World Breastfeeding Week 2013: The Family and Social Network Circle of Support

During World Breastfeeding Week 2013, we will be highlighting the work of IBCLCs in each of the 5 Circles of Support mentioned in this year’s theme ~ Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers. Each weekday during this celebratory week, we will be shining the light on innovative and exciting models of care in each of these areas. Check back everyday for more encouraging examples of breastfeeding supporters being close to mothers.

Katya Lokshina, Russia

katyaKatya is a former linguist turned IBCLC serving in Moscow, Russia. She is the mother of three children and was proud to be the first Russian La Leche League leader. She was one of the group of 12 first-ever Russian speakers in 2011 to pass the IBCLC exam in the former Soviet countries. She now leads a popular mother-to-mother support group and works as a private lactation consultant. She shared with us the following responses.

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme is “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers”. The organizers have identified 5 Circles of Support that are critical for breastfeeding mothers in our world and one of those circles is “Family and Social Network”. Can you describe for us a bit about the work you are doing in the field of lactation to support breastfeeding families? How did you become involved in this work? What does a typical day of supporting breastfeeding families look like?

I am the mother of three children and providing breastfeeding support is both my day AND night job! I must balance my private life with that of being a breastfeeding professional. On a typical day, I get a few calls from mothers. While my children are at school, I do home visits. Sometimes driving to a mother’s home can take up to 1.5 hours due to the heavy traffic in Moscow. Russian women rarely get professional breastfeeding support at the hospital but things are slowly changing.

Being not only an IBCLC but also a La Leche League leader, I encourage expectant mothers to visit a breastfeeding support group. Watching other mothers and babies and talking with them can go a long way towards building a foundation for a successful breastfeeding relationship.

I believe that EVERY mother can be a huge promoter of breastfeeding! At the hospital, at family gatherings, at the playground, in the doctor’s office, and in many public places like shopping malls, cafes, on an airplane – simply by breastfeeding our babies and kindly answering questions and comments from others (those from teenagers and kids are most important!), we are doing a great job of supporting breastfeeding.

The World Breastfeeding Week organizers stated “Husbands, partners, fathers, family, and friends compose the mother’s immediate and continuous support network. Social support includes community support – at the market place, within a religious context, at a neighborhood park, etc. Support during pregnancy reduces stress. Support during labour and birth empowers the mother. Societal support increases the mother’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed beyond the early weeks and months.” Can you expand a bit on what some of the unique challenges breastfeeding women and their babies face in your community? What is the reaction to breastfeeding women who feed in public? How is your group providing support?

As a La Leche League leader, I am able to observe the mothering styles from many different countries. Russians are less afraid of feeding in public than their American counterparts. Still, there is much to do in this field. Many Russian mothers are not willing to bring their babies into a public place at all. We are afraid of “infections” and, especially in the first weeks, of the “evil eye”. We’d rather ask for a home visit from a doctor or lactation consultant than come to an office or support group. BUT, it is gradually changing! I can see a difference after 8 years of working in the field. 

The challenges and need for support for breastfeeding support is universal. What has encouraged you in the last year when working with breastfeeding families? What are your hopes for the future?

My encouragement is my environment. With every year, I find more and more breastfeeding mothers offering their help to La Leche League. I have become acquainted with many highly-skilled professionals and I’ve met wonderful pediatricians, surgeons, general practitioners, and midwives, all of whom are well informed about supporting breastfeeding families. It is a pleasure to cooperate with them. This makes me very optimistic about the future of Russian babies!

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3 Responses to World Breastfeeding Week 2013: The Family and Social Network Circle of Support

  1. Liz Lewis Yip 6 August 2013 at 04:31 #

    Congratulations Katya. It is wonderful to read your blog. It is interesting to hear that Russians like most other cultures in the world like the mother and newborn to stay at home for the first month. In western medicine the neonate (1st month) is a speciality within paediatrics. We now understand that it is not the winds that are dangerous to babies but staying at home can have its advantages for mother and baby. Women in my world are expected to be out and about. This restricts the time mother has to catch up on sleep, time the baby has at the breast and with his mother just with the time spent getting ready and getting out, let alone the time when feeds are reduced so they can do things. As I get older, listen to mothers better and my world is more multicultural it is fascinating how many things are the same in the care of newborns across many cultures who don’t use clocks.

  2. Katya 8 August 2013 at 14:40 #

    Thank you, Liz, for your valuable comment! I agree with you about this special time for the new mom and for the newborn. As far as I know, in English-speaking culture it is called “baby-moon”, which I find absolutely beautiful.
    On the other hand, modern moms in the big cities are left in complete isolation after with the new baby. Many of them feel frustrated just from the lack of company around them.

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