Online meetings, for us via Zoom, are great in allowing us to continue to meet and offer breastfeeding support. Some advantages include getting support right where you are, without needing to get dressed, leave your home, maybe even leave your bedroom. You can be doing things right up until the meeting starts, like hanging the washing out, going on a walk, having a shower, or eating breakfast. And if you’re someone who feels nervous going to a new place, it’s maybe not as nerve-wracking for you to turn on your laptop and you can come and go as you need far more easily than at a real meeting.
We often mention in our Zoom sessions that online meetings are no substitute for the real thing – and we are not just talking about being offered a hot drink and maybe afforded the time and space to drink it while it’s still hot (we won’t mention the baking fails which ended up being delicious, like brownies that turned into better cookies!)
However, one thing we are acutely aware of as Leaders (the LLL word for internationally accredited breastfeeding counsellors who lead meetings offering mother-to-mother support) is the fact that mothers, particularly new mothers, don’t get the chance to see what other new mothers and babies are up to, what it looks like, the range of ‘normal’.
We hear: ‘I’m not sure I’m doing this right’ or ‘My baby does this, I’m not sure it’s normal’. We know there is a huge range of normal in breastfeeding and babies, just as there is in us (we often remind each other, ‘Babies are humans too!’). In these times of physical distancing, we are not seeing this range in the same way we would in the normal course of our lives.
Here are some snapshots of things you might see in a regular meeting – and by default some of it might also be going on in your home right now, right in front of you:
– a hesitant toddler;
– a throwing themselves around toddler;
– a feeding all the time toddler;
– a frustrated toddler;
– an unsettled, crying or writhing baby;
– a gulping at the breast baby;
– a baby who switches sides constantly;
– a fussy baby;
– a sleepy baby;
– a mother standing and rocking to soothe her baby;
– a mother using breast compressions;
– a mother burping her baby;
– a mother expressing her milk;
– a baby feeding in two minutes flat, another one feeding for 30 minutes (both look kind of the same in size and contentedness);
– a mother who looks worried;
– a mother who looks relaxed;
and so on, and so on, and so on…
Probably what you and your baby are doing fits within the range of normal. Yet, you are not seeing the range and wondering if something is wrong with you or your baby. Please contact us, even if you are just wondering.
One of the big, big pluses of LLL meetings is the mother-to-mother support. Typically, this is where a mother asks a tentative question, perhaps a bit worried it’s unique to her and her baby, and there are audible ‘mmm’s and ‘yes’s and even a few agreeing laughs of recognition and nods.
We can’t do all that on Zoom. It just doesn’t convey as well. Nor does the ‘My baby used to do that’ and you can physically see a baby not doing that and actually looking content/calm/filling out in front of you.
The reassurance of the non-verbal, the right-in-front-of-you evidence that ‘I can get there, it might just take time. I’m not alone. I feel supported’ is so important for us as mothers as we grow into this – at times overwhelming and daunting and amazing – role and learn about our complex, challenging, rewarding babies.
So…do join one of our Zoom meetings. Do know you are not alone. Do reach out for support. Motherhood is lonely at the best of times and we ARE MEANT to be supported by our communities, whatever that looks like at the moment.
By Elizabeth Owen, LLL Waltham Forest
Here is a calendar showing many of our Zoom meetings, but also your local group may be running meetings not shown here. Online meeting calendar.