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Finding breastfeeding support and information

While breastfeeding is a natural process, many moms need help.

Breastfeeding moms can seek help from different types of health professionals, organizations, and members of their own families. Also, under the Affordable Care Act (the health care law), more women have access to free breastfeeding support and supplies.

And don't forget, friends who have successfully breastfed are great sources of information and encouragement! You can also learn more in the Breastfeeding advice videos section.

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What health professionals help with breastfeeding?

These professionals can help with breastfeeding:

  • International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) – IBCLCs are certified breastfeeding professionals with the highest level of knowledge and skill in breastfeeding support. IBCLCs help with a wide range of breastfeeding concerns. To earn the IBCLC certification, candidates must have a medical or health-related educational background as well as breastfeeding-specific education and clinical experience. They also must pass a rigorous exam. Ask your obstetrician, pediatrician, or midwife for the name of a lactation consultant who can help you. Or, find an IBCLC in your area.
  • CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor) or CBE (Certified Breastfeeding Educator) – A breastfeeding counselor or educator teaches about breastfeeding and helps women with basic breastfeeding challenges and questions. These counselors and educators have special breastfeeding training, usually limited to a week-long course.
  • Doula (DOO-la) – A doula is professionally trained to give birthing families social support during pregnancy, labor, and birth as well as at home during the first few days or weeks after the baby is born. Doulas that are trained in breastfeeding can help you learn to breastfeed.

What types of mother-to-mother breastfeeding support are available?

Other breastfeeding mothers can be a great source of support. Mothers can share tips and offer encouragement. You can connect with other breastfeeding mothers in many ways:

  • Ask your doctor or the staff at the hospital where you delivered your baby to suggest a support group. Some pediatric practices have an IBCLC on staff who leads regular support group meetings.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for help finding a breastfeeding peer counselor. "Peer" means that the counselor has breastfed her own baby and can help other mothers breastfeed. Many state WIC programs offer peer counselors.
  • Search the Internet for a breastfeeding center near you. These centers may offer support groups. Some resources include:
  • Visit the La Leche League website to find a local La Leche League support group.
  • Search the Internet for breastfeeding blogs, message boards, and chats. Social media sites are very popular "gathering places" for new mothers, but do not rely on these resources for medical advice. Talk to your doctor.
  • Some helpful resources include:

What federal programs are available to help with breastfeeding?

WIC program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (commonly called WIC) offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children.

Breastfeeding mothers supported by WIC may receive peer counselor support, an enhanced food package, breast pumps, and other supplies. Breastfeeding mothers can also participate in WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers. Many WIC offices have an IBCLC as well.

You can check to see if you qualify for WIC benefits. Find contact information for your local WIC program, or call the national WIC office at 703-305-2746.

OWH Helpline

The Office on Women/s Health Helpline is staffed with breastfeeding peer counselors who can answer your breastfeeding questions, support you through breastfeeding challenges, and connect you with other resources to help if needed.

The OWH Helpline is staffed Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Call 800-994-9662. Closed on federal holidays.

What are breastmilk donor banks?

Breastmilk banks supply fresh breastmilk. You may choose to use banked milk if you:

  • Do not make enough milk to satisfy the needs of your baby
  • Have a certain illness that makes you unable to breastfeed
  • Take medicine that prevents you from breastfeeding your baby

Some mothers give their milk directly to parents of babies in need. This is called "casual sharing." But this milk has not been tested in a lab like milk has at a human milk bank. The Food and Drug Administration recommends against feeding your baby breastmilk that you get either directly from other women or through the Internet.

A human milk bank can give you donor human milk if you have a prescription from your doctor. For more information on milk banking and how to contact a milk bank, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Breastfeeding benefits under the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and new moms. This means you can get support from a lactation consultant and a breast pump — one you can rent or buy, depending on your plan — at no cost to you.

Talk to your insurer to find out what your plan covers. Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and your benefits at healthcare.gov.

All material contained on this page is free of copyright restrictions and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Citation of the source is appreciated.

Content last updated: July 21, 2014

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This information in Spanish (en español)


ePublications

Breastfeeding fact sheet
(PDF, 160KB)

Your Guide to Breastfeeding
This easy-to-read publication has how-to information and support to help women breastfeed successfully.


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