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Breastfeeding Camaraderie

By Lynda Strouse, La Leche League Leader, Rockaway, New Jersey

There is a saying that goes, “We attract that which we are.” When I was a breastfeeding mother, and even when I no longer nursed my children, there were many occasions when I encountered another breastfeeding mother. This was frequently by chance, in the course of a typical day or on a vacation, and no matter where I was living or visiting in the world.

Once, I was boarding a flight in Europe where I was flying stand-by. It was a full flight and I was given the very last seat on the plane. When I finished buckling my seatbelt, the lady next to me began to nurse her baby. We spoke almost the entire flight about our breastfeeding experiences. Another time, I was at a cultural center in the town in Hawaii where my daughter was attending college. The cultural center was an outdoor event and it was a very hot, sunny day. A mother with a crying newborn baby looked frantic. I offered her my seat in the shade where she could nurse. Another time, in Minnesota, I was looking for peanut butter at a local grocery store when I was stopped and asked my opinion about a food decision. Somehow, breastfeeding came up in the conversation. In Florida, I was building sandcastles with my children when a mother holding a newborn asked if I had breastfed my children. She was from South America and wanted to know if it was okay for her to breastfeed on the beach.

Each mother I have met over the years of parenthood, as well as my time as a La Leche League Leader, has shared something positive, something challenging, or something life changing in regards to their breastfeeding journey. With each conversation, there is an understanding that we are not alone. We are not alone because, in a sense, we “attract” each other.

The conversations were so special that I wrote them down. As I wrote, I realized certain topics appeared more often than others. This led me to write questions in an interview style to share thoughts about one’s breastfeeding journey. I first asked these questions of a mother I recently met named Jill. Again, our meeting was by chance! My daughter started babysitting for a new family. When Jill, the mother of the children, gave my daughter care instructions for the day, she told my daughter that the almost one year old was still breastfeeding. My daughter, not shy about it, claimed with pride, “My mother breastfed me and all of my siblings, too!” This led to us talking about breastfeeding, and I invited Jill to a La Leche League meeting. Jill was thrilled to find another mother with whom to talk about breastfeeding, as well as to learn about breastfeeding support. This is the wonderful “camaraderie” we experience from living and sharing life as a breastfeeding parent.

Lynda: When did you decide you wanted to breastfeed? Jill: Since I was a little girl, I anticipated becoming a mother. Breastfeeding was something I thought was naturally part of being a mother. Every aspect of the journey of motherhood (including nursing) was so exciting to me.

L: How many children do you have? J: I have three children of my own and one stepchild.

L: Were you influenced by anyone when deciding to breastfeed? J: My mother nursed my brother and me and spoke positively about it, so I am sure that helped influence me.

L: Did your mother/grandmother breastfeed? J: Yes. My mother did and my maternal grandmother breastfed all six of her children. I am not sure about my paternal grandmother.

L: Did your mother/grandmother have a breastfeeding story that was passed down to you? J: Only one. I have a statue of Mary* on my shelf. The priest who baptized me brought the statue to our home one week after my christening. When he rang the doorbell, my mother was nursing me and could not answer the door because I was almost asleep. He left the statue on our front porch. I love the story and I treasure the statue to this day. *Mary refers to the mother of Jesus. Mary is held in high esteem by those practicing the Roman Catholic faith.

L: Do you have a breastfeeding story from your own experiences you would like to share? J: I have had several special moments while nursing all three of my children, a few of which have brought tears of joy to my eyes. I feel so thankful that I was able to have three healthy children and successfully nurse all three. I am still nursing my one year old.

L: What is your job/profession? J: I create, manufacture, and sell games and keepsakes to retailers and customers online.

L: Did you encounter any struggles and how did you resolve it? J: The only struggle I have had as a nursing mother was getting mastitis with all three children. I was able to continue nursing and overcome it with both natural remedies and medication.

L: What strength did you discover regarding breastfeeding? J: Multitasking. I have always done it, but nursing while packing a school lunch or sweeping is a task I will take this opportunity to brag about. Sometimes the baby may want to nurse for comfort or at a time that does not work for our family, but I still find a way. I think the two strengths that every nursing mother must have are patience and being selfless.

L: What advice would you give to a new mother starting her breastfeeding journey? J:  Enjoy the time with your baby. If you get discouraged because you can’t seem to multitask, save the things you can do while sitting (i.e. computer or things on paper) for when it’s time to pump or nurse.

Do not begin nursing and wonder if it will work. Begin your journey dedicated to making sure you succeed. The benefits a child receives from nursing outweigh any issues. This one selfless act that you will do for a few months or a couple of years will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Your body was built for this and you can do it!