When I was pregnant with my first baby, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. While I understood that there could be issues along the way that could make it challenging, I don’t think I realized that that breastfeeding really can be more of a learned skill. For many women, finding help (or even realizing that there IS help) is rather challenging.
Fortunately for me, I live in a community that has very strong support for breastfeeding moms. My Southern California county has a vibrant community of other moms that have interwoven the virtual support of online Facebook groups with in-person meet ups and breastfeeding support groups. Along the way, one of the biggest breastfeeding advocates (a labor a delivery nurse and IBCLC lactation consultant) coined these virtual and in person communities as “Sisterhood.” Many of the fellow moms (me included) feel that breastfeeding would have been a failure, or at least much shorter lived and far less enjoyable, if this incredible Sisterhood had not been such a big presence and support for us. Other women were available at all hours online, or weekly at in person meet ups, to help trouble shoot latch issues, supply issues, handling biting, more comfortable positions, mastitis recognition and treatment and so much more. Just as importantly, camaraderie and support of other woman in the same season of their lives, through the highs of parenthood and the lows of sleep deprivation and uncharted parenting territory, made the journey a lot less lonesome and far less frustrating. Many new, strong friendships have formed as a direct result of this Sisterhood.
More traditional cultures have the benefit of the village approach to childrearing, with seasoned advice from other moms to built-in help to assist new mothers when they need a break or help navigating new waters. Our modern culture rarely fosters this type of community, and in speaking to friends that live around the U.S., I know that the type of hybrid virtual/in person support I received isn’t as prevalent everywhere. So I write this post to encourage other woman to form their own support networks. The era of the Internet makes connections so easy, and I think many women will find that just a small group of like minded women offering other mothers support can spread like wild fire and create a vibrant community wherever you may live.
Ways to Build Your own Sisterhood Support
If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to tap into an already existing network of breastfeeding support in your own community, here are ways you can begin to build one that will be beneficial and satisfying for you and other local moms.
Tap into existing online resources – La Leche League International is a fabulous resource for breastfeeding moms. It’s a great starting point, with a number of breastfeeding resources, interactive forums to ask questions and help finding a local in person support group. Another great resource is Kelly Mom, another breastfeeding and parenting resource website. It is full of articles, links to other good resources like breastfeeding help lines, breastfeeding FAQ’s and determining if medications are safe or unsafe during pregnancy or breastfeeding. They also have a Mother to Mother support group on Facebook where you can connect with other moms. Both of these sites will help you become a lot more informed on the subject of breastfeeding but can also help you make local connections to tap into or build a local support system.
Facebook is Your Friend – Search Facebook for “breastfeeding” and “breastfeeding support.” At a minimum you can link up with a virtual support system, but you may also be lucky enough to find an existing group in or close to your community.
If you don’t see a group that is in your local town, start a group and invite other moms you know that are dealing with the same issues. As the group admin, you may have to put a little time into posing questions or posting information you find in the beginning(as you super sleuth sites like La Leche League and Kelly Mom). However, breastfeeding and child-rearing are very emotionally charged topics and I’d be willing to guess that you’d build a following in a short period of time with other moms seeking out answers and camaraderie and lots of fresh and relevant content would occur organically as the group grows. The local nursing support group I joined on Facebook had about 200 or so other moms when I connected with this group 2 years ago. There are now 695 members, and it is a VERY active board, lots of questions and interaction at all hours of the day.
Face to face Time Builds Sisterhood Bonds – Virtual support is great, and it is a wonderful place to start. But we are human and real, in-person relationships are key to genuine, long lasting relationships and support. As soon as you have a small tribe of Sister Mamas in your community interacting, organize a meet up (Facebook, again, makes it easy to create and share an event). If you aren’t comfortable inviting people into your home, make a play date at a local park or child friendly location. Friendships will naturally blossom from these meet-ups, and don’t be surprised if you see other parenting related groups and play dates crop up as a result. Off shoots from the breastfeeding support group in my community included babywearing groups, attachment parenting groups, healthy/organic parenting groups and more, many with their own Facebook communities plus regular in person meetups.
Try to find a knowledgeable lactation consultant that would be willing to make a regular appearance at meet ups (or host a weekly meeting), to field breastfeeding questions and concerns. It’s not uncommon for the breastfeeding journey to spark something in a new mom, and I know of several that have gone on to earn their IBCLC certification and become lactation consultants, so you may find a lactation specialist as a result of your grassroots effort to build a local Sisterhood. Many of the local group leaders in my community are lactation consultants that provide breastfeeding support groups free of charge or on a donation basis, and then they build relationships and referrals that fund their consulting business, so it is a win/win for moms and the consultants.
If you are feeling lonesome as a new breastfeeding mom, you aren’t alone. You do have support and resources at your fingertips, and it really is possible to build a strong, wonderful network of support in your own community.
About the Author
Tracey is a mom to a firecracker toddler (still nursing!) and expecting a baby boy in the spring. She is lucky enough to work from home, promoting a place she came to love as a former innkeeper, the Highland Lakes in the Texas Hill Country.
Image credit: TheDivineGoat