Katie Birnie and her daughter, Audrey.

Katie Birnie and her daughter, Audrey. Birnie said she had trouble breastfeeding so she hired an expert. (Richard Cuthbertson/CBC)

Breastfeeding advocates in Nova Scotia are asking the province to cover the cost of hiring certified lactation consultants to help new moms feed their babies.

Katie Birnie said when she started breastfeeding her daughter Audrey she experienced pain, tiredness and even an abscess in her breast.

She made trips to her doctor and the emergency room before calling a breastfeeding expert.

“I think without the support of a lactation consultant I might not still be breastfeeding. And I'm very happy to say I am, and really enjoying it and my daughter is growing really well,” Birnie said.

The new mom said it was $90 well spent, but others argue the bill should be fronted by the Nova Scotia government.

“I think it needs to be billable service. Some of us have health insurance that will cover lactation consultant, which is really nice, but that still makes it a very elite service,” said Kathryn Hayward, an assistant professor of nursing at Dalhousie University.

Nova Scotia has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country, according to the health department. The government calls breastfeeding the "normal, safest, and best way to feed infants."

“I think it's really unfair, actually. I think they're doing a great job of letting people know that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby. But it's heartbreaking when the mother can't get the help that she needs in order to have that happen,” said lactation consultant Cassie Kent.

Hundreds of nurses have taken a three-day breastfeeding course, but critics say they don't have the expertise to deal with the toughest cases.

While some lactation consultants are employed in hospitals and at health authorities, the province says it has no plans to cover the service outside hospital stays.