As the Surgeon General discussed in her Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, one of the biggest obstacles is a lack of support and misinfomation.
Friends can be well-meaning, but not all of them understand the intricacies of breast milk and breastfeeding, and can believe things to be true that aren't. In fact, many women who were led to believe they couldn't breastfeed likely could have with educated and helpful support.
And forget most pediatricians. Too often they don't know enough. In fact at the Call to Action a nursing student asked about lack of breastfeeding education in her curriculum -- she was told that she'd have to seek out specific breastfeeding education herself as there aren't standards to ensure anyone gets it in medical training.
But fortunately, there are people who are trained in breastfeeding, and they're often just a mouse click or phone call away, and the best part? Most of them are totally free.
It's La Leche League -- and I don't think the scope of their assistance is totally understood. It's an organization for moms, run by moms, to help support women in their breastfeeding goals -- whether that be to supplement with formula while at work, only nurse for 6 weeks, or to breastfeed full term. Their goal is to help you achieve your goal, despite any personal opinions they may have. La Leche (The Milk) League Leaders have undergone extensive training and education in breastfeeding, and have many resources constantly at their fingertips, and the ability to get resources to you as well.
Many women start attending meetings while pregnant, to help answer any questions or misconceptions, and to just meet and get used to the local group. Also, because that Leader can become your best resource if you need one-on-one help.
Beware of just "Lactation Consultant" labels. Sometimes the women in hospitals who call themselves lactation consultants do so because they've attended conferences on breastfeeding ... often sponsored by formula companies. Look for someone who has "IBCLC" (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or "CLC" or "CLEC" (Certified Lactation Educator Counselor) behind their name. At least that way you know they've had training. If you need in-hospital help, you can also call upon your local LLL leader (whom you've already met, right?) and they can come visit you in the hospital.
I actually have called La Leche League multiple times in my life with various questions, either via the international number, or the local branch. You can reach them almost any time of day, and they can even come to your house to help you out (which is why it's great to already know your Leader so you know who to expect at your door). Also, if you've been attending meetings, chances are you've met some breastfeeding-educated moms too, who are likely to be able to help you out or at least commiserate with you.
In addition, WIC often has "breastfeeding peer counselors" who are other moms who've also been educated about breastfeeding and have taken it upon themselves to help other moms with breastfeeding when they need it.
DO NOT call a formula company's "Breastfeeding Helpline." That's like calling a plastic surgeon for support when you're upset about weight gain. It may sound like good help, but it's not. The same goes for companies that may appear to support breastfeeding but aren't compliant with the World Health Organization's Code of Ethics.
If you're looking for information online, the same thing applies: your source is very important. Honestly, you can find just about everything you need just between the La Leche League, Kellymom (I find both of their sites difficult to navigate and just Google a topic with their name in it, such as: "kellymom extended nursing") and Dr. Jack Newman's breastfeeding page.
Last but absolutely not least is the support of other moms. Moms who have been very successful in their breastfeeding relationships, often CLECs, IBCLCs, and LLL Leaders mixed in among them, are amazing resources. It's hard to find the right groups, but believe it or not, those who are often accused of being the least supportive are honestly the most supportive when people come looking for help -- even if you're supplementing or struggling.
Where did you get the best, factual, and helpful support?
Image via Amy Lynn W