Uniquely Fed: An Honest Look at the Realities of Breastfeeding, Part Four – The Importance of Support
If you’ve been following along with me on this series, and most especially if you were able to read the 25 incredible stories I shared in in Part Three (Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8), you probably know by now that even the best breastfeeding relationships have experienced their fair share of difficulties. Though the cultural message we typically hear makes breastfeeding seem easy because it’s natural, usually the opposite is true. And so many moms end up in tears when things don’t turn out the way they expected or hoped.
This is why I wanted to write today about the importance of support on your breastfeeding journey (and no, I’m not talking about a well-fitted nursing bra LOL).
Whether you are surrounded by a league of pro-breastfeeding friends and family or if you feel like you are the the only one breastfeeding (or considering breastfeeding) amongst your acquaintance, I cannot say this enough: support is so important.
What do I mean by support? I mean having a non-judgmental group of people that will not only cheer you on when times get tough (or celebrate with you when things are going great) but that will offer you advice and encouragement when you’re confused, scared, frustrated, feeling alone, etc.
Being a mother is by far the most challenging, difficult, emotional, and yet rewarding and wonderful thing I have ever done in my whole life. So when you add breastfeeding to the mix, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
I tend to be a little too independent sometimes. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do it all by myself and I don’t always even realize when I need to ask for help (so I guess you could say I’m pretty stubborn too!) Like anything in this life, this is both a strength and a weakness for me. The downside is that I often don’t reach out for help or wait until I’m so overwhelmed that I have made it 100x harder for myself than necessary.
I didn’t really ask for help, or even seek much out, when I went through tough times breastfeeding Ace. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I even started participating in mommy support groups. Once I realized the amazing benefits of knowing that you’re not alone in your joys and your struggles, I regretted depriving myself of those advantages earlier in my parenting journey.
So when Dash was born, and it became apparent very early on that breastfeeding was proving to be exponentially more difficult than I anticipated, I willingly searched for support.
I’m here to tell you that I wouldn’t have gotten past the first two weeks of our breastfeeding relationship without the support I found. Honestly. It just hurt too much! I almost gave up so many times.
So whether you’re currently breastfeeding or contemplating it, please hear me: Don’t be afraid of support. In today’s online world, it’s easier than ever to find moms just like you who are willing to share their experiences and advice! It’s okay to ask for help! It doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you can’t handle motherhood. You might be surprised by the difference it makes! And you may discover that your experiences can help encourage someone else.
If you’re like I was and are a little unsure of how to build or find a breastfeeding support system, I’d like to give you a few tips and resources to get you started:
- Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in your area. This is especially important if you are having breastfeeding issues. (Find more information on common breastfeeding issues here.) How, you ask?
- Ask your OB/Gyn or Pediatrician for referrals.
- Search the USLCA or ILCA member databases. Keep in mind, however, that not all IBCLC’s are members of these organizations so it doesn’t mean they are not certified if they’re not members!
- When all else fails, Google it! 🙂 A simple search for an IBCLC in your area may give you all the information you need.
- Start a text or private Facebook group with moms you already know. If you have other mom friends, especially if they are breastfeeding or have in the past, invite them individually to participate in a group where you share encouragement, resources, and support for your breastfeeding and mothering journey. This route gives you a private forum for sharing advice and asking questions among people you already know.
- Speaking of Facebook, do a search for Facebook groups in your area. I would encourage you to start by searching for your city or state followed by the words “breastfeeding support group” or “breastfeeding group.” There are also some general groups that are not location-specific that you may be interested in joining. Just be sure you read the group rules before requesting to join to make sure that you feel comfortable with the group parameters. Don’t forget, you can always leave a group that doesn’t end up being what you needed it to be.
- Visit a Baby Café in your area. According to their website, Baby Cafés are free resources “for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to get support from specifically-trained staff and to share experiences with other moms. No appointment is needed and Baby Café sites are generally open at least once a week and offer refreshments, comfortable seating, and open-forum discussion.” This can be a wonderful resource, especially if money is tight. Many locations offer breastfeeding support group meetings as well as one-on-one consultations. To find a Baby Café in your area or to learn more about them, visit the Baby Café website. As a side note, I found one near me and it was awesome to be able to get free breastfeeding support right when I needed it! While I was visiting, an experienced breastfeeding mom came in for a visit because she was having questions about a new phase her daughter was going through. I mention this only because she appeared to have tons of experience breastfeeding and yet still had some questions about what was going on.
- Join a La Leche League International (LLLI) meeting in your area. While I personally never took advantage of this great resource, I know other moms who have and who have found them to be encouraging and helpful. Visit the LLLI website to learn more from their incredible library of breastfeeding resources or to find a meeting near you.
- The United States Breastfeeding Committee has a listing of state, local, and community breastfeeding coalitions that have information on breastfeeding and resources for support.
- Breastfeeding USA not only has breastfeeding resources and information, but they also have a network of Breastfeeding Counselors who offer support to pregnant and nursing mothers through individual and group settings across the US and even certain military bases around the world! Many chapters also have Facebook groups giving you additional options to connect.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. I found other great information on WomensHealth.gov and the ever-reliable KellyMom. I am sure there are many other resources and resource listings out there but I hope you find this to be helpful in getting you started.
Whether you are brand-new at breastfeeding or an experienced mom, please don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it! A little encouragement can go a long way.
And, don’t forget. If breastfeeding just doesn’t work out for you, DON’T WORRY!!! Please, please, please don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom or that you’ve failed your baby. Remember that every baby is Uniquely Fed (breast, bottle, or both) and you can still create a special bond with your baby! (If you need some extra reassurance, read about my personal breastfeeding journey and how I discovered that the special bonding moments continued even when I could no longer breastfeed Dash.)
Do you have any special breastfeeding resources or groups that you rely on for support? Please let me know in the comments below!!
Only one post remains in this Uniquely Fed series and I can’t wait to share it with you. I’ll be bringing you some advice from professionals in the breastfeeding field to help encourage you along this journey so be on the lookout for that!
If you are just joining me here, please check out the other posts in this important series:
- Part One: My Journey
- Part Two: Common Breastfeeding Issues
- Part Three: Real Breastfeeding Stories
- Part Four: The Importance of Support (you are here)
- Part Five Coming Soon!