I call it “group.” I used to call it my “nursing group” but it seemed that got lost in translation and others thought I meant nurses, as in RNs, and I’m not a nurse. And for some reason, “breastfeeding support group” is just too long. “Group” seems to cover it nicely.
But what is it really, and why has it become such an important part of my life? I began attending a breastfeeding support group offered by my midwives’ practice when I gave birth to my first daughter over 4 years ago. I remember being nervous, and I actually had my husband call to ask specifics about the meeting: Could I show up anytime? Was I supposed to bring the baby or go by myself? Did it cost anything? What exactly went on during it? In short, I was clueless. All I knew was that I wanted what was best for my baby and I was breastfeeding. It seemed like a fit.
I don’t really remember my first visit, but here’s what I can tell you about the sum of my weekly visits over that first year. I learned so much. So much about myself, my baby, and my body. I was normal. Hormonal, but normal. My baby was normal. Fussy, but normal. Breastfeeding is amazing. Our bodies are amazing. Sharing stories with other mamas who would look me in the eye and respond with “Me too!” kept me sane, strong, and a made me a better mama. No one tells you the ins and outs of becoming a breastfeeding mother. You didn’t know you had questions about the color of baby poop, until you changed that first diaper that looked like mustard. You didn’t know what a cluster feed was until you sat on your couch for 4 hours with a baby who only wanted your breast and nothing else. It was at group that all of these topics were covered.
You see, my baby was fussy. As in glad-she’s-not-your-baby-fussy. Group became one of the only places where I didn’t get 1 million suggestions as to how to fix her. I quickly realized being surrounded and supported by like-minded peers was of the utmost importance in my success as a breastfeeding mother. I needed to be able to look around that room, and see women feeding their babies just like me. I needed to see mamas with their 4 month olds, their 7 month olds, their toddlers, nursing their babies and smiling and nodding my direction as I nervously sat down and latched my teenie, fussy, little lady to my breast. Turns out, I would be them before I knew it.
At group, I was being encouraged to be the mother I was meant to be. I was encouraged to hold, snuggle, and breastfeed my baby. That alone was so wonderfully refreshing! No one said, “She can’t be hungry again! You just fed her!” Not a single person asked “Is she sleeping through the night, yet?” Instead, we celebrated each other’s small victories: uninterrupted showers, pumping 2 whole ounces while out for the first time away from baby, and our babies rolling over. And of course I learned some of the real ins and outs of breastfeeding: correct latch, how much baby should gain each week, how to treat clogged ducts, what cold medicine was safe to take, and on and on and on. I received fantastic support, from the most wonderful and knowledgeable labor and delivery nurse and IBCLC who lead (and still leads) the group. I remember a day being in tears, and her hugging me and saying only “you are doing great!” And isn’t that what we all need to hear?
Fast forward 4 years. I still have playdates with mamas I met during my first visits to group. We bonded in ways that only new moms can. I’m currently nursing baby #3 as I type this. She’s 3 months old and a champion nurser! With 3 kiddos, I don’t make it to group nearly as often as I’d like to. But when I do, I realize that now I am the mama who sits confidently feeding my baby, nodding and smiling to the new moms w ho aren’t so sure what they’re doing there. It’s a beautiful, special place that I know has shaped me and my babies’ lives in such a positive way that I will always be grateful for.
So calling it simply “group” probably doesn’t do it justice, but calling it “The Best 2 Hours Each Week You’ll Spend As a New Mom Where You’ll Receive the Exact Support You Need” just doesn’t roll off the tongue. “Group” it is.
Molly Donofrio is a stay-at-home-mom to 3 beautiful “yahoos.” She is also a massage therapist when life allows. She has been pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the past 5 years straight, and really wouldn’t wish it any other way.
Are you ready to find a breastfeeding support group? Click here to find our breastfeeding support group map! Don’t like the group vibe? Try another one!