The Breastfeeding Cheerleader
Support of our peers is important in so many aspects of our life, and for women it is very true for the new mother who is breastfeeding. As we celebrate The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding this week, we can’t forget the importance of breastfeeding support after the mom leaves the hospital with baby in tow.
For many, myself included, going home with a newborn for the first time can be a daunting experience. For many women, breastfeeding isn’t well established before discharge. This will cause a great deal of stress for the mother as she tries to continue to breastfeed, especially after without the support of the hospital LC. Add in sleep-deprivation and raging hormones, and you have a mother who may give up on breastfeeding because it’s ‘easier’ to give the baby a bottle.
As Step 10 states: Fostering the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on hospital discharge is vital to help promote, protect, and support breastfeeding.
Because of my own struggles with breastfeeding, I decided to pursue my IBCLC so that I could be a resource for my breastfeeding mothers in pediatric practice. It’s wonderful to see how lactation support has grown since I had my first child 8 years ago. The presence of private lactation consultants, La Leche Leagues, and breastfeeding support groups can sometimes make the difference between a baby being breastfed vs. formula-fed. To have the support of women who are going through the same breastfeeding struggles in an invaluable resource for mothers. There is nothing like peer support to help give a mom that added push she needs to keep going to help achieve her breastfeeding goals.
I see this quite frequently in my own clinical practice. With our breastfeeding rates quite low, it is always great to see a mother giving breastfeeding a try. I can’t count how many times the mother tells me that she has tried to breastfeed, but it just isn’t right for her, the baby won’t latch, etc. And there I am…the cheerleader–sometimes I just have to stand there, guide her with my words, and voila! the baby has not only latched, but is suckling her mother’s breastmilk beautifully! And to see the look of relief on the mother’s face, and relaxation of her hands, as she realizes this is easy, and it feels natural! Then when the mother thanks me, I tell her I didn’t do anything but cheer her on!
It’s this continued support and encouragement, as we all know, is the key to breastfeeding success for many of our moms. The cheerleaders are there, in our community, and we, as health professionals, both doctors and nurses must be aware of outpatient breastfeeding resources to which they can refer the mother-baby dyad.
I would like to thank all of the lactation consultants, LLL leaders, and support groups who are out in the community cheering on those moms. How I wish I had access to all this support during my struggles. Kudos to all of you as we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week 2010–you all make my job easier.
Natasha K. Sriraman is a general pediatrician and a professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters/Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA.
Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.