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It’s Normal to not be a Breastfeeding All-Star

The biggest surprise I had after giving birth was how hard it was to breastfeed. 

Everyone had made it look so easy. I had seen moms walking around town while breastfeeding, spotted them easily laughing with friends at a restaurant while their baby nursed, and read endless posters and brochures at the OB’s office declaring the advantages of breastfeeding. 

So I will tell you what no one else has – learning to breastfeed can completely destroy your self confidence and turn you into a frantic, weeping mess at 3 AM. #beenthere

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to feed your baby, but there’s a learning curve for many first-time moms. (And even for 2nd and 3rd time moms!) Sure, some moms just snap right into it like they were born to do this. But for most women, it takes hard work and patience

The key is to not give up. To know that it’ll take time, and that you could struggle. Know that your baby will be just fine while the two of you figure out the routine. 

And know that there is a bounty of lactation support groups in Grand Rapids that can change your whole outlook.

This article is brought to you by Metro Health and is a collaboration between GRKIDS and Metro Health.

Driven by our passion to put you first, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health is changing the face of health care in West Michigan. Whether you’re seeing your family doctor for a physical or working with a specialist to treat a chronic condition, our integrated health care system is designed to give you easy access to high-quality, personalized care.

Breastfeeding Support Groups are a Safety Net for First-Time Moms

Metro Health recently let us sit in on a lactation group meeting so we could see just how local moms benefit from this face-to-face encouragement. 

Even though the support group is dedicated to helping moms with breastfeeding, local moms get much more out of them. 

“This is really a new moms support group,” says lactation consultant and RN Christa Peoples. 

“Sometimes moms just need to get out of the house, talk with other adults, or ask other questions about life with a newborn.”

Christa has been leading breastfeeding support groups for 17 years and on the day of our visit, she was joined by five area moms and their babies. 

 “I love helping moms,” she shares. “I like to see moms gain confidence with breastfeeding week after week, and I really enjoy watching babies achieve milestones.”

Metro Health Takes us Inside a Breastfeeding Support Group Meeting

The meeting starts with an initial baby weigh-in, followed by feeding time. Peoples assists each mom individually, answers her questions, and makes sure baby is feeding properly. Then the baby is weighed again to determine how much milk he or she consumed.

“I learn something every time I come,” explains second-time mom Amy. 

“I learn tips and tricks from other moms, and the lactation consultant gives me the reassurance I’m looking for.” 

Amy has been coming to the support group regularly with her six-week old son James. She comes to make sure he is latching correctly and that he’s getting enough food.

“First time moms are, understandably, unsure of themselves,” says Peoples. “But when they see their baby’s weight go up after a feeding, you see this release of tension and fear. They realize everything is ok.”

A first-time mom chimes in, “It’s great to come and be told I’m doing this right. I spend all week worrying about how much milk my baby is getting, and when I come here, I feel so much better.”

New mom Katie is attending the support group with her second son Benito, and came here with her first baby, too. 

“I love the support group,” she says with a smile. “I still get together with the women I met at the support group with my first son. We support each other because we’re all going through this journey together.”

“Breastfeeding can be an isolating experience,” says Peoples. “You aren’t seeing your friends as often. You may be afraid to breastfeed in public, and so you’re stuck at home. This is a space where moms can relax, be themselves and come as they are.”

Peoples emphasizes that moms who are frustrated, overwhelmed and struggling with breastfeeding should schedule a one-on-one appointment with a lactation consultant, or talk to their pediatrician before they attend the support group.

5 Breastfeeding Tips from Local Moms

These support group veterans have gleaned wisdom from their numerous meetings, and have these pointers for breast-feeding moms: 

  1. Know that breastfeeding gets easier with time. In the beginning it can be painful and stressful but stick with it. You’ll find your groove.
  2. Trying using a Haakaa. It’s a game changer! It’s a way to capture precious milk that leaks during feeding and allows you to freeze it for use later.
  3. Use a hair tie on your wrist to remind you what breast baby should feed from next. It will help you remember when mommy brain starts to lag.
  4. The valet parking at Metro Health is amazing when attending the support group! No need to worry about a long walk with a heavy car seat.
  5. You don’t need the fanciest pillows, tools or creams. Find what works for you. Just because you do things differently doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a mom or that something is wrong with your baby.

If you’re looking for a place to share, learn and connect about newborns and breastfeeding, give a support group a try.

Metro Health’s breastfeeding support group meets every Monday from 1:30-3:00 p.m. in the Metro Health Professional Building. The group is led by an international Board Certified Lactation Consultant. All moms and babies are welcome, regardless of birth location. Visit our website for a full list of parent and family classes.

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