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IN-DEPTH: Lactation consultants guide new moms through struggles, stigmas of breastfeeding

Posted: 2:41 PM, Sep 02, 2021
Updated: 2021-09-02 15:41:14-04

The joys of motherhood aren't always so joyful, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. That's where lactation consultants come in, acting as hidden heroes for new mothers.

This isn't Jaryn Bassett's first rodeo.


“My oldest is super sweet," said the mother of three. "So he's been through this before, and he just loves to hold the baby and he's, he really understands the process... My second one, my middle child, his name is Trip, and he really is crazy, so it's really funny. He likes to hold the baby for about a minute or less, and then he, he's done.”

She gave birth to her youngest son, Trent, on Aug. 6.

Three babies three times breastfeeding. Jaryn says each time, she's learned something new.

“With my first two, I was over-producing," she explained. "So I made a lot of milk, and I was pumping for both of them, and I was able to feed other children. So with my first I was feeding my child full-time, I was feeding a friend's child full-time, and another friend's child part-time… For my second one, I fed a baby full-time when I was feeding mine.”

While it may seem natural, breastfeeding is not always easy. That's where lactation consultants come in.

“There are so many different reasons why breastfeeding can be difficult or it can be something that needs to, we have to adjust to," said Arlyn Johnson, a lactation consultant with AdventHealth. "So it is definitely not I have a breast, I have a baby, boom we're feeding. It's not that simple.”

“Breastfeeding is kind of a learned process," said Maria Tillinghast, an international board certified lactation consultant with Baylor Scott & White. "I tell my patients all the time, it was kind of like learning to tango and with each delivery, mama has a different partner. And so even if mom has successfully breastfed in the past, sometimes the next partner that she gets won't be as good at it as the first one was, or the second one was.”

There are many benefits of breastfeeding, both for mom and baby.

Babies who are breastfed have a reduced risk of asthma, obesity, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and more. As for moms, breastfeeding reduces the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes as well as ovarian and breast cancer.

While the physical benefits are numerous, oftentimes there's mental struggles when it comes to breastfeeding.

“I feel like it is as much mental and emotional as it is physical," said Johnson. "I think it, I always, I'll preach it religiously at the hospital, care for yourself. Take care of yourself. Take a moment to care for yourself. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you're feeling, because the hormones that control stress and the hormones that control breastfeeding kind of counteract a little bit.”

For Johnson and Tillinghast, breastfeeding and helping new moms, both physically and mentally, is a personal mission.

“When I had my first baby, it wasn't really a second thought that I breastfeed, but it didn't come as easy as I thought it would," Johnson said. "When you don't have any education, actual education on it, you think yes, I have a breast and I have a baby, that's going to work, and it didn't turn out like that.”

“I wanted to breastfeed my own child," said Tillinghast. "However, when he was born, I ended up with cracked and bleeding nipples, and I wanted to cry every time he came near me, and I, as a result of that, decided I didn't want any other mother to experience what I experienced because I knew it could be better. Matthew and I ended up breastfeeding for 16 months. We got over that hump, but it was because I went to a lactation consultant and got help afterwards that I was able to continue my breastfeeding relationship with him.”

Like parenthood as a whole, every day is different. But at the end of it all, Jaryn says the struggles of breastfeeding are well worth the benefits.

“A lot of mental things just kind of make you like, why am I doing this?" she said. "Or, you know, just be like, it would just be so much easier if I didn't have to do this. But you know, I continued on because I truly believe in it.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available. You can reach out to a lactation consultant through your hospital or through government programs, like Texas WIC.