When to Call
The few studies available suggest that anywhere from a quarter to two thirds of breast-feeding women face significant difficulties within the baby's first week. Top complaints include sore nipples, infant sucking problems, excessive infant weight loss (more than 10 percent of birth weight), and delayed onset of the mother's milk supply. Yet when researchers in a 1999 study at the University of California at Davis provided lactation consultants to every study subject who needed one, the overwhelming majority of participants' breast-feeding problems were resolved successfully.
"Lactation consultants are a breast-feeding mother's best hope for detailed troubleshooting and advice,'' says Kathleen Huggins, R.N., IBCLC, a certified lactation consultant in San Luis Obispo, California, and author of The Nursing Mother's Companion (Harvard Common Press, 4th rev. ed., 1999). Because breast-feeding was out of vogue in America from the 1940s through the 1970s, Huggins points out, today's new moms seldom have older, experienced relatives they can ask for help. Furthermore, obstetricians, nurses, and pediatricians receive little or no training in breast-feeding. Certified lactation consultants can help fill that void.