur in the lactation consultant’s home? If so, are you comfortable bringing your baby (and maybe your other children) into someone else’s home? Private homes might have distractions, exposure to germs, an outside entrance that doesn’t accommodate a stroller, or any number of other factors.
- Does the visit occur in a private office? If so, how far is that office from your home? Is it a hassle to get there? What’s the parking situation?
- Do you want a home visit? For many new mothers, that’s ideal.
- How about a virtual visit? Just steer clear of anyone who offers a virtual visit via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom or similar methods, as these are not HIPAA compliant.
What about payment?
Almost all mothers assume that hiring the right lactation consultant means hiring the one who accepts their particular healthcare insurance.
In my experience, relatively few lactation consultants accept any type of private healthcare insurance. Frankly, it can be a hassle for the business owner.
First, ask how much the fee would be for the first visit (which is generally more expensive) and for subsequent visits. You might be surprised to see that the fee isn’t beyond your financial reach. And, unless your baby has some complicated problem, you’ll likely to need only one or two visits.
If this lactation consultant does not accept your particular insurance, ask for a copy of the Superbill. You might (might!) be able to get reimbursement for the out-of-network fee.
What policies should I be aware of?
Of course, there are all the usual policies. For example, most fee-for-service professionals charge you if you don’t show up.
Dig a little deeper, however. For example, does the lactation consultant allow you to bring your other children with you to the visit? If so, are there any age restrictions, or other restrictions to consider?
Ask yourself: Did we click? What about philosophy of care?
On philosophy of care, I mean, are you both on the same page for what’s important to you? For example, I want a general feel for if the person is big on interventions, or not. I’m in the “or not” camp, so that’s important to me.
On the “click” question. This may be the most important factor to consider when hiring the right lactation consultant. If you don’t click or mesh well with the person who is taking care of you and your baby, it doesn’t turn out well.
Previously, I’ve written about reasons to fire your lactation consultant. Consider these reasons as you set out to hire the right lactation consultant as well.
How have you gone about finding the right lactation consultant? What kinds of questions do you ask? Share your experiences in the comments below!