This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
Breastfeeding a child is an incredible journey.
From the first days after birth, spent cradling, studying, and maneuvering your tiny, wrinkly little newborn – - – through the ravenous growth spurts and amazing social contact at your breast- – - to seeing how your child starts to conceptualize mom and milk, and change and wean from the breast as he or she grows. . .
it’s an amazing, complex, fascinating, one-of-a-kind, incredible journey.
And while education, experience, commitment, and clear goals all positively impact the rate of continued breastfeeding in our society, I truly believe that the single most important factor in a healthy and enjoyable breastfeeding experience is community.
Community Approval and Acceptance
Acceptance, approval (and lack thereof) impact a breastfeeding mother and child considerably. A mother accepted by her community and celebrated for feeding her child at the breast is likely to have a positive breastfeeding relationship with her child – no matter how long or short that breastfeeding relationship is.
Just a quick look at a few of the instances of harassment and devaluation of breastfeeding mothers and children show us how society’s misconceptions can poison a perfectly healthy breastfeeding relationship.
It’s also important to encourage breastfeeding mothers without being pushy or judgmental. “Great job, mama!” or “your baby is eating so joyfully” are wonderful, simple accolades for a breastfeeding mom. There is no need to force the point – most mothers benefit from a simple “you’re awesome” or even just a smile in their direction- – - and can feel pressured by too much “breast is best” talk.
The best way that a community at large can support a breastfeeding mother is to treat her as if what she is doing when she nurses is the most normal thing in the world, and that you are happy for her and her child.
Community of Like-Minded Moms
Mother’s groups and breastfeeding support groups like La Leche League and hospital birth groups can be an incredible source of support and encouragement for nursing mothers. Just by being with women who are like-minded and on the same journey, mothers are re-charged and strengthened.
Groups of nursing mothers can bolster a mother and help her through feelings of confusion or doubt, and they can share in both joys and struggles to empower each other through the incredible journey that is mothering.
Supportive Family and Work Environments
The environment at home and at work regarding breastfeeding and nursing mothers contributes heavily to the vitality and success of a nursing dyad. Spouses and other family members can have a positive impact on the nursing dyad by giving loving support of their relationship and keeping routes of dialogue open. Workplaces can be supportive to nursing mothers by understanding that separation from a nursing child requires the pumping of breastmilk, and that this act is normal and necessary. Workplaces have also shown that flexibility and an open dialogue between working mothers and their places of work can lead to new and empowering ideas to support both mothers and our economy.
Advocating for nursing mothers, the rights of a nursing child, and the overall truth that nursing is normal and necessary impacts every nursing relationship. There are MANY ways that we can advocate for nursing dyads.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by expressing the truth that nursing is normal.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by resisting the possible urge to ask a woman to cover up or move while breastfeeding.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by learning more about lactation and the breastfeeding relationship and sharing this knowledge with others.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by sharing our personal breastfeeding experiences in a constructive manner.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by supporting Baby Friendly Hospitals and baby friendly birth.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by acknowledging bottles as a secondary and not primary way to facilitate infant feeding.
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by supporting laws that protect the rights of nursing children and mothers.
. . . and I think most importantly,
We can advocate for breastfeeding dyads by supporting all mothers, all fathers, and all caregivers with respect and compassion (and thus not fueling the mommy-wars that come about when compassion is omitted from discussions).
Community support and societal acceptance of nursing as normal and necessary are powerful aspects of a positive nursing relationship.
What can YOU do as a member of your community to make the world a more supportive place for nursing mothers and children?
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 1 with all the carnival links.)
- If You’re Worried About Your Kid Seeing Me Breastfeeding, You’re Doing It Wrong — Dionna at Code Name: Mama is living the breastfeeding-as-a-cultural-norm dream. She has first-hand experience that kids, teens & adults who see breastfeeding accept breastfeeding.
- Supporting Breastfeeding Online — Wendy at Breastfeeding Utah reaches out to birth and breastfeeding support professionals who are interested in knowing more about supporting their clients online.
- Breast Friends — Mama Bree, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center, shares a baby’s journey to blissful breastfeeding with a little help.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Online Breastfeeding Support — Other than buying and reading up on books, Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy finds that it is useful to read up on other mums’ breastfeeding experiences and how they deal with their obstacles.
- It Takes a Village… — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am talks about the support she got from her family, especially from her own mom, who is a lactation consultant.
- Community Support — Ashley at ModerationMama tells about her supportive community surrounding her breastfeeding journey, and she talks about the importance of the breastfeeding class she took while still pregnant.
- Finding a Nanny to Be Part of My Village — Before returning to work, Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen, posting at Natural Parents Network, needed to find a trusted caregiver for her daughter. Someone who supported her parenting goals and was ready to become part of a family.
- A Nursey Love Letter — When asked about her nursing support group, KassK of Get Born Tribe surprised herself with the answer: her husband!
- We are mammals. — To be a mammal . . . what does that mean? Practicing Mammal educates us.
- Building a Solid Foundation for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey — Tia at Tia’s Sweeps Go ‘Round shares how she built a strong support network to help her successfully breastfeed her newborn daughter.