Breastfeeding is one of the most enriching, amazing things I’ve ever done. It’s also one of the hardest at times and often requires a dedication and commitment I didn’t know I had. I’ve often said that support is absolutely essential to a successful breastfeeding relationship, and where you find that support can make or break where you get in your breastfeeding goals.
(This post is not about formula feeding or formula feeding mothers. If a woman chooses to formula feed, that is her prerogative. If she has no choice due to misinformation, or booby traps, that’s another story.)
Where you find your support is essential to your success.
I sat in a class earlier this week listening to mothers talk about advice they’d been given by their doctors on a specific health issue. Every single one of them had received different advice, and some of it was flat out contradictory.
And that is the problem with advice: It’s completely based on personal experience.
So, here are a few tips for what to look for when you’re trying to find breastfeed support:
1) Know your own wishes
No one can help you if you can’t help yourself. Set a goal for yourself, and understand that that goal might change. For me, it was the WHO recommended two years. Two years have come and gone, and my two year old is completely unwilling to stop breastfeeding, so we’re going on for a while longer.
2) Find people who have the same goals or at least support your goals
Going for support from someone who thinks six weeks is more than enough, is not going to help you achieve your longer term goals. Someone who is actively against full term breastfeeding isn’t going to encourage you effectively. When you hit a hard patch, they may recommend that you give up, having done enough. In anything, finding people who are supportive of your goals is important – the same applies to breastfeeding.
3) Never, ever, accept an opinion as fact
If it’s your doctor, a friend, a lactation consultant, or someone with 9 kids of their own, if someone offers you advice, check it. Google it. Ask someone else. Find out. In this same group, earlier this week, one woman said that she thinks her 16 week old is teething. Another said, “you better hope not, because you won’t want to breastfeed when she’s got teeth!” I told her that my daughter had teeth at four months, and I’m still breastfeeding and it’s not that bad at all. But by then, the other mother had already nodded, looked concerned and said, ‘yes, I hadn’t thought of that’. She was willing to accept an opinion, and it would have affected her breastfeeding experience.
4) Consider the source
You don’t make a buying decision on a house without getting in an independent surveyor. In the same way, you shouldn’t make your breastfeeding decisions based on advertising, celebrities or anyone who financially benefits from your no longer breastfeeding.
5) Find your local La Leche League branch
Whether online or in a central meeting point, La Leche League leaders are trained in breastfeeding, breastfeeding support, have probably breastfed themselves and can help you. Apart from physical support, they will also be able to give you the encouragement you need.
Bear in mind that all the rules above apply. Despite their dedication to breastfeeding, there’s still room for the human factor.
6) Read, research, become informed
There are a few books that are generally regarded as the crème de la crème of breastfeeding books. I haven’t read all of them, but if you ask someone in the know about breastfeeding, these are the books they’re going to recommend:
- The womanly art of breastfeeding – written by member of La Leche Leauge, this book was rewritten in 2010 by and for the modern breastfeeding mother, with woman to woman wisdom passed down.
- The Breastfeeding Book – by Martha Sears, who is a mother, nurse and lactation counselor. The book has simple illustrations and addresses some of the common problems face by breastfeeding mothers.
- Ina May’s Guide To Breastfeeding – it’s Ina May. What more do you need me to tell you?
- Adventures in Tandem Nursing – I have this book in my reading pile, and sadly I’ve just not gotten to it yet. I will, someday. I recommend it though, if you have any questions about simultaneously feeding two children, at the same time or one after the other. I have been asked many questions about tandem nursing, including Can it be done? Isn’t the milk poisonous for the older child? Doesn’t the older child drink all the baby’s milk? Can the milk come out two sides at once? And a bunch of other really random things!
These are just a few thoughts on support, but however you decide to go about it, make sure that you know your facts, and then proudly go forth and feed your babies. I strongly believe that tandem nursing has helped my eldest ‘cope’ with the new baby, and I have read that it makes the bond between the nurslings stronger in years to come. And those are just a few of the benefits of tandem breastfeeding.
For more on Finding Supportive Breastfeeding Supporters, read these blog posts:
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