Sometimes it takes a village…
In my early days of breastfeeding my first daughter, I had a lot of questions. Is it okay that she is sleeping five hours straight at night without nursing? Why is she suddenly refusing bottles and how do I fix this? Can I nurse even though I have a stomach bug?
My in-person support group and new mom friends provided support in those early sleepless and confusing days, but sometimes I had questions they couldn’t answer.
There are millions of informational articles about breastfeeding out there. I relied heavily on a website called KellyMom, which is filled with evidence-based articles on a wide variety of breastfeeding topics. The articles are interesting and informative and written by an IBCLC.
The articles answered my questions, but didn’t provide more than straight facts.
When a new mom friend added me to a Facebook breastfeeding support group, my world opened up. I was at the point where I could pass on some advice, but I also learned a lot. I poured through other posts, particularly during late night feeding sessions, voraciously reading nursing anecdotes and answers to question about everything from pumps to weaning advice.
Thanks to the internet, we are inundated with information. There is so much available from a thousand different sources, but those answers do not provide support and community. That’s when an online (or in person) support group becomes so valuable.
It may take time to find the group that’s right for you. Local ones are always good because the other members may organize in-person meetups or have advice on local doctors that are nursing friendly. Or you may need a more specialized group, maybe one for exclusive pumpers or one for nursing babies with dairy intolerances.
It’s important that you connect with the other members. You may not always agree with everyone, but you need to feel that people are genuinely trying to help you.
As a nursing mom, you give so much to your child in such a personal and intimate experience that it’s vital that you take care of yourself as well, physically, mentally and emotionally.
An online support group can provide that nurturing that moms need. They say “it takes a village to raise a child” but these days, that’s not always realistic. You might not have family around. Your friends might not have kids of their own. It’s hard to make friends as adults. Online support groups can help moms to not feel so alone.
I know why I valued my in person and online support groups so much and why I still turn to various groups online to get advice on sleep issues and local recommendations.
Even though I am not breastfeeding, I like to be able to pass on any advice or support I have for moms in the thick of it now. It feels good to be able to help.
I reached out to my local breastfeeding online group to ask why they post questions there rather than read article online. They articulated everything that I have been feeling and more. I wish I had the space to include all of their comments, but am grateful for their thoughts:
“It’s fast! I like getting everyone’s experience and point of view. It’s nice to know I’m not alone and I can see faces on here that are real people and not just a book or article. I get support and encouragement.”
“Websites have great information, but every child is different. It helps to hear someone’s personal experience rather than a textbook answer.”
“It was a way to stay in touch with the other moms I met in support group. I liked getting help and hearing ideas from other moms not just about breastfeeding but also sleeping, teething, milestones, etc. Not that I’m an expert, but it also makes me feel good to know that I may be able to help another mom. You need to know that you are not alone in your struggles. This group is like the modern day ‘village’ parents need to raise a child.”
“I prefer to ask a specific question and get multiple POVs from different moms with different levels of experience, rather than reading one KellyMom article. It feels so nice to belong to a ‘community’ where other moms can provide support. We’re all actively nursing moms—so it’s everyone going through it together in real time, in different stages of nursing. I see so many women commenting not with advice, but rather just with words of support and encouragement and love. It’s not always about getting answers—sometimes it’s just about needing someone to hear you, validate your feelings, and tell you it’s going to get better.”
“The internet is a great resource, but there is way too much out there and for every answer you find you can easily find the opposite, so you end up feeling more confused. I like that I can get real-time answers from moms who aren’t pushing an agenda.”
“I can’t get to the real-life meetings because of working, and this allows me to support others in the various stages of their journeys.”
“I like seeing other mothers who have done the ‘wrong things’ and it’s either gone fine for them or they’ve still been able to work things out with help from other sources. It puts things in perspective and is a useful reminder that there is rarely one ‘right way’. Lovely to see people supporting one another and to pay it back when I can offer advice or encouragement myself.”
“For me, it was because I had to exclusively pump. It was seriously a blessing to find real-life supportive and encouraging moms online who could assure me that it really can work and that nursing isn’t the only way to breastfeed.”
“As a new mom I’ve found it’s important to have as much support as possible. There are so many questions and anxieties that come up, especially when you are breastfeeding. Sites like KellyMom are great for straight facts but it lacked the personal touch. Support groups, online and in person provided a vital source of tips, techniques, and real world experience. Sometimes it’s 2 am and you need an answer or you need to know that someone else is in it with you. Or it’s embarrassing and you need the wisdom of an anonymous crowd to answer your burning question.”
To all new parents out there, I hope you all find your villages, where you find the care you need to help you care for your child.