Aside from the physical factors that contribute to a woman’s breastfeeding outcome, community support is one that weighs heavily. March is all about celebrating womanhood and the perfect time to highlight, spread awareness and celebrate how much of an impact we can have on each other’s journey!
Whether you are currently pregnant/breastfeeding or are interested in ways you can be supportive, this blog will help shed light on ways we can support one another and share testimonials from moms who’ve been there.
Sharing concerns and fears. When anticipating or beginning a new chapter in life such as breastfeeding, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and alone in your thoughts. Connecting with other moms that have experienced breastfeeding is a great way to share your fears and concerns, and to learn that you aren’t alone. Hearing someone else’s experience and learning how they navigated these common emotions, can be helpful in processing your own. It is important to allow yourself to express these feelings rather than forcing yourself to focus only on the positive.
Magda’s story: BFFs are key supporters
My breastfeeding journey has looked a lot different than I expected. When my son was a couple of weeks old, we realized that he wasn’t gaining weight. I had no idea that I wasn’t producing enough milk and that a lot of the time, he was crying due to hunger. It broke my heart. I started meeting with a lactation consultant to help get my milk supply up. We did feeded weighs to understand how much milk my son was actually getting and worked out a plan: pump, nurse, supplement. It was and still is, overwhelming. As helpful as the lactation consultant was, I couldn’t have done it without the support of my best friend. The emotional rollercoaster you blindly go on as a new mom is intense and the need for a strong loving friend to support you on the ride is so necessary. The daily check-ins, the sharing of her experience, the love, and understanding of how consuming it all felt… I can’t imagine doing it without her. As much as the lactation consultant has helped, I needed the caring friend to remind me that this was temporary, that I wasn’t alone in feeling all of the emotions, that someday soon, I’d have a little well-fed baby to go on adventures with… basically, that everything was going to be ok.
Just because you may be the first of your family or friends to have a baby doesn’t mean that they don’t know someone who knows someone! Having a shared connection can be very comforting so don’t forget to ask around for a fellow pregnant or breastfeeding mom to be connected with.
Highlighting the benefits. Exploring the benefits of breastfeeding will allow you to be confident in your choices. It is a great idea to speak with a Lactation Professional and experienced moms so that you learn the wide range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits – both on an educational and real-life experience level.
Observe technique and ask questions. It is common to take a breastfeeding preparation class while pregnant, but one option you can ask about is getting the chance to observe and ask questions of breastfeeding mothers with young babies. Observing other moms use different feeding positions, seeing what a good latch looks like, how to use a breast pump, massaging while nursing/pumping, etc. can be helpful. You can also ask questions about their experience, routines, and daily lives with breastfeeding. This will give you a chance to truly visualize how breastfeeding is going to fit into your life and hey, maybe you will form a connection with a mom that you can keep in touch with. So don’t be shy, ask your local lactation consultant!
Sara’s Story: Latching Troubles
When my daughter (first child) was born, she had trouble latching. I knew my milk supply was good, but she was hungry and crying because she wasn’t latching properly. It was very stressful, painful, and exhausting, even with the support of the nurses, a lactation consultant at the hospital, and my husband, I felt alone. Each nurse was telling me slightly different things, and we ended up having to hand express for the first few days. It wasn’t until I got home from the hospital and found a different lactation consultant to come to my house, that we got down to the root of the issue (position is so important!) and it clicked. I am so grateful for her help and emotional support that day. It was life changing! Every baby is different and I’m so happy that I didn’t give up. I went on to have an incredible breastfeeding journey with 2 babies (over 3 years of feeding total!). It took the right consultant, not just the first one, to guide us to success.
A lactation professional is a great resource for information and knows so many pregnant and breastfeeding moms! Ask if there is another mom who would like to connect and/or be open to letting you observe a feeding/pumping assessment. You will be surprised by how many breastfeeding moms would jump at the opportunity to help support another mom’s journey!
Encourage one another. Not everyone is going to share the same views on breastfeeding, which is important to anticipate. Whether it is differing views from society or within your inner circle, finding a support system to encourage, support, motivate and validate you throughout your journey is beneficial. Being able to share the ups and downs with someone who has been through it and truly understands what you are navigating, will help provide you with connection and understanding that another loved one may not be able to provide. This can be especially helpful if you are experiencing feelings of isolation.
Lindsay’s Story: LC to the Rescue
Although I had been texting different friends when I had a question that came up (what to do for chapped nipples, how to increase milk supply, etc.), it was the hospital that was a huge help in getting me started. Their lactation specialist spent a lot of time with me over the 2 days I was there, teaching me different tricks and making sure Arya latched on correctly. I think that’s a big reason she did so well with breastfeeding from the start!
Be open-minded. In recent years, there has been an increase in advocacy around normalizing breastfeeding, which is beautiful! Moms are sharing inspiring and empowering stories about ditching the covers and breastfeeding in public more freely. However, this isn’t the reality for everyone and it is important to remind one another that choosing to breastfeed but wanting to remain covered, or feed in private, whether it is your own wishes or the impact of societal/cultural norms, is just as incredible and celebrated. Communicate your comfort level with one another and know that there is room to support each other regardless of how, when, and where breastfeeding is executed.
Finding Support. Depending on the views or experiences of those closest to you, finding support outside of your inner circle can be crucial. Even if those closest to you are incredibly supportive, connecting with a Lactation Professional or other pregnant/breastfeeding moms, especially some that have a similar due date to yours, can be such a beautiful, impactful, and beneficial relationship.
Hanna’s story: Social Support
I joined a private breastfeeding support Facebook group run by a local lactation consultant. I privately reached out to her with questions, while the group Q&As provided me with a wealth of information that helped me feel prepared for any breastfeeding/pumping-related challenge that came my way!
There are many platforms available to connect with moms and share the tips, tricks, highs, and lows of all aspects of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Utilize these, especially if you are less drawn to connecting in person, or prefer to remain more private. There is no shame in not feeling comfortable sharing your breastfeeding journey with the world or your community, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t seek or provide support in a more private manner.
Thank you to all the women, professionals, and moms, who are supporting and encouraging one another on your breastfeeding journeys. The movement to normalize breastfeeding has strengthened so much and we are always inspired by hearing your stories!