The Necessity of Community in all Stages of Breastfeeding

Kate an her son and husbandKate R., California

Silence. There was silence. My baby was born on the bedroom floor, and he didn’t cry. I put him to my chest, and he attempted to nurse. My perfect little one didn’t even know he was earthside. I was surrounded by my midwife, husband, and doula, and now, my little baby boy. I stared off, in shock at what I had endured to bring him here. Yet, my screams went to whispers, and he remained quiet. I’d like to think that it was because he had a peaceful birth, even if I didn’t.

Despite my attempts at breastfeeding that day, I wasn’t successful. My son struggled to latch properly, and there was pain as he nursed. I think that’s why so many give up on breastfeeding.

No amount of intellectual knowledge, classes, or reading informational texts or articles can fully prepare you for the experience of breastfeeding. There are so many individualized variables. You learn by doing. And I needed a lot of practice.

I went to a breastfeeding support group within the first week. It hurt to sit in the car, but I was willing to do anything for my baby. Truthfully, I was overwhelmed. Ten or so women sat around, little babies in their arms. I felt relief as I saw I was not alone in my struggles to nurse. Many other women felt the same, even though our struggles differed.

I learned that my son had a tonguetie (ankyloglossia) and without correcting it, it could cause pain for me while nursing. The lactation consultant came to our home and helped me position the baby and offered me assistance. Our pediatrician also confirmed the tonguetie.

At six weeks, we took him to a pediatric dentist. My little one would have laser surgery to remove his frenulum. During that period, I had developed a relationship with another doula who offered to help me. She helped me learn to pump and practice breastfeeding with a nipple shield. She found a breastmilk donor who gave us free milk so that my son could have plenty.

At around eight weeks, we finally got into a rhythm for feeding. Yes, it took us at least eight weeks to successfully nurse without pain or disruption. It’s ironic how smooth nursing becomes, and yet at first it was a bigger challenge than expected.

Breastfeeding comes naturally for some but not all. It took a lot of time, and it took grit and ample support to do it. I was determined, and with help, I have been able to breastfeed now for more than three years! Well, my goal was certainly not this long. Now a new era is dawning: weaning.

Weaning is a completely new concept for me. I have mixed feelings because I am ready for my son to wean. He will be starting preschool this year. I suppose some would find it odd that I am nursing a threeyearold, but the truth is it’s not unusual in human history.

I find that once again I am looking for support. I am looking for community so I can enter this next stage. I need the wisdom of those who have gone through the experience.

I have mixed emotions about ending this season of motherhood. It’s not that I am resistant to weaning, but that breastfeeding becomes so integral to mothering after three years. There have been times I was nursing my son and I had been on my phone and didn’t even notice he lifted up my shirt, took a drink, and then went off to play!

So, what will I do? Well, I plan to find another breastfeeding support group. I need guidancejust like I found in community when first becoming a mother. That is why I am grateful that organizations like La Leche League exist.

Women need to know there is always going to be support, if only you reach out and ask. Motherhood is not supposed to be a solitary journey. In the age of pandemics and social isolation, motherhood looks different than even a few years ago when my child was born.

Now more than ever is the time to seek community. No problem is too small, whether it’s learning how to latch the baby, low supply, weaning, or just if you need a new friend. Even if it’s only an online support group, please consider reaching out if you need help.

We need each other. Community is beneficial for us as mothers, but it also helps our children in the long run when their mother is self-assured. Although I don’t know how to wean yet, I am confident that with groups like La Leche League I will wean and move into the next stage of motherhood with confidence.

Resources

Please send your story ideas to Amy at [email protected].


Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always

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