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The role of a Lactation Consultant

March 5, 2014

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In recognition of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Day on March 5, we asked one of our Lactation Consultants (LCs) to tell us more about her role. Kathy Venter has been an LC since 1990, and works in the Breastfeeding Clinic at Sunnybrook.

What is a Lactation Consultant, and what do they do at Sunnybrook?

Our roles go far beyond supporting women with breastfeeding. We help them meet their goals in this time of transition in their lives, whatever those goals might be. Helping women adapt to the post-partum period is an important part of our jobs.

Lactation Consultants (LCs) come from many different backgrounds — nursing, midwifery and teaching, to name a few. But the certification progress is quite rigorous, and we bring a variety of knowledge, skills and strengths to the table. We are able to learn from each other.

Do you collaborate with other teams and departments at Sunnybrook?

Absolutely — any area where women access care at Sunnybrook, we are available to support them. Whether a woman who is still breastfeeding is in the emergency department or is an inpatient after having had surgery, we work with staff in that area to ensure she is supported. If necessary, we can deliver a breast pump and cooler bag to make sure she is able to continue giving her baby breast milk.

We work very closely with all areas of the Women & Babies Program, like the high risk, birthing and maternal and newborn units. Because of our close relationships with those units, we can meet with women who have high-risk pregnancies before they deliver their babies at Sunnybrook, to prepare them and build their confidence for the post-partum phase. After they deliver, we can meet with them again to keep that continuum of care going.

We are also able to refer women to other areas of the hospital if we identify an issue. For example, if a woman finds a lump in her breast, we can refer her for an appointment at Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre. We also work very closely with other professionals at the hospital, such as dietitians, pharmacists and prenatal educators. We will often share knowledge and skills with the Neonatal Follow Up Clinic as well.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Empowering mothers and building their confidence in their breastfeeding choices. Helping women succeed is what makes my role so interesting every day.

What do you want people to know about LCs?

That our job is to help support everyone else's job. We support women with breastfeeding, general health and their attachment with their babies, but we wouldn't be able to do this without peer support and collaboration from other areas of the hospital.

Lactation consultants