• Sun, Sep 21 2008

Breastfeeding Education

waldorf-dolls-breastfeeding.jpgWelcome to the September Carnival of Breastfeeding! This round the topic is breastfeeding education. First, let’s start with a little breastfeeding education humor. The two adorable handmade Waldorf dolls shown in the photo were given to my daughters by their great aunt Sue. During yet another game of midwife, my three-year-old stuck these dolls together and said, “She’s breastmilking her baby. Breastmilking her!” Perhaps the term “breastmilking” should be added to the lactation lexicon!

Back to the question at hand. What is the best way to educate mothers about breastfeeding? What is the best way to educate the general community about breastfeeding (so we don’t get comments like this one asking why a small business should have to provide a place for women to pump)? What is the best way to educate medical professionals?

Those questions (and the answers) are difficult ones, but they remind me of a couple of proverbs. “A stitch in time saves nine.” “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we don’t educate our young people about the benefits of breastfeeding, and don’t provide adequate information and support to pregnant women and new mothers, then some of them are going to turn to formula-feeding. My point is that we need to put the work in on the front end.

There should be breastfeeding education in the K-12 curriculum. More women should be preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy. Medical professionals should be given training on breastfeeding so they can provide good medical advice about breastfeeding.

Hospitals and communities should support breastfeeding clinics, like the one run by Dr. Jack Newman, author of The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide to Breastfeeding from the Foremost Expert in North America, Revised & Updated Edition. I heard Dr. Newman speak at a La Leche League conference once. Not only was he a funny, dynamic, and inspirational speaker, it was obvious what a passionate advocate of breastfeeding he is. So I was saddened to read this City News article that says the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute faces closure due to lack of funding. One of the quotes by clinic co-founder Edith Kernerman stood out to me:

“Breastfeeding, like walking, is natural, but it’s a learned behaviour. And so when your child goes and falls the first few times you’re not going to say, okay, that’s it, it’s off to crutches for the rest of your life. No, you’re going to pick that child up and you’re going to learn how to walk with that child and that child will learn to walk with you….

And it’s the same with breastfeeding. We need to learn, we need to learn by watching women around us breastfeed and we don’t see women breastfeed because women are afraid to do it out in public.”

I totally agree. One of the best ways to educate women about breastfeeding is from one mother to another, or a mother to her daughter, or sister to sister, etc. Women need to see other women succeed at breastfeeding, and to receive support, encouragement, and advice from other mothers. It saddens me that La Leche League, which was founded on the principle of mother-to-mother support, sometimes gets a bad and erroneous reputation for being extremist. I have found leaders to be supportive of breastfeeding in general, whether a mother chooses to breastfeed for a day, a year, two years or beyond. If a new mother even goes to a La Leche League meeting, she might initially be taken aback to find other mothers who are breastfeeding toddlers. I wish those new mothers would realize that La Leche League members do not have some agenda to get everyone into extended breastfeeding. They want to support women to have a successful breastfeeding relationship in the early months (which then, not surprisingly, often leads to extended breastfeeding!) If you haven’t already, please take a moment to vote in the poll about La Leche League in the sidebar or at this post.

To sum up, my hope is that more emphasis will be placed on breastfeeding education and awareness — starting at a young age and continuing through to adulthood — so that more mothers and babies can enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding!

Enjoy these carnival contributions from the following bloggers:

~ BreastfeedingMums: The Perfect Breastfeeding Teacher
~ Hobo Mama: Breastfeeding Education
~ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Podcast: So You Want to Work in Breastfeeding Support
~ Beautiful Letdown: How I Learned to Breastfeed
~ Momopoly: Q&A with a Lactation Consultant
~ Babyfingers: Let’s Take Our Perverted Society to School
~ Stop, Drop, and Blog: Breastfeeding: With a Little Help from My Friends, Books, and Professionals
~ Nurturing Notes: Breastfeeding and the Registered Dietitian
~ Poked and Prodded: You Have to Prepare for Breastfeeding

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  • http://bkhutto.blogspot.com Kira =]

    What a wonderful post! I find that by nursing my children and discussing it openly, curious people seek me out to ask questions (often myths) about breastfeeding. It is also the reason a friend of mine even considered nursing her 3rd even though she had been unsuccessful with nursing her older children.

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  • Jennifer B

    It is so unfortunate that LLL gets a bad rap as zealots. My own CNM warned me to avoid LLL, as she had heard from several of her other clients that the group in the area was extremist. But when I had so much trouble nursing, I finally turned to LLL (at the behest of my Pastor’s wife, who is a Breastfeeding counselor for WIC) and found a group of women who are so supportive of any mom’s attempt at nursing. I was never able to EBF, and even bottlefed my daughter at LLL meetings! I was once asked to tell my story to a group of new moms who were struggling with nursing, so that they could see that even if EBF isn’t possible, they could still nurse to the extent that they wanted, and supplement. When I made the decision to wean at 6 months, I got nothing but support from the LLL leaders. I recently went to a meeting (I hadn’t been to one in over 6 months), and was welcomed with open arms. I am so glad that I didn’t listen to those who spoke negatively about LLL.

  • http://stopdropandblog.com FireMom

    (Mine is set to post in the AM!)

    Our LLL is defunct because no one in this area breastfeeds. Those who do are lucky to make it past the first six weeks. Breastfeeding is SO looked down upon in this area. It’s depressing. I know that if your ideas were even brought to our school district (elementary learning of breastfeeding), it would be shot down in a heartbeat because “BOOBS ARE SEXUAL!” Or something.

    Sigh.

    Of course, when you add in our very high teen pregnancy rate combined with the lack of sexual education AND the lack of breastfeeding education, well, it’s just a big mess.

    Bigger sigh.

  • http://www.beautifulletdown.net Casey

    What a cute picture! I love the term “breastmilking.” I think that should definitely be added into the breastfeeding jargon. :) I recently started attending a LLL meeting in a town near where I live, and even though I have been nursing for almost 3 years, I learn something at every meeting. I really enjoy them, too.

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  • http://babyfingers.blogspot.com Jenny

    LOVE the dolls! I think it’s a great idea to put lactation education in K-12 curriculum. They may have mentioned it in passing when I was in school, but didn’t go into any detail. I never really developed an opinion about breastfeeding until I was married! It’s hard for a youngest child with no nursing aunts, sisters, etc to get any experience with it.

  • http://www.hobomama.com Lauren (HoboMama)

    I’m loving “breastmilking,” and I loved reading the link describing the Midwife Game, especially needing to get married at the last minute. Hilarious!

    But, anyway…thanks for sharing your passionate voice in this article. I appreciate all the ways you’re seeking to support and promote breastfeeding through sharing this information and responding so evenly and fairly to critics (like the employer moaning the requirement for a pumping room). I haven’t been to a La Leche League meeting — I voted in your poll “No, but I’d like to,” because it really does sound like a supportive environment.

    I like the quote about the walking analogy, and I’m also sad to hear about the Newman clinic’s funding problems. Breastfeeding — I’m sorry, breastmilking — needs all the advocates it can get.

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  • http://www.cairomama.blogspot.com mamaseoul

    I always tell people to go to LLL and meet with LCs and check out hospital-based BF Support Groups while they are pregnant and BEFORE they need help. Every group and LC is different in personality and approach. It is best to find someone you are comfortable with before you need them so when you do need them, you know exactly how to get help and will hopefully not have personality issues clouding your receiving of the help.

    I went to a hospital-based support group which was great. I tried to check out the LLL group, but I went to the meeting (as listed on the website) and found out that they had not been meeting on Tuesday nights, but rather, Wednesdays mornings for over a year. I went Wednesday morning and there was no meeting. They had just stopped meetings due to lack of participation. Perhaps because the website listed the wrong day/time for the meetings…

    Things like this are a part of volunteer organizations. I did contact the State LLL webmaster to make the correction that they were just available for phone help.

    As for the hospital group, I kept going to the meetings long after my issues were resolved so I could give hope/help to other moms who were having trouble in the beginning.

  • http://notadiylife.blogspot.com Heather

    That’s one thing that I have loved about our local LLL group. Meetings are always kept on-topic, then other questions can be discussed after the meeting or at monthing “enrichment” meetings. Our leaders are fab! I first went to meetings to gain support. Now, I go hoping that my presence with my nursing toddler will encourage other moms.