Should you join a breastfeeding support group?
If you’re pregnant and hoping to breastfeed, you might consider joining a local breastfeeding support group. Not only will you get excellent support for your breastfeeding experience, but you can make friends for a lifetime.
Breastfeeding is natural and normal, but it can really help to reach out in your local community and find a breastfeeding support group. You can gain confidence in your body’s ability to nurture your baby and you can discover any potential stumbling blocks that you might not know are in your path.
Many moms start going to support group meetings during pregnancy to get a feel for the environment and what sort of support is offered. Some meetings, like La Leche League meetings, are often structured, and specific topics are discussed with openings for questions and further conversation. Other support groups are more casual, with moms having the ability to informally chat with professionals or other moms.
Get essential support
All moms in the group have the same goal — breastfeeding their baby. It’s a wonderful common ground that can naturally draw you together. Seeing other women nurse their babies can be empowering and inspiring, and you can also become accustomed to nursing in public, which can make you more comfortable when you’re out and about. “Our group is full of wonderful, caring, compassionate people,” said Aubrey, mother of two. “Our lactation consultants are very helpful and engage the group in discussion when issues arise. We are a diverse group of moms and thoughts and opinions are respected.”
Find “your” group
Keep in mind that not all moms will love a group just because it’s a breastfeeding support group. “I went to a group and it was very crowded and I was totally uncomfortable and never went back,” shared Sarah from Missouri. “I'd suggest trying more than one group or looking for other forms of support if a group setting doesn't work.” Heidi, another Missouri mom, agreed. “If you aren't comfortable, you won't have a good experience and the groups can be intimidating, especially as a new mom,” she told us. “Finding a good fit is essential.”
Some support groups are run by licensed lactation consultants or other breastfeeding experts who can help troubleshoot if you’re having issues, and they, along with the other moms, will help you understand what progress you’re making — and of course everyone gives support when you need it most. A support group in St. Joseph, Missouri, takes place at the hospital and participants have a chance to have their babies weighed each week, which can really help alleviate some concerns.
But don’t get too invested in the numbers on the scale. As Aubrey explained, “It's nice to see how Baby gains from week to week, but it's also important to remember that most moms don't weigh each week — so don't get too caught up in how much Baby gains every single week. Look at patterns in growth.”
Surround yourself with support
If you don’t find a group that is just right for you, try to seek out an online option. Some local support groups also host a Facebook group which is the next best thing to in-person support, and it can lead to valuable connections within your own community if trouble arises and you need in-person help. As Emily, mom of one, explained, “I cannot make it to the meetings but the Facebook group has been a great help with support and encouragement. Even though I have never met most of the people in the group, they still care for me and my son's best interest.”
Identify your personal breastfeeding champions, such as your partner, your mom or a supportive cousin, to stay by your side, and venture out for friends you never knew you had. You’ll be glad you did.