There’s an odd paradox to breastfeeding. While it’s natural, it isn’t completely instinctive. If put to the breast after birth, most babies will latch on, but often the form isn’t quite right. In the United States, 70% of moms try breastfeeding, but only 17% are still nursing when their babies turn a year old.
There are plenty of reasons for this drop, but the common factor throughout seems to be lack of support. Anthropologists studying communities in Africa and Asia have found a common thread in their surveys of breastfeeding success: continuous support for the new mother.
Breastfeeding advocates are leading the charge to change the way we talk about breastfeeding in the US, and you may be one of the many lucky moms with a circle of close friends who can help you figure out latching, positions, and how to deal with nipple pain.
However, if you don’t have that support system in place, there are still plenty of resources available to you.
These healthcare professionals are often on-staff at hospitals and will visit frequently while you’re recovering. They’re experts on position and latch, and they’ll work with the rest of your healthcare team to assess other issues that may affect your breastfeeding journey. Some hospitals will help you schedule a follow-up visit within the week after you return home, and your OB/GYN or pediatrician may also have an IBCLC on staff.
Your insurance provider may cover this cost, but even if they don’t, a home visit is invaluable. Lactation Consultants are wonders at making the articles and pictures you’ve seen make sense as you adjust to the reality of feeding your newborn. Keep in mind though, like all healthcare professionals, Lactation Consultants can help you best when you’re open and honest. Ask the questions you feel silly asking; let them watch you nurse and pump. You may feel exposed and vulnerable, but when you provide them with as much information as possible, they’ll be better able to help you succeed.
Lactation Support Groups
Held at hospitals, retail boutiques, community centers, and any other place you could imagine, these groups give new and experienced moms a chance to share ideas and tips. Breastfeeding support groups are usually facilitated by an IBCLC, and moms are encouraged to ask questions, feed their babies, and build friendships.
Some groups arrange for educational speakers, others focus more on the social aspect of bringing nursing moms together. If your hospital or doctors’ office doesn’t offer a support class, you may be able to find one sponsored by La Leche League or Baby Café USA.
Support groups like this are also the perfect outing with your new baby. You’ll be in a baby and breastfeeding-friendly place, among a group of moms who are navigating first-time motherhood or have been there recently.
La Leche League
With their mission “to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother,” La Leche League International is one of the best support resources for nursing moms.
Through their website, you can read articles, find books and other resources, and connect with other moms on their forums. Local chapters hold meetings to discuss breastfeeding-related topics, and some also host special events to raise awareness for breastfeeding support.
Founded by Kelly Bonyata, an IBCLC, kellymom.com is perhaps one of the most comprehensive resources for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. A mother of three, Bonyata has helped moms on their breastfeeding journeys for over two decades. Her website is devoted to providing evidence-based articles and resources, using the latest, up-to-date research on lactation, and infant development so parents and professionals alike have access to the most current information available.
US Government Resources
If an in-person visit or support group doesn’t work for you, and you live in the US, you can call the Office on Women’s Health Helpline. From Monday to Friday; 9 AM to 6 PM Eastern, you’ll be able to talk to a trained breastfeeding peer counselor by calling 800-994-9662.
If you qualify for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, you’ll have access to breastfeeding support resources at your local WIC office. These programs provide counseling, breastfeeding education materials, and even breast pumps.
Be You Bravely
Breastfeeding may be one of the greatest things you ever do for your child, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to remember that it’s not an innate talent you were born with. It takes time, practice, knowledge, and support to master the art of providing your baby’s nutrition.
Some days it may be the easiest thing in the world; your baby will latch on with no problems, and you’ll be pain-free. Other days it may feel like you’re failing no matter what you do. If you’re having a rough day, reach out for help. Phone a friend, go to a meeting, or reach out to your healthcare professionals.
All the while, remember why you started, and remind yourself that you’re not alone. You’re the most recent in generations of women who nourished their children from their own bodies, and you have all that your baby needs. Hold on just one more day. You got this.
- United States Breastfeeding Committee: Breastfeeding Frequently Asked Questions
- March of Dimes: Breastfeeding Help
- KellyMom: Breastfeeding Support Groups
- Kindred Bravely: Breastfeeding Tips
- Kindred Bravely: Frequently Asked Breastfeeding Questions
- Kindred Bravely: Encouragement for Breastfeeding Moms