Looking for information on breastfeeding can lead you to providers that aren’t medical doctors. Although many experts out there can offer incredibly helpful advice and information on breastfeeding, there can be a noticeable gap in the expertise that physicians can offer. There are several reasons for this, but what’s important is that getting a perspective from an OB/GYN can offer different things than what you’ll find from a provider such as a lactation consultant. Here’s what to know about breastfeeding from Dr. Stephanie Melka, a board-certified OB/GYN with over ten years of experience in maternal-fetal medicine.
Medical Doctor vs. Lactation Consultant: Which One Do I Need?
For women who decide to breastfeed, it can be difficult to find medical care or even medically-based information on normal breastfeeding. Lactation consultants are a common accompaniment for new moms who need support for breastfeeding – this is because it can be difficult to find this specific type of care from an OB/GYN. There are a few reasons for this – OB/GYNs tend to focus on the medical conditions and complications regarding breastfeeding without necessarily having training in how to breastfeed. Additionally, many physicians are trained to recommend formula over breastfeeding. Dr. Melka says, “I think some physicians don’t always understand the importance of breastfeeding and why a woman might really want to feed. And it’s easy to just say like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to do that. Just give formula.’ And, I think, they might not see the need as well. “
For this reason, many moms end up choosing lactation consultants for their breastfeeding care. Although these providers can be incredibly knowledgeable, it’s difficult for moms to find medically reviewed information about breastfeeding from their doctor.
How Can An OB/GYN Help With Breastfeeding?
OB/GYNS can be helpful in the early stages of breastfeeding when moms are still in the hospital. Having your OB/GYN available to address any issues early on can potentially prevent complications later. Dr. Melka says, “There’s a whole world out there of breastfeeding medicine. And it sort of fills the gap in what physicians don’t necessarily learn in residency, whether it be OB or pediatrics or whatever and the role of the lactation consultant. Lactation consultants are wonderful. They do a lot of teaching, problem-solving, but they don’t diagnose or treat. So, that’s sort of where we come in. “
Lactation consultants, on the other hand, are a great resource for women after they go home. Since OB/GYNs aren’t available for home visits, lactation consultants can help moms maintain a successful breastfeeding process. Dr. Melka says, “And then from there, women would end up coming back to me if they’re having problems. You know, the most common we see is mastitis. Sometimes it’s just fever from engorgement, overall pain, occasionally, low milk supply, other medical issues that could be contributing as well.” These issues are incredibly important and should be treated by an OB/GYN, not a lactation consultant.
Setting Yourself Up for Success with Breastfeeding
One of the best ways to be successful with breastfeeding is by utilizing your care team. If your OB/GYN does not have training in breastfeeding, then asking for local resources can be incredibly helpful. Make sure to look for providers who have a background in medicine and can provide appropriate information and expertise early in on your postpartum stage. Dr. Melka says, “…most of the data demonstrates that the best way to set yourself up for a longer time breastfeeding is to get it right in the first couple of weeks. If it’s successful, if it’s not painful, if you’re able to do it well, and, you know, sort of get everything set up early, that’s really the key.”
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Learn more about this topic with Dr. Melka on Healthful Women, our podcast dedicated to helping you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness.
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!