Seven Questions to Ask When Choosing An Online Lactation Consultant
Getting help with breastfeeding should be a normal, easily accessible healthcare activity. Families should be able to reach experienced lactation consultants quickly and ask questions without feeling embarrassed. They should receive answers that are supportive, evidence-based, and respectful of the unique goals of breastfeeding families. They should be able to get a clear and manageable plan to help them with their breastfeeding issues.
All families deserve this level of help with breastfeeding, but there can be barriers to accessing it, starting from lack of breastfeeding advocacy at the family’s birthing center to the cultural stigma surrounding breastfeeding to lack of access to lactation consultant care.
Online lactation consultants play a big role in breaking down these barriers. These service providers reduce the challenge of locating an in-person lactation consultant and allow patients to get help with breastfeeding from the comfort of their own homes.
But that doesn’t mean that all online lactation consultants are the same. There is a wide variety of quality out there, and choosing the right lactation consultant can make all the difference in finding the support and answers you need, which is essential to your breastfeeding journey.
Asking the Right Questions
Don’t know where to start finding the right lactation consultant for you? Here are seven questions to guide you through the process.
1. What are your qualifications?
There aren’t laws that govern the credentialing of lactation consultants, but there are important professional certifications and standards. Always look for a breastfeeding specialist who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, or IBCLC.
There are many options for lactation support, from peer educators to Certified Lactation Counselors to International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants. IBCLC certification is the gold standard for lactation care providers, though. Issued by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, the IBCLC requires up to five years of training, 90+ hours of lactation-specific education, and as many as 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical practice.
IBCLCs are highly experienced providers who use evidence-based best practices to help new parents manage even the most complex breastfeeding situations. They excel at delivering lactation education and support to diverse families throughout their breastfeeding journey. Whether you’re an expectant parent looking to ease the postpartum transition or have a family of five exclusively breastfed babies (or anything in between), IBCLCs can help at any stage.
2. What should I expect during my appointment?
This is a buy-one-get-one-free question. It will help you prep for your consult and also see how realistic your consultant is about how they can help you.
Online lactation consultants see—and can help resolve—a huge range of breastfeeding questions and problems. IBCLCs, in particular, are trained to help patients with any infant feeding issue. You can ask about anything—mastitis, exclusively pumping, feeding multiples, starting solids, weaning, you name it. They can also help with issues you wouldn’t think could be addressed virtually, such as tongue ties or latch issues.
But while IBCLCs can provide comprehensive breastfeeding care, you may want to work with a lactation consultant with a special interest in a particular issue that impacts you. Ask whether available lactation consultants can support your family with questions about special breastfeeding topics like LGBTQ families, NICU stays, over- or under-supply of milk, returning to work, and more.
3. Can my partner participate in our consultation?
Breastfeeding is a very personal experience, even for the parent who isn’t lactating. Your partner plays a role in supporting you and your baby during your breastfeeding journey. Whether helping keep pump parts clean or having a working knowledge of breastfeeding to provide reminders and empathy during the long nights and endless (or at least seemingly endless) cluster feeding, your partner can truly be part of your breastfeeding experience. Joining in meetings with a lactation consultant can be a good first step.
In short, a lactation consultant should welcome your partner’s participation. If they don’t, they may not be the right fit.
4. What’s your availability like?
If you’re searching for an online lactation consultant, you probably need to talk to someone soon—like within a day or two. Look for consultants who advertise same-day or next-day appointments, as well as care after business hours and on weekends and holidays.
You may also want to look for a provider to offer ongoing support. If your problem is straightforward—such as figuring out your breast pump—you may get all the answers you need in one session. But if you’re struggling, being able to easily make multiple appointments with the same provider will help you fully answer your questions, resolve any issues, and build confidence in your breastfeeding skills.
5. Do you take insurance?
Yes, we accept ALL insurance and Medicaid plans. Most insurance plans will cover visits to lactation consultants, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For self-pay or uninsured families, discounted rates, sliding scales, or financial hardship assistance programs may be available.
Even when you do have insurance that covers lactation consultant appointments, it’s standard that parents pay out of pocket first, then submit a claim for their insurance to reimburse. This can cost hundreds—sometimes thousands of dollars—and timelines for reimbursement can be lengthy. For new parents—although, let’s face it, any parent—it’s the last thing they want to deal with.
At Nest Collaborative, we accept all insurance plans, but we do more than that. We confirm insurance eligibility before your appointment, so there are no unnecessary out-of-pocket costs.
6. What measures do you take to protect patient privacy?
As a new parent who needs help with breastfeeding, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA for short) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) may not be the most pressing issues on your mind.
But both of these privacy laws are important to a qualified lactation consultant.
Because they provide healthcare, lactation professionals must comply with all federal and state medical privacy laws. While your privacy may not be your top concern when your baby is having a hard time eating, a provider who cares about this is more likely to be a skilled professional committed to meeting all best practice standards while caring for your family. Don’t be afraid to name-drop these acronyms.
7. Are you available for follow-up appointments?
Breastfeeding is a journey (you’ve probably heard that before), and it’s valuable to have help along the way. And we mean the whole way, from struggles with latch to the trials of introducing solids and what to expect when weaning. Breastfeeding support shouldn’t feel like a one-and-done experience. High-quality lactation care takes a preventative, relationship-based approach, so you know what to expect every step of the way and always have someone to go to with questions or concerns.
Make sure the lactation consultant you work with is not only available for follow-ups after your initial appointment but can also be there for you throughout your entire breastfeeding journey.
Similarly, ask how the lactation consultant provides follow-up support. Can you schedule another virtual appointment, or will they respond to questions via email, text, or a client portal? Will they provide documentation or work collaboratively with your other healthcare providers (yours or your baby’s) following the appointment to ensure that information is shared?
Nest Collaborative is Here to Help
No matter what you need help with, the IBCLCs at Nest Collaborative are compassionate and prepared to guide you. With extensive experience helping new and practiced parents from diverse backgrounds meet their breastfeeding goals, we can help you with both preventative anticipatory guidance (for when things are going great) and customized support for any issues that may arise, including:
We also provide prenatal breastfeeding education, so you and your support crew are on the same page and know what to expect before your little one’s arrival.
Add in our flexible appointment schedule and high-quality care, and it’s easy to see why Nest Collaborative was named the “Best Overall Online Lactation Consultant–2021” by Verywell Family. If you’re ready to feel supported, calm, and confident about your breastfeeding journey, schedule your first visit today.
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