Looking back, if I had to list the top reasons my first breastfeeding experience didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I would have to include…
- I was discouraged from reaching out to La Leche League for support because they are all fanatics who co-sleep and breastfeed until their children learn algebra. (Not true!)
- My primary source of support was an aunt who lived in California. I live in Indiana.
- The only outpatient support from my hospital was the (yes, just one) lactation consultant at $30 per ½ hour.
- My mother was very concerned the baby didn’t have “the instinct” to breastfeed. She voiced her concern repeatedly.
- Our pediatrician seemed neutral. He didn’t give the impression that he cared one way or another how I fed my baby.
- I took a prenatal breastfeeding class that was only for pregnant women. There was not a second set of ears to hear the information.
If we boil this down, all six of these reasons comes down to just one factor, SUPPORT. I didn’t have the necessary support to help me overcome some of the normal breastfeeding hurdles.
I think it should be step 1, but maybe UNICEF wanted to end on the best step when they created the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Step #10 is all about support. Here is our self assessment.
Step 10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support and refer mothers to them on discharge from the facility.
10.1 Do staff discuss plans with mothers who are close to discharge for how they will feed their babies after they return home? Yes
10.2 Does the facility have a system of follow-up support for mothers after they are discharged, such as early postnatal or lactation clinic check-ups, telephone calls, home visits, etc.? Yes
10.3 Does the facility foster the establishment of and/or coordination with mother support groups and other community services that provide support to mothers on feeding their babies? Yes
10.4 Are mothers referred for help with feeding to the facility’s system of follow-up support and to mother support groups, WIC, peer counselors and other community health services, if these are available? Yes
10.5 Is printed material made available to mothers before discharge on where to get follow-up support? Yes
10.6 Are mothers encouraged to see a health care worker or skilled breastfeeding support person in the community soon after discharge (preferably 3-5 days after birth) who can assess how they are doing in feeding their babies and giving any needed support? Yes
10.7 Does the facility coordinate activities with the WIC program or community services that offer peer support and/or counselors? Yes
I’m proud we have been offering regular, free support for women in our community for 7 years. Every Monday and Thursday, women and their babies can come see a Lactation Consultant for free. We weigh their babies, answer their questions, and most importantly, we give them an opportunity to chat with other breastfeeding mothers.
I remember the first time I saw and heard my friend Karen giving breastfeeding advice in this kind of setting. I bit my lip to hold back the tears brimming in my eyes, and I thought of how this sort of help may have changed my own first experience. After my second child, I thought, “What do I have to lose?” and I reached out to those crazy La Leche League women. I found that, as in any group of people, there were women with all kinds of ideas about how long breastfeeding should continue and whether or not to co-sleep. I felt welcomed and supported.
The second time around I told my mother and husband that I would be breastfeeding this child, and I needed to recruit them as my very best cheerleaders. I found a pediatrician who eagerly supported breastfeeding. Some people are quick to blame the milk for everything (fussy, gassy, needy baby), but this doctor was quick to praise the milk for everything! Baby growing, reaching milestones, healthy—all these were attributed to my milk!
If only I had known the immeasurable value of support the first time around!