Lactation Services at Group Health

What have you heard about breastfeeding?

It's painful. It's embarrassing. Breastfed babies don't get enough milk. You can't go back to work if you breastfeed. Formula-fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies.

If this is what you've heard, you might be surprised to learn that these are all not true. As you get ready for the arrival of your new baby, a lactation consultant can teach you just how simple, convenient, and beneficial breastfeeding really is.

Personal Help

Lactation consultants — usually women — are trained specialists who work with you to prepare for breastfeeding. You'll learn how to tell when your baby is hungry, and how to help her latch on to your breast.

After the baby arrives, a consultant can also help you solve any nursing-related concerns, whether it's sore nipples or breast engorgement.

Group Health has lactation consultants on staff in two locations, Seattle and Bellevue.

If you live outside these areas, ask your primary care provider or your child's doctor about services closer to home.

Health Advantages

Because breast milk is the perfect food for babies — and because breastfeeding has significant health benefits for moms, too — Group Health wants to help if things don't go smoothly.

"There are substantial differences in health outcomes between breastfeeding and formula feeding," says Shirley Beard, a certified registered nurse and chairperson of Group Health's Lactation Information Program. "It is not just a lifestyle choice."

Common Problems

Nursing problems are most common in the first few weeks, as mother and baby work out the kinks. The most common complaints new moms have are sore nipples and worries about low milk supply, according to Margaret Jenks, a certified lactation consultant in Seattle.

Having a lactation consultant watch you breastfeed can help identify problems with positioning or latch. She will teach you different techniques to deal with problems like pain or soreness.

Consultants are available even before the baby is born, and on into toddlerhood. "We may see moms and babies until they wean," Jenks says. "It's not just the first six weeks."

For example, Jenks once counseled a young, pregnant woman whose weight gain had made her feel insecure about her body, so she wasn't sure she could breastfeed. She kept thinking back to hurtful comments her mother had made about her large breasts when she was 13.

Through some gentle counseling, Jenks helped ease her fears. After the baby was born, she gave breastfeeding a try and really enjoyed it.

"Women need to know we have these support services," Jenks says. "They can self-refer. It doesn't have to be a medical problem."

When to Call a Consultant

Individual consultation is recommended for some women. Depending on the issue, women may want to call before or after the birth.

Before the birth

After the birth

Scheduling an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with a Group Health lactation consultant, call one of the numbers below.

Bellevue Medical Center: 425-502-4230 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Seattle (Capitol Hill): 206-326-3500 weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Silverdale Medical Center: 360-307-7300 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Clinical review by Ruth Reed, BSN
Group Health
Reviewed 03/01/2014