Mother-to-mother breastfeeding support
Where can new mothers go for help with breastfeeding? In the first few days,
they probably rely on their health care providers for tips on techniques and help with
getting breastfeeding established. But where do they go for support to sustain breastfeeding?
Lesley first few had planned, even before she became pregnant, to breastfeed her baby. The days, however, didnít go quite as smoothly as she had hoped. She had been induced at 38 weeks due to rising blood pressure. Immediately after the birth she had difficulty persuading her new baby, Jessica, to latch onto the breast. By the time she got home, Lesley was exhausted and her nipples were very sore.
When Lesley talked to her doctor about her concerns, he suggested she switch to bottle feeding. ďThat wasnít what I wanted,Ē says Lesley. ďI wanted to breastfeed. I just needed some help.Ē
She found the help she was looking for in a mother-to-mother sup-port group, La Leche League (LLL). Lesley found out what mother-to-mother groups can do to assist new mothers when she attended meetings at her nearby LLL group.
The groupís two Leaders were able to help her improve the way her baby latched onto the breast so that her nipples were less sore and the baby got more milk as she fed.
She learned a lot just by watching the other mothers at the meeting as they responded to their babiesí cues and positioned them for breastfeeding.
Others nodded in agreement and empathy as she talked about her feelings about breastfeeding and the problems she was experiencing.
Lesley heard about different approaches to problems such as night-waking and fussy babies that helped her see what options were available that supported breastfeeding.
She enjoyed meeting other mothers who had experience with breastfeeding. They gave her the confidence she needed.
LLL group meetings donít diminish the value of professional help from lactation consultants, nurses, midwives and physicians when specific breastfeeding problems occur. Professionals canít, however, provide the special kind of ongoing support that women find when they connect with other breast-feeding mothers.
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative includes referring new mothers to mother-to-mother support groups as one of the ten steps needed to sup-port breastfeeding. New research supports the effectiveness of this kind of support.
A study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (2002; 166(1):21-8) recruited 256 breast-feeding mothers and randomly assigned them to either a peer sup-port group or conventional care. Those in the peer support group received telephone calls from women who were experienced in breastfeeding and who had attended an orientation session.
Their results: At three months, 81.1 per cent of the peer support group were still breastfeeding, com-pared to 66.9 per cent of the control group. About 56.8 per cent of the peer support group were breast-feeding exclusively, while only 40.3 per cent of the control group were. In addition, significantly fewer mothers in the peer support group expressed dissatisfaction with their breast-feeding experience, and all (100 per cent) recommended peer support programs for breastfeeding mothers.
Mothers also benefit by increased involvement in breastfeeding issues. As they talk with other women, mothers discover that they arenít the only ones who have received free formula during their pregnancy, or have been told to stop breastfeeding in a public place. They realize that by working together, they can protect and support breastfeeding for women and babies in a much broader aspect.
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