Teaming Up for Breastfeeding: The Collaboration of Public Health Nurses and Lactation Consultants


Lisa Pittman, Regional Lactation Consultant with Eastern Health (on the phone, getting “the call.”)

Lisa Pittman, Regional Lactation Consultant with Eastern Health (on the phone, getting “the call.”)

“Can I refer this mother and baby to you?” This question came to me from a Public Health nurse concerning a breastfeeding mother and baby in her district.

This referral involved a complex breastfeeding situation, so the Public Health nurse referred the mother and baby to the Breastfeeding Clinic where I work as a lactation consultant. I assessed the mother and baby, and put a plan in place to help them overcome the difficulties they were experiencing with breastfeeding. Adhering to the plan I provided, the Public Health nurse would continue caring for the pair, but with my additional support, if necessary.

My name is Lisa Pittman, and I have been a regional lactation consultant with Eastern Health’s Public Health Nursing Program for two years. The story I just referenced was one of my very first referrals to Breastfeeding Clinic. This story touches on the incredible value of collaborative and continuing care offered to clients by Public Health nurses and lactation consultants.

Lisa Pittman, Regional Lactation Consultant, assisting a breastfeeding family.

Lisa Pittman, Regional Lactation Consultant, assisting a breastfeeding family.

Public Health nurses are the first points of contact for the majority of breastfeeding families and provide excellent care through postnatal home visits and community Breastfeeding Support Groups. When a client’s needs are more complex, such as in cases where there is slow weight gain, low milk production and other unresolved matters, Public Health nurses across the region can now offer additional support to breastfeeding families by a referral to one of the Breastfeeding Clinics. At these clinics, mothers and babies can be assessed by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant on a one–on-one basis. This intervention service may help address early breastfeeding challenges to enable continued and successful breastfeeding.

“Early intervention is critical in mitigating problems and assisting families along their breastfeeding journey.”

Collaborating to meet the needs of clients is in line with our Strategic Plan for 2014-2017, Together We Can. Public Health nurses and lactation consultants are dedicated to working with breastfeeding families in achieving the goals they set for breastfeeding.

Health Canada (2013) and the World Health Organization (2003) recommend that breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and sustained for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding, is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers.

As breastfeeding has so many health benefits for moms and babies, I am so pleased to see breastfeeding initiation rates increasing in our province. However, we need to support our families to breastfeed longer. The teaming up of lactation consultants and Public Health nurses to support those families with complex breastfeeding issues will help us achieve this goal.

Lisa standing in the Breastfeeding Clinic.

Lisa standing in the Breastfeeding Clinic.

“Helping breastfeeding mothers and babies overcome challenges in Breastfeeding Clinic is very rewarding.”

Nothing makes me happier than when I speak with Public Health nurses months after they have sent me a referral and they tell me that the mother and baby are doing well. Breastfeeding is a normal process and most families do not need the services of a lactation consultant. For those whose needs are more complex, I am very pleased to work in collaboration with Public Health nurses to help families achieve their breastfeeding goals. ■

This story was written by Lisa Pittman, a regional lactation consultant with Eastern Health’s Public Health Nursing Program. 

3 responses to “Teaming Up for Breastfeeding: The Collaboration of Public Health Nurses and Lactation Consultants

  1. Wonderful article 🙂 curious if you are also a PHN/must be a PHN-IBCLC to work in your clinic? Also, who finds the breastfeeding clinic?

    Are clients paying out of pocket or via a grant?

  2. We can achieve so much more when we work together! Great article Lisa, so happy to see this collaborative effort and the positive impact it is having for our breastfeeding families!

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