Written by Deirdre McLary for her blog, Breastfeeding Arts
I was recently discussing the upcoming ILCA conference and the business of breastfeeding, both locally and nationally with a friend and dear colleague. Part of our discussion was on the business of education and helping mothers grow their confidence and wisdom before baby arrives. The models for education can be both face to face; through class time and instruction, or online via email and social media. Knowledge is power, as the expression goes. How do we, as breastfeeding educators, grow that knowledge base for expectant mothers, and how can we expand our reach so that your transition to new motherhood is a smooth one?
As both an IBCLC and a childbirth educator & doula, I know all too well how few families seek out empowering childbirth & breastfeeding education.
But are enough women turning to seeking prenatal education? I don’t think so. What I do know, and see repeatedly, is that those women who do not seek good prenatal education have a greater likelihood of feeling overwhelmed and isolated. I know this because they call me desperate for help and support.
A solid network of education, support and resources should be cultivated prior to baby’s arrival. This will help the mother navigate those first weeks of baby blues and postpartum healing. Not all mothers, mind you, have a difficult transition. One of the many benefits to consider is not just the knowledge base a mother will take into birthing and breastfeeding, but also the relationship she has now established! Wise Woman to New Mother! She has her tribe, someone she can now turn to postpartum to seek answers and support. As my colleague says, “a friend in her pocket”!
Social media and online support can be a wonderful conduit for support and wisdom. Sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, I researched something on the “then pretty new” internet. I brought it to the attention of my OB, who I subsequently left for the care of a midwife. You know why? He scoffed and said, “Are you going to trust some quack you find off the internet?” and immediately dismissed my researching things outside his care. (That quack was Ina May Gaskin). Well, I did trust what I had read. Those were my instincts kicking in and my ability to trust myself.
I encourage all pregnant mothers to seek out advice online from reputable IBCLC businesses and online communities! (Editor’s Note: Check out Australia’s new Virtual Breastfeeding Cafe) There are many wonderful resources with excellent professionals happy to help you find your way. As a La Leche League leader, the concept of “mother to mother” support is still, in my opinion, one of the best conduits of postpartum sisterhood out there! And now that “mother to mother” care can be found online, on many a Facebook page, blog, Twitter or Listserv. It’s not always easy getting out of the house as a new mother. While I never want online communication to replace face-to-face connection, there are a wealth of relationships available there.
It all comes back to education and support! Whether it’s private or group prenatal classes (each has its advantages), a private lactation consult in the comfort of your home, an online consult via email or even a Twitter chat (for example, #bfcafe) — all are great ways to stay connected to a professional who only wants the best for you — normal, healthy birthing which leads to normal, healthy breastfeeding!
How have you, as an IBCLC or breastfeeding professional, helped mothers to receive prenatal education and support?
Deirdre McLary is the founder of BREASTFEEDING ARTS and has provided expert IBCLC Lactation Support, Doula Care and Childbirth Education since 1997 in the Hudson Valley, NY area. Deirdre is deeply committed to raising childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting awareness throughout her area by providing compassionate, holistic & open-minded options for anyone who seeks them. She is a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), a labor support and post partum doula, La Leche League leader, childbirth educator, and new parent mentor. She has also held leadership positions in The Metropolitan Doula Group, La Leche League, River Doulas and The International Cesarean Awareness Network.