During National Breastfeeding Celebration Week La Leche League GB’s Facebook page LLLGB Because Breastfeeding Matters will be posting positive messages and images about breastfeeding, as well as tweeting from @LLLGB. You are welcome to come along to our page to share and comment or follow us on Twitter. Let us know what makes you laugh when you are breastfeeding. Many of our LLL groups also have their own local page on Facebook.
“I didn’t realise I would have so many questions about breastfeeding” – new mother, 2017
Today’s mothers have a wealth of information at their fingertips, they may feel that they are well informed about breastfeeding and assume that if they have a problem they can quickly find an answer. However, breastfeeding a baby is a unique experience for each mother and infant, and speaking to someone who can give tailored one-to-one support and information can make all the difference. Google in a question and you may find dozens of different responses, but what is often needed is someone who can listen to what a new mother is feeling and respond with accurate information.
In the past, women grew up seeing breastfeeding mothers all around them. They knew it was not always easy at first, but were familiar with what was normal. If difficulties arose, they were supported at home by both other women in the family who had breastfed their own babies, and by the community. They probably gave birth at home and had time to get to know their baby while being cared for by others.
Today many of us live far away from our family and may not know anyone who has happily breastfed. Many health workers cannot spend as much time as they would like with each mother and may not have been trained in ongoing breastfeeding support skills.
The support women get in hospital after giving birth can have a direct impact on breastfeeding outcomes. Women may encounter inappropriate healthcare practices, such as separating new mothers and babies, and inappropriate routines resulting in a less than optimal start. They may go home feeling they do not know how to breastfeed and having experienced supplementing with formula; their confidence in their ability to produce enough milk already undermined. Mothers may have experienced inconsistency and lack of knowledge amongst healthcare professionals and feel confused. Once at home, women can feel overwhelmed and don’t always get enough time with healthcare professionals, so small initial difficulties can grow instead of being managed.
Expectations and information
The World Health Organisation has said that “The key to best breastfeeding practices is continued day-to-day support for the breastfeeding mother within her home and community”.
This is confirmed by research which shows that if women receive support – whether it be from a friend or family member, a health professional, or volunteer breastfeeding supporter – they are likely to breastfeed for longer. Having someone to turn to for support, to offer words of encouragement, and help deflect negative comments can make all the difference.
In order to continue to breastfeed for as long as they wish, mothers need to be supported, encouraged and empowered by family, friends, community and health professionals. They also need effective legislation to protect breastfeeding when nursing mothers are involved in legal situations, support for women returning to paid work to continue nursing and the combating of aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
Establishing a support network
Establishing a support network before a baby is born can mean a mother knows where to turn to for help quickly. Going along to a support group before giving birth can be helpful. Mothers can see other women breastfeed and realise that there is no right or wrong way to do it; what suits one mother may not feel right for another. After the birth they know where to go if questions arise.
Breastfeeding support organisations, peer supporters and breastfeeding buddies can all be a good point of contact. Information and support is offered free of charge by most of these. Lactation Consultants and doulas are also a good source of support, although they are not usually free.
La Leche League GB
LLLGB has been offering mother-to-mother support in GB for over 40 years. LLL Leaders are mothers who have themselves breastfed for 12 months or longer and undergone an accreditation process. They know that breastfeeding is not always easy and how much difference having someone to talk to can make. Leaders provide telephone counselling, email support and local group meetings, as well as leaflets on a wide range of breastfeeding questions, information on more unusual situations, access to a panel of professional advisors, and can often lend out books covering various aspects of pregnancy and child care.
Click here to get support from LLLGB.
LLLGB’s national telephone helpline (0345 120 2918) connects mothers directly to an accredited Leader, we also provide an online help form that enables a mother to receive support from an LLL Leader. All our Leaders are volunteers and answer calls from home while looking after their families.
 Saadeh RJ, editor. “Breast-feeding: the Technical Basis and Recommendations for Action.” Geneva, World Health Organization, pp. 62-74, 1993.
 Dr. Sue Battersby, An Evaluation of La Leche League GB’s Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor Programme, 2007.