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.”

Breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting are intricately linked

World Breastfeeding Week 2013Attachment Parenting is invariably linked to breastfeeding. While not all mothers are able to breastfeed, Attachment Parenting International recognizes that breastfeeding — as well as breastfeeding behaviors while giving a bottle of pumped breastmilk — is one of nature’s best teachers of new parents in how to sensitively and consistently respond to their baby as well as learn to develop the reciprocity of a healthy relationship between parent and child.

Each year, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and its partners sponsor World Breastfeeding Week during August 1-7. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme, “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers,” highlights breastfeeding peer counselors in all walks of life. Certainly, whether or not API Leaders are they themselves trained breastfeeding educators, all of API’s leaders support breastfeeding and the impact it has on helping to establish a secure parent-child attachment.

Largely due to cultural pressures, even when mothers are able to get breastfeeding off to a good start, there is a sharp decline overall in breastfeeding rates in the weeks and months after delivery. World Breastfeeding Week organizers have found that it is the period when mothers are not under the regular care of a health care provider when problems with breastfeeding arise and are not addressed, and premature weaning often happens.

This time of learning how to parent is crucial not only to the success of breastfeeding but also to the mother-infant relationship, but the early weeks and months are often a time of relative social isolation. This is when community support is most needed.

Traditionally, support was provided by the family, but as society has changed, mother support now needs to come from a wider circle. Depending on the location, a mother may have access to lactation consultants or other trained health care workers, or not. Perhaps the best support, however, comes from other mothers who have breastfed their children and who are trained to provide support.

While API’s local leaders and parent support groups are not specific to breastfeeding support, we provide a holistic look at breastfeeding and the mother-infant relationship. We are able to refer to community resources for breastfeeding questions, such as lactation consultants and La Leche League leaders and breastpump providers, and we can provide basic support for parents to make the best decisions for their family. API Leaders also help mothers view breastfeeding in the context of the whole relationship and how that give-and-take interaction that builds the foundation of secure attachment can be applied beyond breastfeeding.

Join us this week on APtly Said as API celebrates World Breastfeeding Week and how Attachment Parenting families are furthering the cause of breastfeeding in their communities and around the world.