Rates of breastfeeding in the United States are pretty dismal. Feeding our milk to our young is part of the definition of a mammal, so it’s interesting to note that only a third of 3 month olds are still exclusively breastfeeding. I’m sure there are many different reasons for this, but one that I’ve frequently heard from breastfeeding proponents is “lack of support”. The idea is that it can be hard to breastfeed, and women need examples to watch, troubleshooting advice, and community support in order to continue.
There was so much to think about to prepare for birthing that I decided not to research breastfeeding unless a problem actually arose. I was interested to see how the whole idea of breastfeeding support would turn out for me. And I can now report that it has turned out great! I’m wondering if the whole “lack of support” thing is really about a different period of time or different parts of the country (or something else), because I’ve felt supported about breastfeeding from all sides.
Pre-birth, I got lots of formula-related stuff in the mail, including lots of free formula, but it’s hard for me to see that as “sabotaging” to my breastfeeding. In the months before the birth, I got lots of free pacifiers and free disposable diapers, too, but I don’t feel pressured to use those things, either.
Starting in the hospital, all of my nurses were very helpful with my breastfeeding efforts. One of my nurses was also a lactation consultant, but they were all supportive and ready with useful advice. The hospital provided an entire breastfeeding book – New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding – for me to read there and also take home.
Then, between the hospital and the pediatrician we saw the day after the hospital discharge, I was given several papers and booklets with breastfeeding information. Over the next few weeks, any time a breastfeeding question that arose for me I had the answers right there in those pages. Some things that I looked for were
- Breastfeeding holds for large-breasted women
- Symptoms and treatment for thrush
- Symptoms and treatment for mastitis
- Treatment and prevention of sore nipples
- How to tell if baby is getting enough/too much milk
- How to achieve a good latch
- How to unlatch baby
- How to hand express milk
- How to manage an over-active let down
I was kind of amazed at the fabulous and comprehensive advice they managed to pack into just a few pages!
I’ve been around breastfeeding activists and knew some bad advice to watch out for, but I didn’t find any of that. None of the material recommended supplementation, for example. It was all very supportive of continuing to breastfeed in a variety of situations. It recommended exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and breastfeeding for at least 12 months and then as long as baby and mom want to.
Also, the materials I was given repeatedly recommended seeking out a lactation consultant or La Leche League if I had any difficulties. It turns out there are two active La Leche League meetings in my area. I’ve been to one meeting so far, and I had a blast and can’t wait to return.
I’ve also had no trouble breastfeeding in public. Most people smile at me and continue about their business, if they notice at all.
All in all, breastfeeding has been a great experience for me. I’d heard so much about the lack of support, but I haven’t found that to be the case. As I said, in another time and/or place, perhaps. But for me, all the support I’ve needed has been right at my fingertips. What a pleasant surprise!
I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!
You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.
(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)