Surround Yourself for Breastfeeding Success

Woman breastfeeding while man is hugging her

Breastfeeding. It’s what breasts are for. Just knowing that basic fact doesn’t guarantee you will know what to do when it comes time to feed your baby, though. You need familiarity, experience (not necessarily your own but also experience that others share with you), and support.

You Need Familiarity

Before you will even choose to breastfeed, you need a general awareness of what that means. If you haven’t been around breastfeeding before, you might not even know what you want and need to know. It’s difficult to articulate specific questions until you have a basic familiarity with breastfeeding.

For me, seeing an older cousin breastfeed her babies just fixed that image of motherhood for me as a teenager. I understood how breastfeeding worked before I even knew what questions to ask.

Once I anticipated having children, I had questions like, “How am I going to do this without flashing my breasts at the world?” Seeing mothers in my circle of friends easily lift their shirts and continue their conversations while feeding babies helped me understand that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be the focus of all attention.

Once I was pregnant, I had plenty of questions along the lines of “Now what do I do?” Taking a class through my healthcare provider and practicing with a teddy bear helped me understand how to encourage a baby to suck and how to make sure the baby latches on widely enough. The one point I remember really clearly from that class was to rub or tap a just-born baby on the chin to show them what to do. I used that when my daughter was minutes old. I remember this because I found myself saying, “How do I make her suck?” but I remembered that one little point from my class, and it worked. Simple.

When I was pregnant with my second child, seeing a photo of a tandem nursing mother was a revelation to me—answering questions I didn’t realize I had. Stack them up! I learned to hold my toddler on my lap while I held my newborn on my toddler’s lap.

In each of these situations, I didn’t really know what my questions were or even that I had questions, but being in situations where breastfeeding was around me gave me enough awareness that became conscious of my own questions. Ideally, just being around breastfeeding creates this kind of familiarity because you learn so much from non-verbal communication and your own observation. If you don’t have that option, there are still many ways to gain that familiarity. Many women have learned that basics of breastfeeding from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the La Leche League’s breastfeeding guide.

You Need Experience

There are right and wrong ways to breastfeed, and there is plenty of variation in both. You adjust as you go. You gain experience. You learn the beautiful relief of a cold cabbage leaf in your bra—and if you have never needed or felt this relief, you can’t imagine how great it feels. But, who first knew to put a cabbage leaf in her bra? That’s experience.

You need experience, but it doesn’t have to be your own experience. If you have experienced breastfeeding mothers around you, you can draw on their knowledge. If you don’t have friends and family who can share experience, you can talk to a La Leche League Leader, your midwife or doula, or a breastfeeding consultant. You can pick up a book and accumulate knowledge others have shared over time. Often I turned to Dr. Sear’s Baby Book for quick advice.

You Need Support

Beyond just someone to give you advice, you need a supportive environment. To start, you need to avoid being around people who question breastfeeding in general or you in particular. Sure, you could just stay quiet and feed your baby in private. That’s not ideal, though.

Just the absence of criticism isn’t enough. You need to be around a husband or partner who will say, “Let me get you a glass of water while you are nursing” or “If you pump some milk, I will watch the baby while you take a nap.” I cannot overstate the benefit of having a partner who looks out for you and understands what you need physically in order to breastfeed successfully but also what you need as a person to be whole. Breastfeeding mothers can certainly go it alone, but life is much richer surrounded by people who value and support the breastfeeding relationship.

If you are preparing to breastfeed for the first time or anticipating breastfeeding in the future, set yourself up for success by making breastfeeding part of the fabric of your life, by seeking out those who are willing to share their experience, and by surrounding yourself with those who will support you and your baby during this time.

Image © Nadezhda1906 |

Build Your Support System

Young mothers with babies

Recently, a friend of mine said to me, “I seem to have misplaced my support system.” It’s easy to do. While you are still thinking about what you genuinely need in your life during the new year, ask if you have the support you need. For new parents, the new reality can sometimes mean you need to adjust or even rebuild as you find that you need a different kind of support than you did before children.

For me, the support system came in the form of a play group. A group of parents who had planned homebirths within a few months of one another had also taken a birth relaxation class together. We knew one another pregnant, and we continued to see one another as we gave birth to our babies over several months. When the children were tiny, they didn’t play much, but we as adults needed the time we had together. We sat around breastfeeding and talking. Occasionally, we invited others from our community to join us, and the play group turned into time for the children as well as for the parents. Now, our children are teenagers and close friends.

The kind of support system you seek should be driven by your need. Do you need breastfeeding support? La Leche League could be the support you need. Do you want to talk about diapers or parenting? Try a Real Diaper Circle or a Holistic Moms Network local chapter. Do you want someone to walk to the park with? Get together with new parents in your neighborhood.

Years ago, Mothering Magazine published an article called “Finding Your Tribe” on each of us seeking or building the support system we need as parents. They have continued to have a Finding Your Tribe section in the Mothering forums. If you don’t know of any local resources, look in the Mothering forums to find any posts by other parents in your area who are looking just as you are.

Stop long enough to ask if you have what you need. If not, you are not alone. You can find other parents so you can share support for your parenting journey. Good luck finding your tribe.

Image © Anatoliy Samara |

The Business Case for Breastfeeding

Working mother with baby

If you could convince your employer that a program would help retain experienced employees, reduce sick days, and lower health insurance costs, would your employer jump to find out more? The program is The Business Case for Breastfeeding, a comprehensive U.S. government program to educate employers and human resource managers about the value of creating lactation support programs in the workplace.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has lined up the business savings with numbers that make it easy to see the benefit of companies supporting breastfeeding mothers. The numbers come from companies who have programs in place because they have studied the benefits for their bottom lines.

  • Twice as many absences to take care of sick children with formula-fed babies.
  • CIGNA found health care savings, fewer prescriptions, and fewer absences from work with lactation support.
  • Several companies found higher retention rates post-maternity leave with lactation support.
  • Even predominantly male workplaces have found an increase in loyalty of both male and female workers with introduction of lactation support programs.

The materials available include a brochure for managers, a brochure with easy steps to support breastfeeding employees, a tool kit (flyers, posters, forms, and other resources), employee guide, marketing materials, and a training webinar.

If you anticipate wanting to return to a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, you can also use many of the educational materials in The Business Case for Breastfeeding kit to give your employer reasons to consider lactation support as a small business move.

Business Case for Breastfeeding

Image © Robert Bocian |

Thanks to Mothering, I’ve never felt alone

Mothering Magazine

Tuesday, Mothering announced that they would no longer publish a print magazine. They will continue as a web source of information and support for natural parenting.

This week we mourn the loss of the magazine that has literally helped me find direction in my life as a woman and mother.

Mothering magazine has helped me learn to be a better, more patient mother. It has inspired me to start a business. It’s made me feel accepted and supported in my less than conventional ways of parenting. Needless to say, it has had a profound affect on me since I started reading it more than 6 years ago now.

My oldest daughter was born in 2005, and I came across my first print magazine in my midwives’ office during my pregnancy. I was immediately attracted to the images of parents holding and carrying their babies in slings. The images of breastfeeding mothers inspired confidence in my own ability to nurse my babies, and, importantly, nurse them confidently in public (I don’t know that this would have happened without Mothering). I adored the stories, sense of community, and even the ads. In fact, it was these ads of the small, mostly mother-owned businesses in the USA that inspired me to start Parenting By Nature. There wasn’t any business quite like this in Canada 6 years ago, and at the time I had to order my first baby sling – the sling that started it all – from an online business in the USA.

I’ve spent many hours on the Mothering website and forums and will continue to support them in this way. I also truly believe they have much opportunity to reach many, many parents via their website and online. I thank them dearly for everything they have brought to my life. Thanks to Mothering, I’ve never felt alone.

Tamara Champion