I was sitting in a room full of breastfeeding moms one morning, all of us in a circle in various states of undress. A few moms expertly flipped their shirts up discreetly, bringing an infant to their breast as if it were no big deal. Some fumbled with tiny babies, tank-top straps flipped down, clearly uncaring who they flashed as they struggled to get a good latch.
“Why do women stop nursing?” the leader of the group asked, scanning our faces.
A variety of answers were given: Going back to work, supply issues, tongue ties, a judgmental family, it being just too fucking hard.
“What is the number one reason some women stop nursing?” the leader asked, “What one reason encompasses all these other factors?”
And then someone timidly called out, “Because some women don’t have help.”
It was eye-opening to many of us in the group that day, because we tend to think breastfeeding ends before the mom is ready because of our country’s pathetically short maternity leave policies, or working moms being unable to pump, or women quitting because they thought it was just too hard. But it really all comes down to a complete lack of support.
If a mom is surrounded by people who don’t breastfeed and don’t have a community to lean on, the issues of supply, latch, and work/life balance just keep getting worse. So where does a mom seek support and encouragement if she's determined to breastfeed?
Here are just a few ways to get started:
Seek out your nursing tribe
If you know another friend or family member that’s breastfed, use them! Experienced nursing mothers love sharing their experiences and having a new mom to support. I found my nursing tribe early on, of three other moms who loved breastfeeding and were always ready to answer back my 3 a.m. texts. They not only were there for knowledge, but to be my cheerleaders when things got hard.
Not only do you have leaders knowledgeable in breastfeeding, but you have a room full of moms who are there to bounce ideas off of.
Attend La Leche League meetings
You can check their website for the nearest meeting locations. The meetings are informal and you're encouraged to come and go as you need, ask questions, and nurse your baby. Not only do you have leaders knowledgeable in breastfeeding, but you have a room full of moms who are there to bounce ideas off of. Some come just a few times, and others become members and come monthly for the socialization and long-term support.
Join a new mom group
I attended a group soon after I had my baby at the same hospital I delivered at. It was staffed by the lactation nurses and some of those women had developed close friendships over the months and even years. Like the La Leche meetings, new moms are encouraged to come and receive help with nursing their babies. Our group had an infant scale to perform weight checks as well, which is a godsend for breastfeeding moms who are constantly worried about whether their baby is eating enough.
More and more labor and delivery units are staffing lactation consultants (LCs) to visit with you daily during your hospital stay. Once you go home, you can call them with questions or even meet with them in person. If you aren’t satisfied with the care you receive from the hospital’s LCs, many are available for private hire by doing a quick Google search. Some even take insurance. They can come out for visits, and are available by phone whenever questions arise.
Turn to social media
Sometimes getting out of the house just doesn’t happen easily for some—whether it’s due to work schedules, weather, or anxieties. For those moms, finding a Facebook breastfeeding support group is all someone needs to belong to a safe place to ask questions and commiserate with others. Communicating online is easier for some than attending a meeting in person. Reputable nursing sites like KellyMom and La Leche even have their own Facebook communities to join.