My breastfeeding story Part 4: The Breastfeeding Support Group
In the last post on my breastfeeding story, I wrote about the first couple of weeks after coming home from the hospital (Part 3). Today I’m going to write about my local breastfeeding support group. This group played a huge part in my motivation to continue breastfeeding, even when things were difficult.
The first time I attended the support group was when Little Man was just six days old. That happened to be during National Breastfeeding Week, so rather than the usual support meeting, there was a coffee morning in the local hotel. This coffee morning was actually a nice introduction to the group.
The following week was the first week I went to the actual support group. I needed my mother’s help to get ready to leave the house. The group was on at 10am, and Little Man had been awake for most of the night the night before. To be honest, I would never have motivated myself to go, except that I had gotten my times mixed up, and thought that I needed to head down that morning to get Little Man weighed for his two week checkup. But I got there to discover that actually the weigh-in was that afternoon. I could have cried. I was so tired and it had taken so much effort to leave the house. Rather than waste all that effort, I decided to go to the support group meeting.
There were three or four other mothers and a Public Health Nurse there. Little Man was the youngest baby by several months. But the girls were so welcoming. They each took the time to ask me about how the feeding was going and to let me know that they had all had similar experiences in the first two weeks and that it would pass. They were wonderful proof of that.
In later weeks, when I was really struggling, it was often the thoughts of the group that kept me going. I remember when Little Man was four weeks old and it really was make or break time for me, I thought, “But if I quit I won’t be able to go to the group.” And that was motivation to keep going for another day. Total nonsense of course looking back on it now, because the girls would still have welcomed me to coffee regardless of whether I managed to continue feeding or not!
But many other weeks, when I was struggling with the feeding over the weekend, I would think that if I could just keep going until the group on Wednesday, then I could talk to the girls about it and decide then whether or not to keep going. And usually by the time Wednesday rolled around, things were looking up.
When Little Man was about three months old, there was a really cold snap, and the group was cancelled for a few weeks. When it started up again, something strange had happened. Most of the Mammies who were attending the group when I started had returned to work, so they didn’t go anymore. For a few weeks, it was just me and one other Mammy there most weeks. And at that stage, we were both established breastfeeders, so we weren’t really there for support.
A month or so later, the group started to build up again, with new mammies and new babies. And suddenly I realized that Little Man wasn’t the youngest in the group any more. Far from it. He was getting ready to start solids, while some of these babies were only a few weeks old. Somewhere along the line, I had gone from being the new inexperienced mother in the group, to one of the ones welcoming new mothers to the group, and reassuring them that yes, we had been there too, and it does work out in the end.
When I weaned Little Man at seven months, I continued to attend the group. I kept going until I went back to work when he was ten months. And these days, those girls who were looking to me as the experienced one when their babies are newborn, are now the experienced ones in the group passing on the reassurances. And I think that’s part of the reason this particular group works so well.
As with most things in life, often I think these groups are what you make them. The first few weeks that I attended the group, I appreciated other mothers taking the time to introduce themselves, welcome me, and ask me how I was getting on. So later when things were working out for me, it was important for me to do the same for others.
I was so nervous heading down to attend the group those first few times, but through that group, I have met wonderful, interesting women who I’m delighted to keep in touch with to this day. I recommend to any new mother to try to make the effort to get out and mix with other new mothers. Because in the days when you don’t know up from down because you are so drained, it’s fantastic to have someone to reassure you that they feel the exact same way!
In the next part of my breastfeeding story, I’ll talk about the low points.