We moved to New Orleans when I was pregnant with my first child. Thus in the early months of first time motherhood, I didn’t know many (okay, any) other new mothers. As I’m sure you know, there is NOTHING like having another mother “get” and share what you are going through in this new role.
Without a local network of mother friends, I realized firsthand how much a nursing mom needs community. Never mind that women have nursed for centuries and that there are many how-to books! When your milk first comes in, when you are dealing with soreness or wondering if baby is getting enough, when your baby develops teeth (and the list goes on…) In these times, you want another mother to talk to! I was fortunate to have my own mother to call (a veteran nursing mother of 4) and several childhood friends who were also nursing babies at the time.
In an ironic twist, my first NOLA mommy friend was my lactation nurse from Touro, Julie. She was hugely pregnant when she was helping me in the hospital and we seemed to have a lot in common. I distinctly remember thinking “How can I become friends with her?!” (Does anyone else equate the mommy-friend-seeking to grade school friendship finding?) Well sadly, I didn’t know how to seal the deal at the time, but we ran into each other 8 months later. Our baby boys were 3 weeks apart in age and we started hanging out. Felix and Jack were each others’ first best friends and we spent a lot of time together in the next year and a half until Julie and her family moved to North Carolina.
One thing we talked a lot about was nursing. Our babies were the same age and our philosophies were similar. I credit Julie’s confidence as a mother and her knowledge as an IBCLC for cementing the notion in my mind that breastfeeding past a year is a very normal choice. Prior to reconnecting with Julie, I bought several breastfeeding books because they offered me a little virtual community. Two that give insights into other women’s experiences are Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding and The Breastfeeding Cafe: Mothers Share the Joys, Challenges, and Secrets of Nursing.
To set yourself up for breastfeeding success, you need to be informed and to be able to access early support as I’ve previously discussed. The final piece to the puzzle is to ensure you have community as a nursing mother.
There will inevitably be breastfeeding moments that simple affirmation from an understanding friend can get you through and continue you and your baby forward.
It was my own need and desire for this that motivated me to pursue La Leche League Leader certification and to reactivate the LLL of New Orleans chapter. La Leche League‘s mission is to help mothers breastfeed through mother-to-mother support. We’ve been holding meetings since June, and I’ve seen examples each month of veteran mothers helping newer mothers through the tricky early weeks by simply sharing their own stories and by being a witness for happy breastfeeding relationships. (Can anything seem more reassuring to a new mom than to see moms of healthy 4, 8, 12-month, and toddler babies all happily talking about their breastfeeding experience?!)
I find that women attend LLL meetings for a variety of reasons. They may be pregnant and wanting to learn more; they may be having a challenge and need support and answers; or they may simply crave community. They want to hang out for an evening with other women who know what it’s like to all the sudden be spending so much time doing this new endeavor or who may also be juggling pumping and working. Some women just come to share a little of what they’ve learned along the way.
Meetings are free, casual, and held the first Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at ZukaBaby at 2122 Magazine St. (We love our gracious host, store-owner Erin Reho Pelias!) The LLL group has had a fantastic reception in New Orleans to the point that we’ll be adding additional meeting times in 2013.
Another great resource is The Parenting Center through Children’s Hospital which offers a free Snuggles & Struggles class for parents with babies 6 months and under on Tuesday mornings from 10:30-12:00 and a breastfeeding support class on Thursday afternoons.