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Karla Hayward
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Support groups offer help to breastfeeding moms

Sculpture

It has been said by many new mothers, particularly first-timers, that they’ve never known such insecurity.

Women who knew no fear when it came to making a multimillion-dollar decision at work suddenly find themselves struggling to choose between two types of diaper rash cream. One who happily appeared on stage for all to see with her theatre group, feels stressed about simply taking her child out in public.

Becoming a mother changes everything.

The decision to breastfeed, thankfully, is one choice most new moms can have full confidence in, since it promotes development in a wide range of areas, including nutritional, immunological, social, developmental, physical and psychological needs.

Plus, according to Statistics Canada, breastfed babies are also sick less often and require fewer visits to the doctor or hospital for common childhood illnesses.

Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, continuing up to age two, after solid food is introduced.

Making the decision to breastfeed, and actually doing so, are two different animals, however. As natural an act as it is, it doesn’t come easy for all mothers. Which is where Eastern Health’s Breastfeeding Support Groups come in.

“The group is a mother-to-mother support group where moms can discuss breastfeeding tips, baby’s growth and other related issues,” said Lisa O’Neill, a public health nurse with Eastern Health.

“It really gives mothers a sense of normalcy. They learn from one another about all sorts of things. If something seems unusual or worrisome, they can get the reassurance that all is well and perfectly normal, from other women going through the same thing. This mother-to-mother support is critical.”

Jane Elisabeth Diamond agrees. She’s been attending with her five-week-old daughter Myelle.

“It is a tremendous support for me,” she says.

“Not only is it an opportunity to make sure she is meeting her milestones and growing properly (through the weigh-in), but it’s a chance to socialize for us both. When you have a baby, your friends can change. But in the group there’s all these other moms to talk to.”

“Not only is it an opportunity to make sure she is meeting her milestones and growing properly (through the weigh-in), but it’s a chance to socialize for us both. When you have a baby, your friends can change. But in the group there’s all these other moms to talk to.” Jane Elizabeth Diamond, group member

The big thing for Diamond, she says, are “the simple things. The tips you pick up. You might ask, ‘What works best when you’re pumping off?’ And someone might say, ‘Well, I put a receiving blanket in the microwave first.’”

Diamond’s partner has also attended.

“It helps him understand a little better, but it also helps him feel that he has an important role to play,” she said.

“Even though I’m doing the feeding, he’s right there playing his part. And if he has questions, he can just go ahead and ask them.”

According to O’Neill, participants often describe the group as a lifeline; a social outlet they desperately need in those first few months at home with baby. Friendships that stand the test of time (and weaning) are often formed.

“It’s incredible to watch these women who might normally never come into contact with one another sit and talk about such intimate issues and personal fears, forming real friendships,” she said.

World Breastfeeding Week in Canada is Oct 1-7. This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps! The Baby-Friendly Way.

At a breastfeeding support group session, you’ll find comfy chairs with breastfeeding pillows arranged in a circle. Refreshments and a phone are available. Community health nurses and/or lactation consultants are on hand to offer professional advice and support, as well as to answer questions and check your baby’s development and weight.

There are 10 breastfeeding support groups in the St. John’s area, including one operated by La Leche League. No appointment or sign-up is needed, just drop by and sign in under your child’s first name. All breastfeeding and pregnant women are encouraged to attend, as are fathers, grandparents and other individuals who play an important role in an infant’s life.

For more information, contact Josephine St.Croix, Eastern Health parent and child health co-ordinator, at 752-4914.

Weblinks:

www.infactcanada.ca

Organizations: Statistics Canada, Health Canada, Breastfeeding Support Groups Breastfeeding Week La Leche League

Geographic location: Canada

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