A new baby arrives in the world; his mother wants to breastfeed. Ideally, mom and baby are surrounded and supported by extended family, a midwife or doula, and a friend or relative who breast-fed their babies.
This scenario is not as common today as in the past. If a new mother is blessed to have her mom or mother-in-law’s help, it is possible that neither woman breast-fed, or at the very least neither were able to fulfill their breast-feeding goals.
Perhaps our new mother is reading a book about breast-feeding, most likely on her Kindle or iPad. She may have participated in a breast-feeding class offered by the hospital before her baby was born. She might be joining other mothers and babies at local La Leche League International meetings, but in all probability, most of her breast-feeding information is being gleaned from the internet.
Breast-feeding information and support have been available online for many years, but more recently the number of websites, blogs, cellphone apps, and social media platforms has exploded. Online resources can be a godsend for a new mother whose family does not live nearby to lend support, or who finds it difficult to attend a class or a weekly meeting.
When seeking information and support online, it is important to consider the source.
▪ Is the site sponsored by a formula company?
▪ Is the information someone’s personal experience or opinion?
▪ Does the information come from a reputable breast-feeding organization or pediatrician?
▪ Is it evidence-based?
There is nothing wrong with opinions or shared experiences as long as moms don’t rely solely on them to make informed decisions for their families.
There is nothing that replaces in-person mother-to-mother support. When I was a new mom, it was a life-changing experience for me to attend local La Leche meetings and watch other women mother their babies and toddlers through baby wearing, which means carrying the baby in a shawl or sling; breast-feeding on cue; and gentle parenting. Having a group of women I could spend time with at the park or in each other’s homes between meetings was a lifesaver.
Though breast-feeding is natural, some mothers encounter challenges. There is no substitute for hands-on help when needed from an international board-certified lactation consultant, an accredited La Leche League leader or a knowledgeable breast-feeding counselor.
After getting the help they need, women may find online support tailored to their specific challenge. A quick tour of Facebook found several group pages, including support for moms of preemies, those with postpartum depression and moms working outside the home.
One Facebook page, Working Moms Who Make Breastfeeding Work has more than 15,000 members! Other moms find support on Twitter, Instagram, and even “old-fashioned” email ListServs.
Nervous new parents are vulnerable to marketing of the latest device or app that promises to help them care for their little one. At best these products are harmless extras, at worst they create a false sense of security and reinforce parents’ fears or feelings of inadequacy. They they create a disconnect rather than a stronger bond with their child.
Technology is always changing, but the needs of babies remain the same. It is important that parents learn to trust themselves and their babies. It is important they learn their infant’s cues and “watch the baby,” not the clock, device or app.
As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, let’s encourage new parents to be critical thinkers when it comes to online information and technology. Remember: Nothing can take the place of an attentive and loving parent.
Candy Paulsen is co-owner of Bliss Baking Co. of California. She is happy her husband Jim retired so he can work for her. You can reach her at BlissBakingCo@gmail.com.