We are kicking off this new blog series of “Ask the Expert” during National Breastfeeding Month, so it’s fitting that this interview was done with an IBCLC. As a reminder, an IBCLC is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (if you want to know all about what they do, check out this blog). I talked with Ashley Benz, an independent IBCLC in Louisville, Kentucky, to get some answers to some commonly asked questions and address some breastfeeding misconceptions. Ashley was the IBCLC that I developed a relationship with throughout my pregnancy and breastfeeding journey. She is a wealth of knowledge. If you are wanting to breastfeed or looking for breastfeeding support, she’s your girl!
C: What is your background? How long have you been an IBCLC? Tell us about your sweet family.
A: I have a Bachelor's degree in Speech Language Pathology and a Master’s degree in Maternal Child Health and Lactation Consulting. I’ve been working with new families for 14 years and have been an IBCLC for 10 years. I have four amazing children (13, 10, 8, 5) and the most supportive husband - along with two really needy dogs. I am extremely blessed.
C: What is your favorite thing about being an IBCLC?
A: People always assume I will say the babies. Trust me, I LOVE the babies, but the best part of being an IBCLC is being able to share the joys and the struggles with new families. It is an honor to get to walk someone’s journey with them.
C: What are the advantages of consulting an IBCLC? How is it different than a lactation consultant in a hospital setting, and when should pregnant moms make an appointment?
A: IBCLCs work in all settings. I love being an independent IBCLC because I have more control over my time and how I practice. I love seeing families within a week after birth, so I can help create a plan that works for them, adjust any issues they are having, and provide some confidence!
C: What do you think is the biggest adjustment when planning to breastfeed?
A: I think the biggest adjustment is reasonable expectations. People assume breastfeeding will be easy because it is natural.
C: What is a common breastfeeding myth you hear often?
A: I often hear that it’s “normal” for breastfeeding to hurt for a while and then your nipples “toughen up.” This hurts my heart because nursing should never be uncomfortable.
C: What about latching? Are some babies unable to latch?
A: There are times where a baby has some kind of impediment to attaching to the breast. That is why nursing with a nipple shield and pumping are both considered breastfeeding/chestfeeding.
C: Can you talk a little bit about oral restrictions? What are they? How are they diagnosed? Should they always be revised?
A: That could be several posts on its own! The long and short: frenula are normal to have in the mouth (they are small pieces of tissue that connect structures.) Sometimes they are too short or restrictive. The treatment plan for these are unique to each family. Every family should have access to an IBCLC to work through a care plan that works for them.
C: What is cluster feeding?
A: Cluster feeding is where babies put a bunch of feeds together. I liken this to my late-night “I want some popcorn…and some M&M’s…and a handful of pretzels” snacks.
C: A comment I hear often is “I don’t think I’m making enough milk for my baby.” How do we know our babies are getting enough, and what should we do if we think they aren’t?
A: The biggest determinant of getting enough is weight gain. At home you can monitor baby’s output of urine and stool - if they aren’t have 5-6 soaking wet diapers and at least 3 stools per day after day 4, check in with your care provider.
A few weeks ago, I posted a question box on social media where you all could post your breastfeeding questions. I put together the most asked questions and sent them Ashley’s way.
C: I feed my baby but thirty minutes later they are hungry again. Does this mean I have a supply issue?
A: Sometimes we all (grown-ups included) finish a meal and realize we need just a bit of dessert after the feeding. This alone doesn’t necessarily mean you have a milk supply issue.
C: I’m pregnant, and I want to breastfeed, but I don’t know where to start.
A: Take a breastfeeding class! Read some great books (The Nursing Mother’s Companion and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding are two of my favorites).
C: Is there a pump that works the best? How do I know which pump is best for me?
A: There are a few top brands on the market. Ask your IBCLC which pump they recommend based on your needs.
C: What is your favorite breastfeeding “product” and what is your least favorite?
A: My favorite breastfeeding product is a baby carrier. The more skin to skin and carrying time a baby has, the better for parent and baby. My least favorite are any of the products that make a parent doubt themselves - ie: the test strips, the tests for breastmilk composition, etc.
So, there we have it! Commonly asked breastfeeding questions answered by an expert. Have more questions or ready to make an appointment? Reach out to Ashley! You can schedule appointments on her website here. And, you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.