Have you seen ads for Similac's Expert Feeding line? This ads promise "nurses and lactation consultants" are available 24/7 to provide free help. They've recently advertised on Babble.
Now, you may be wondering why anyone would call a formula company sponsored line for breastfeeding help, but I'm willing to be that there are enough mothers in areas with poor support resources that this looks pretty attractive. After all, it's a free call to a lactation consultant. Everybody loves (and most people need) free, and lactation consultants are experts, right?
(And they're really promoting the heck out of this thing. I just did a Google search for 'breastfeeding help,' and guess what popped up at the top?)
Recently someone on Lactnet called the line to test out what kind of advice they give about breastfeeding. Here's what she reported:
I pretended to be a new mom with a two week old breastfed baby "who hasn't gained back up to her birth weight." Then I asked, "Do you have any suggestions?" The "expert's" response was, "Well, there might be a few things you could do...but the BEST thing might be to mix formula with your breastmilk to add more calories."
So, the first thing to say is that whoever gave this incredibly unhelpful (and likely damaging) advice is not an IBCLC. The truth is that anyone can call themselves a lactation consultant, even if they've never been within fifty feet of a nursing mother and baby. Only board-certified lactation consultants with the initials IBCLC are guaranteed to have completed a high level of training and experience. Would an IBCLC work for a formula company sponsored help line? No. Our Code of Ethics would prohibit that, and it would put our credential in jeopardy.
The Similac site says that the lactation consultants are provided by LifeCare, "a leading provider of maternity and lactation support programs." Lactnet posters have suggested that after IBCLCs working for LifeCare refused to work for the Similac line, the company had some people trained through an online course before being handed the phones.
There are a lot of issues here, starting with the harmful advice and promotion of formula evidenced by the call above, moving on to the confusion and deception caused by the use use of the term 'lactation consultant,' and then the decision made by Babble to accept the ads. And of course we have WHO Code issues all over the place here. What do you have so say about all of this?
And where can you turn for free breastfeeding phone help? Fortunately there are several options:
- La Leche League: Leaders in your area who can help by phone and sometimes in person
- National Breastfeeding Hotline (women.gov): Phone help from peer counselors in English and Spanish
You can also see the the ILCA website for listings of lactation consultants through a zip code search, and get breastfeeding help through most WIC offices.