Is there anything more rewarding than looking at a chubby 15 pound baby and knowing that you “grew” that baby, first in your body and now on your milk?
Is there anything sweeter than an 8 week old baby, who is mastering the art of smiling, stopping midway through nursing to grin at you, milk dribbling down their chin?
Is there any more calming experience than to be able to nurse a little one who is overstimulated and upset, with both of you getting a soothing rush of love in that flow of milk?
But wait. Is there anything harder than a two week old baby who you just cannot get to latch on to your breast, who is screaming and hungry and whose screams and cries have left you in tears and feeling oh-so-helpless?
And wait. Is there anything more unsettling than being unsure whether your three month old is gaining adequate weight?
And what about this. Is there anything harder than feeling inside that you are doing the right thing by nursing your baby but not feeling like you are getting support from those around you?
Both science and logic tell us that breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby, changing to meet baby’s needs as baby grows. Breastfed babies receive antibodies through their mother’s milk, boosting their immune systems and reducing their chances of getting sick. Breastfeeding lowers mom’s stress levels through the production of oxytocin and prolactin; nursing helps sheds the pregnancy pounds and it may even decrease the mother’s incidence of certain cancers. Breastfeeding promotes mom/baby bonding. Breastmilk is free, always available, and doesn’t require any extra parts. Breast is Best.
Wow. So if all this is true, then breastfeeding is a no-brainer. But wait, many moms don’t breastfeed or don’t breastfeed as long as most health organizations recommend. And many moms find themselves in the less than happy situations above. Why is this?
Because what may be natural doesn’t always come so naturally!
Go back 100 years and breastmilk was pretty much your only bet. What mothers had then but don’t always have now is an extensive network of experienced nursers who could serve as role models and advisers on the art of breastfeeding. Since our breasts, sadly, don’t come with an instruction manual, it’s imperative that new mothers have a place to turn to get the education, help, and support they need to successfully breastfeed.
In the typical situation, I believe that women need 3 things to help them master the art of breastfeeding. They need good information, preferably before their baby is born. They need hands-on support in the early days of nursing to ensure they can establish a good latch and nursing habits. And, they most certainly need a community of other mothers as they continue to breastfeed and encounter new stages of nursing.
My own experience nursing my firstborn motivated me to want to create this community in New Orleans. I went through the process to become a La Leche League leader and reactivated the LLL of New Orleans group. La Leche League was created by seven mothers in the 1950s. It was as grassroots as they come. Two of these mothers were nursing at a church picnic and were approached repeatedly by other young mothers who remarked on their nursing and who said they wished they’d been able to nurse. A common refrain was not knowing what to do when a challenge was encountered. The nursing mothers got organized and started holding meetings built around the mission of supporting nursing mothers. This led to an international organization with chapters in more than 70 countries.
I want to start a conversation in New Orleans on how we can better support mothers, babies, and families around nursing. I plan to write a 3-part series about ways to access good breastfeeding information, support, and community in our city. Breastfeeding is not always easy and every mother should be fully supported as they work to meet the needs of their baby.
What questions do you have about nursing? What breastfeeding topics would you like to see covered?
If you are pregnant or a nursing mother with a more immediate question, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend our next La Leche League of New Orleans meeting Tuesday, September 4 at 7:00 p.m. at ZukaBaby at 2122 Magazine Street.
I look forward to this conversation!