By: Theresa Moutafis, MA, RD, CDCES, IBCLC
Although telelactation has steadily been gaining traction, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an even greater need for families to receive professional lactation care while keeping in line with social distancing recommendations.
There is some good research on telelactation, and a simple Google search brings up many of these studies. In this article we are going to focus on the practical aspects of telelactation as many IBCLCs may be jumping into this for the first time.
Legalities, Legislation, and Licensure
Legalities and licensure are hot topics within this arena. This section will be upated as new information becomes available.
There are also a number of helpful resources for conducting telelactation visits. These include:
- This comprehensive blog post from Paperless Lactation on virtual consults: https://paperlesslactation.com/blog/virtual-consult-best-practices-for-lactation-consultants?fbclid=IwAR0taI1RPuTH-Mif4tK_FAgAkxkarEw1mm1STAvVKTIljG59J4Vjuj1HP_o
- Another wonderful blog post about virtual consults from Milk and Motherhood: https://milkandmotherhood.com/2020/03/virtual-consultations-what-ive-learnt.html?fbclid=IwAR1uxBVbJjkIFpCpO5agkD3zMQ9yBBt1zq1MdtRtTKO57k1s65XFwjhEHJM
Let us know of any other resources that you think would be valuable to include here!
Virtual consults require a slightly different set of skills than in-person. Below are a few suggestions and thoughts from my and others’ experiences providing telelactation services.
Keep in Mind:
- You are not going to be able to get the best visuals. Encourage mom to have a helper nearby to move the phone or laptop for you to be able to get a better view of latch or baby’s mouth.
- Have good lighting! Test this beforehand.
- Encourage parents to send photos or videos of whatever they feel is relevant beforehand, whether it be a feed, pumping session, questionable tongue tie, etc.
- Remind parents to try not to feed before the appointment starts – we need a visual on that feed if at all possible! I’ve found that many moms make sure baby is settled in and sleeping soundly so they can have an uninterrupted consult, without realizing that it defeats the purpose and inhibits our assessment.
- Pay extra attention to your counseling skills. We don’t have the benefit of full body positioning and language for cues, so it’s important to listen and observe carefully.
- Have all your demonstration tools at the ready – I’ve had to run out of the room multiple times to grab a baby doll!
- Make sure your internet connection is good and that all technology works beforehand.
- Have a contingency plan for technical issues (call back, rescheduling, etc.).
- Clearly communicate how the appointment will be conducted and ask what the parent’s expectations are for the appointment.
- Take notes, but let your client know you’ll be taking notes, as it can be disconcerting to see the provider looking off-screen.
- Try to look at the camera lens rather than the patient’s face on your screen, although this can be hard and unnatural to do.
We hope these are helpful, and please let us know if there are any other tips or questions that you have. Stay safe!
Special thanks to my Sonder Health telelactation colleagues Mary Unangst and Stephanie Johnson for their ideas and tips!
MLCA volunteers have gathered/shared this info and will continue to offer additional resources to support the work of IBCLCs in assisting breastfeeding families in MA through this pandemic. If you benefit from and appreciate MLCA resources please consider donating or volunteering now or when you are able.