There are few things that I really focus on when a pregnant mama asks what she should know about breastfeeding before her baby is born. One, it is incredibly beneficial to take a prenatal breastfeeding class to learn about positioning, latching, following baby’s feeding cues, and how to tell if your baby is getting enough. Most importantly, though, when it is all whittled down to the core, in my mind what helps a mom reach her breastfeeding goal has all to do with support! When mamas share with me why they stopped breastfeeding, the most prominent theme is lack of support and assistance when breastfeeding challenges became complicated.
So here’s the deal - breastfeeding is something you learn on the job. In really supportive jobs, we usually have professional development at the start, as well as throughout our employment to keep us up to date and provide needed support. Parenting is definitely a full time job, yet we often have to seek out our own unpaid professional development, to have our questions answered and continue the learning process. This ‘professional development’ can often be challenging to find, as well as not all support is equally beneficial.
This leads into why I think it is a fabulous idea for women to attend a breastfeeding support group while they are still pregnant. Still pregnant, you may ask… why not wait until after the baby is born? Great question, my friend, and here are the reasons why.
Why women should attend a breastfeeding support group WHILE pregnant:
- Make it a familiar place. There is nothing scarier than going to an unfamiliar place with a brand new baby. I didn’t get on the freeway for 4 weeks after Ben was born and I definitely didn’t want to go someplace I had never been before. What if the people were weird? What if Ben started screaming and I couldn’t calm him down? What if I couldn’t find parking? That’s the perk of finding a breastfeeding support group while pregnant…..no baby in tow. Now, you can find where to park your car or stroller, at your own pace. You can check out the setting and the flow of the group without feeling like you have to stay the entire time. You can try out the seating situation and make note of where everyone puts their enormous diaper bags. You just turned an unfamiliar place into one where you will hopefully feel comfortable returning to once your little one is born. Doesn’t that sound less stressful?
- Meet the facilitator. At work, every professional development facilitator has her/his own style and tone. It is the same way with support group leaders. You get to be choosy while pregnant. Maybe the first group seemed too crowded or the facilitator didn’t jive with you. Go check out another one! No need to settle. Find one that appeals to you and makes you want to return as soon as you have your baby.
- Witness a live baby latch onto a real breast. This many sound funny, but how many of you have really ever seen a live baby wiggle and shift and slide down a mother’s torso to latch onto her breast? Maybe in a breastfeeding class video, but that’s not LIVE. Be a lurker…you’re pregnant…no one will mind J When I interviewed Ina May Gaskin for The Boob Group in 2012, this was one of her main recommendations. Surround yourself with breastfeeding mothers. Watch them and learn from them. It’s amazing how much you will learn from just observing a few different mothers at a group. Quickly you will realize that there are MANY ways to position and latch a baby….there really doesn’t need to be so many rules about it.
- Chat with some new mothers who are going through exactly what you will be going through in a few weeks. New moms love to talk about their experiences. It’s like starting a new job that you are totally obsessed with and want to share as much as you can IMMEDIATELY! Participate in their conversations. Learn from their experiences. Ask a bunch of questions. They have gained so much knowledge in their few weeks/months as mothers…. Soak it up!
- Learn where to find support and assistance if you need it or where all the cool breastfeeding moms hang out. You never know if you will need some extra breastfeeding assistance, so preparation is the key. Not all situations can be resolved at a support group (which is why I also highly recommend finding a lactation consultant before you have your baby, as well…just in case), but it is often a great place to start! One thing I’d also like to point out - not all of the mothers who attend a breastfeeding support group are having breastfeeding challenges, which is awesome! Many just come for the conversation and to have a place where they know their kiddos can be fed easily. Sit next to one of them and feel the breastfeeding love! They might even ask you to join them for lunch after the meeting!