Breastfeeding has the potential to be a polarizing topic for many moms. If you consider yourself a “lactivist” then you most likely not only nursed your children, but you do your best to help others make the same decision. I do agree that everyone should nurse, or at least make the effort to try, but offering lactivist-style advice isn’t always the most helpful way to go.
I was lucky that I encountered no obstacles to breastfeeding. In addition to nursing going smoothly, I had a huge support system around me. Every mom my age that I knew had nursed their babies, my mom had nursed me and my sister, my mother-in-law had nursed my husband. My husband agreed that it was the best nutrition for baby, and it was free! I knew that if I had questions, there were so many people I could turn to for answers and support.
However, not everyone is so lucky. Formula feeding remains the “norm” is American society, and many moms who did not nurse don’t understand why another mom would nurse. In addition, moms who may feel judged for using formula might be defensive and therefore become antagonistic when their friends express a desire to nurse.
There are other obstacles as well. In spite of the fact that low supply is actually a really rare problem, there are other, more commonplace, stumbling blocks that new moms might encounter. For example, some moms have lazy babies who take a sip and fall asleep. Some moms experience issues with latch that lead to sore and bleeding nipples; others develop thrush or post-delivery infections that hinder their breastfeeding journey.
I think the hardest part of having something like breastfeeding come easily and then encountering someone you care about, someone who really wants to breastfeed but is having trouble, is finding the right way to support them. This happened to me with a particular friend and I’m fairly certain that I offered no helpful advice. In fact, I probably offered her what I’ve since heard referred to as “non-supportive support.” My advice (“Just keep at it!”) was not what she needed. I’m not sure what she needed, but more practical advice, like contact La Leche League or another certified lactation consultant, or even just a sympathetic ear would probably have been better.
So in an effort at a do-over, I offer more practical advice for moms who want to nurse.
A recent article on SheKnows.com offers a look at why different moms have chosen to breastfeed and what that journey looked like for them.
Being raised in a society where formula feeding seems to be the norm, it can be hard to stray outside the mainstream. And while breastfeeding is becoming more common, recent statistics show that even when nursing is initiated, many mothers don’t maintain the nursing relationship due to a number of factors, such as going back to work or a lack of support.
If you have other tips for successful breastfeeding, please feel free to include them in the comments section of this post!