I have worked with many women who have planned to breastfeed, those who choose to do so, and those who have ended their breastfeeding relationship for one reason or another. In all these encounters, I have found that many of these woman are being given advice, professional counsel, and words of wisdom that have created a challenge to the breastfeeding relationship. Concerns arise, valid or not, and the community is quick to offer their wisdom. On occasion a referral or reference will be made that perhaps a professional breastfeeding counselor should be consulted, by this time usually the concern has become stressful and a potential threat to the breastfeeding relationship. Here are some standards when it comes to filtering through all the advice a woman receives while breastfeeding:
1. Health Care Providers:
Your midwife, doctor, or pediatrician receives a very specific training and education. The average breastfeeding related education received is minimal, usually only one course during their schooling. Sometimes, on rare occasions, they will do some continuing education credits, however the majority of the material that most professionals are familiar with is outdated and old information. This old and outdated information can cause challenges and at times even a cease in the relationship. Many of these professionals will state their support of breastfeeding but not have the time nor ability to help support the woman. More on this in a future blog.
2. Social media and mom's Groups:
While many social media and mom's groups are a great support and many have breastfed, many of them are also receiving the same information given to them by their healthcare provider. This in turn reinforces what has already been advised, old and outdated information. Everyone has a story and much like during pregnancy, this can affect, change, or reinforce ideas that are not helpful or may even be threatening to the new breastfeeding relationship. Bad experiences cause fear, fear causes a distrust in the natural process, distrust in the natural process creates need for intervention, intervention causes disruption, disruption causes bad experience. This cycle perpetuates itself.
Family is one of the strongest supports a woman and new infant can have. It truly does take a village to raise a child, however as before in the last two points, advice comes from all sources. Family, though well meaning, may have old outdated information, may have poor experiences, may have fear, and may not be supportive. Also the old adage, it worked for me and you turned out fine creates guilt, anger, and sometimes the feeling of peace at all cost. This is not encouraging a woman to press through a challenge that in turn encourages her self-esteem, helps to form and reinforce her idea of motherhood, and creates bonding with her infant.
So I encourage women to challenge, research, and validate the information they receive when it comes to breastfeeding challenges. Take the advice given and put it through all three sources above and find out what people think of the advice before following it blindly. Hire or speak to a Certified Lactation Counselor. Health care providers, social media/mom's groups, and family are great resources, however take time to examine information given.
Helpful information will do three things:
1. Encourage the mother to continue to breastfeeding despite the challenge.
- Even with certain challenges where women may not be able to full sustain an infant, there are ways in which she can still keep the infant at her breast.
2. Find out what the mother's goal is for breastfeeding.
- This is different for every woman. The goal is to fully support her and her decision to
3. Provide follow-up care and support.
- This point is absolutely vital. A woman needs full support throughout the challenge and
even after the challenge has subsided. It provides a sense of community, gives her
emotional support, and reinforces her decision.
A standard of care needs to be established among health care providers, it is vital. Once a standard of care is established, then information will begin to become mainstream making it easier for women to find the same information for the same challenges.