The first time you see a lactation consultant, there will be a lot going on. From discussing your health history and birthing experience to undergoing a visual assessment to feeding in front of the consultant, it can feel like there isn’t time for you to ask questions — but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only does your lactation consultant want you to ask these questions, it’s likely they want you to ask more questions than even you think you should.
“How soon can you see me?”
As comprehensive as a lactation consultation is, its effectiveness partly hinges on when you actually make the appointment. “If we could see the breastfeeding family in the first week and tweak whatever little problems are cropping up or catch them…that can make a huge difference,” International Board certified lactation consultant Denise Altman, LPN, RN, IBCLC, tells SheKnows. It’s the question or concern that prompts you to contact a consultant (Is the baby getting enough to eat? Is nursing supposed to feel like this?) that makes the biggest difference in your breastfeeding journey. In turn, the best question that you can ask your consultant could very well be, “How soon can you see me?”
“Is pain normal?”
“The number-one misconception still — I’ve been a lactation consultant for over 20 years and it hasn’t changed — is that breastfeeding pain is common or normal,” Altman says, adding that it isn’t a matter of just “getting used” to the sensation. International Board certified lactation consultant Miri Levi, FNP-BC, WHNP-BC, CNM, IBCLC, tells SheKnows she shares this concern — and adds that, at the most, there might be a feeling of friction due to the baby’s sucking, “but there shouldn’t be sharp pain.” If feeding is an uncomfortable or downright painful experience for you, bring that up during your appointment. Your consultant will be able to correct any issues with positioning and address other possible sources of your pain.
“Are emotional changes normal?”
Of course, this first appointment is the perfect time to touch base about positioning, latching, and other practical steps to ensure that your baby is getting enough milk during every feeding. In fact, your consultant will likely address all of those concerns naturally as you go through the motions of nursing in front of them. But this is also your chance to ask about the mental toll of the breastfeeding process. “I wish patients would ask more about how they should be coping emotionally and share more about their social support system during their visit,” Levi says. She notes that feeling discouraged, stressed, anxious, and even depressed is a more common experience than many new moms may expect. Sharing those feelings out loud or asking something as simple as, “Is this normal?” can make you feel less alone and more confident as you adjust to breastfeeding and motherhood more broadly.
“How can I lean on others for support?”
“It can be helpful to have another person with you during the visit to help you remember what was said later, and ask questions you might forget to ask,” Levi says. Altman notes that, as important as it is for you to take an active role in your breastfeeding plan, your loved ones should be engaged, too. And that means giving them the chance to ask any questions they may have, especially ones that pertain to providing you with the support you need. Whether you bring your significant other, parent, sibling, or friend along for the appointment, they’ll be your first source of comfort and assistance as you move forward with breastfeeding, so they should take this opportunity to learn, too.
“When can we meet again?”
Ideally, you’ll leave your appointment with a feeding plan and clear set of goals for yourself. If you run into any issues or your goals happen to change in the following days and weeks, call your consultant to check in and set up another appointment. Again, they’ll be more than happy to chat — and give you the guidance you’re looking for.