Dear nursing mama,
Q: Do you need to go to a meeting of Breastfeeding USA or La Leche League?
A: If you think you need to, then you do. If you think you do not need to, then you need to even more. A hospital class, I am sorry to tell you, is not the same thing at all. Of course, any way of getting information is good. But what you need, whether you know it or not, is a circle of women: experienced, less experienced, those who are giving back, those who are unsure about the whole breastfeeding thing, those who have had setbacks and are looking for answers, those who just want to be with other moms who won’t judge them. You need to be able to absorb by osmosis some of the philosophy that goes along with a breastfeeding relationship.
In the 1980’s, I wrote an article for La Leche League News, as it existed then, entitled: “La Leche League Meetings: Who Needs ‘Em?” At that time, La Leche League was going strong, but there were many moms who didn’t see the point to attending meetings to learn something that they assumed would come “naturally.” Many expected that their doctors would tell them all they needed to know. How wrong they were.
Most doctors were clueless about breastfeeding (it is not an illness). And breastfeeding does not come naturally to mothers who grow up in a bottle-feeding society.
Breastfeeding is deeply cultural. We live in a society that is barely tolerant of breastfeeding. The world-wide web does not replace that age-old circle of women helping women.
Here we are in 2015, and the moms of today are equipped with google and web md and can contact all their friends at once with a tap to a screen. Surely, with modern technology, we can access all information worth knowing. Surely, we are beyond the need to sit in a circle with other breastfeeding moms and their babies and toddlers. Aren’t we?
Trust me here: with your first baby, and even with your second and third, you don’t know what you don’t know. There are questions you would not even think to ask. You can prevent problems from even occurring if you have the information up front. And not only that.
When you become part of a breastfeeding support group, you develop relationships with the other moms over time. You encourage one another. Playgroups spring out of that, with the children growing together and the moms growing together in their confidence and their own mothering philosophy.
Breastfeeding is not just about getting that great breast milk into the baby. It is also about the relationship between mother and child that forms along the way. And that circle of women will show you that—in a way that no book or website can.
Couldn’t you just ask for help from professional lactation consultants or from Breastfeeding USA counselors as issues arise? Sure, many moms do. Along with that approach come preventable problems, last minute panic, unnecessary stress, and premature weanings. Why would you want that?
What will you get if you attend meetings? You will continue to learn something new each and every time. You will make friends with women who do not question your decision to nurse your child. You will develop confidence in yourself as a mother. You will pick up something that cannot be easily described, but that is very real: a sense of connection with these mothers and with mothers all around the world and throughout all of time—yes, just by sitting in a circle of women and sharing your questions and answers and love of breastfeeding. You will learn more than you could think to ask, and your heart will expand with the love that fills the room when mothers and their nursing babies gather together.
Please, give it a try. Go to some meetings, and tell me if I told you the truth.
Want to check out a breastfeeding support group? Click on this link to our Breastfeeding Support Group map to find a group near you: //breastfeedchicago.org/breastfeeding-support-groups/