The Effectiveness of Lactation Consultants and Lactation Counselors on Breastfeeding Outcomes

J Hum Lact. 2016 Aug;32(3):530-41. doi: 10.1177/0890334415618668. Epub 2015 Dec 7.


Breastfeeding for all infants starting at birth and continuing until at least 6 months of age has been recommended by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The health benefits to infants and mothers have been demonstrated in many studies. Dedicated lactation specialists may play a role in providing education and support to pregnant women and new mothers wishing to breastfeed to improve breastfeeding outcomes. The objective of this review was to assess if lactation education or support programs using lactation consultants or lactation counselors would improve rates of initiation and duration of any breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding compared with usual practice. A systematic literature review of the evidence was conducted using electronic databases. The review was limited to randomized trials and yielded 16 studies with 5084 participants. It was found that breastfeeding interventions using lactation consultants and counselors increase the number of women initiating breastfeeding (odds ratio [OR] for any initiation vs not initiating breastfeeding = 1.35; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.10-1.67). The interventions improve any breastfeeding rates (OR for any breastfeeding up to 1 month vs not breastfeeding = 1.49; 95% CI, 1.09-2.04). In addition, there were beneficial effects on exclusive breastfeeding rates (OR for exclusive breastfeeding up to 1 month vs not exclusive breastfeeding = 1.71; 95% CI, 1.20-2.44). Most of the evidence would suggest developing and improving postpartum support programs incorporating lactation consultants and lactation counselors.

Keywords: breastfeeding; consultant; duration; initiation; outcomes; support.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Consultants*
  • Counseling / methods
  • Counselors*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods
  • Social Support
  • Time Factors