Parents Crave Uncommon Support for Common Concerns, Like Breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week 2013In 2009, Attachment Parenting International conducted a parent support survey on the value of peer support provided through both local leaders and parenting support groups as well as online resources and publications. Overwhelmingly, parents responded that they sought out in-person support from local API Leaders and API Support Groups first.

According to the survey, parents seek out support for a variety of childrearing concerns, with feeding with love and respect, which includes breastfeeding, being second only to coping with and resolving sleep issues. Parents specifically seek out API Leaders for a perspective on childrearing that they can’t find elsewhere.

For example, one mother explained how she worked as a nanny for a long time before becoming a mother and had been taught to let babies cry-it-out, to not hold babies, and to feed formula rather than breastfeed:

“When I had my own children, there was such a pull where I felt those were the things I should be doing, even though my instincts screamed otherwise. I have struggled to learn to follow my instincts by immersing myself in a supportive group and lots of supportive reading.”

Attachment Parenting adds to breastfeeding support by including other interrelated areas of childrearing. As a La Leche League leader pointed out:

“My interaction is with breastfeeding mothers, and I have been able to add on more knowledge from API.

Perhaps the largest role API plays in supporting breastfeeding mothers is in actively supporting their choice. Despite health care recommendations that are increasingly pro-breastfeeding, our society continues to be resistant to change in parenting style. Another parent described the frustration of breastfeeding her children in a social climate where, on one hand, highly respected organizations like the World Health Organization, the American Pediatrics Academy, and La Leche League touted the benefits of breastfeeding, but on the other hand, culture was not in tune:

“API has been where I go to be validated and reassured.”

Although there is much more to be read from the API Parent Support Survey, it is clear from the survey that mothers find valuable support for breastfeeding through API’s local leaders and online resources. Here is what other survey respondents had to say about API’s peer support for breastfeeding:

“I had breast reduction surgery 11 years ago that did not allow me to produce much milk. My supply was so, so low and it caused a lot of guilt issues. The ladies in my group tried to help and were so supportive.”

“I worked out of the home and got excellent support from our API group about pumping while working and nursing when home. We’re still going strong at two and a half years!”

“Night weaning: when to do it, how to do it, why to do it, etc. – this has been a discussion through the API-NYC Yahoo! Group. I haven’t started doing this yet, but everyday, I think about it more and more and it’s been great to hear other moms’ stories.”

“Just today, I posted to the Twin Cities API Yahoo! Group that ‘I am only one bite away from quitting’ breastfeeding. My son has three teeth and is using my right boob as a teether. It’s painful and making our breastfeeding relationship rocky. I got a heartfelt ‘I’ve been there and it does bite’ and some good suggestions on how to stop the biting. I really don’t want to quit nursing, and it was important to me that I get advice and encouragement from women who weren’t just going to tell me to quit, that I’ve made it nine months, etc. I felt like I had tried everything, and I was really ready to give up. It hurts to be bitten dozens of times a day, and I was fed up. The API group is invaluable to me. Without that group, I only know two other parents who parent like us. I’ve stopped going to other playgroups, because it hurts me to hear how other moms talk about and to their kids. I think I’d be lost without the API group.”

“When I came to the group, I was having a lot of painful nursing issues, but as time has gone on and my daughter and son have grown, I find that the most beneficial help I’ve received is on finding balance and positive discipline.”

“Extended breastfeeding has been one of the areas where belonging to API groups and knowing other API members has meant a great deal to me. It has helped to be able to share stories – tell them and hear them – of various incidents involving breastfeeding an older child and to talk about the feelings of joy, embarrassment, resentment, etc. that such incidents bring up.”

“I had to wean my baby unexpectedly when I got ill, and I turned to the group for advice on how to handle this as well as tips for allowing my mother to take over my child’s care while I was ill. Also, I had to let my baby go for the duration of a treatment, and I turned to the API e-mail list for suggestions about how to deal with the feelings, asking what was best for my girl in terms of me demonstrating my emotions or not. I received so much support about how to let my mom parent, and validation that it was OK for me to have all the feelings I had around that. The e-mail list made it much easier to feel like I was doing the best I could as a parent, even when I couldn’t do anything physically. Similarly, the advice I got for the separation was to authentically express and communicate with my daughter. That feels completely right to me. Instead of trying to protect her by hiding my feelings, or by letting the story go and telling her later what happened, we can braid it into our family story – such good advice. I also got advice on how to transition her back to us after I’m out of the hospital – simply invaluable.”

“When my daughter was nine months old, we realized she was not sleeping longer than 20 minutes at a time during the day. If she fell asleep after nursing and I tried to lay her down, she woke up immediately. We became very concerned, and I could not find any information in sleep books, and the only option seemed to be to let her cry it out, which we were not prepared to do. We met with an API Leader who suggested I hold her after she fell asleep and that ended up being the way my child could get a nap during the day.”

Author: Rita Brhel

Rita Brhel, BS, CLC, API Leader, lives with her family near Hastings, NE, USA, where she works as a WIC Breastfeeding Counselor. She also writes for Mothering and La Leche League's New Beginnings.

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