Five years ago when Whitney Young, 27, was pregnant with her first child, she wanted to breastfeed him but didn’t have the support or know where to get it.
“I did what others did because it was normal,” Young said of the decision to give her son formula.
The second time around was different. Now, the mother of a 2-month-old daughter, Young took a different route.
She’s a member of the La Leche League of Georgia. Young said she started coming while pregnant because she knew she wanted to breastfeed.
“It was hard, but now it’s easy,” said Young, who attributes that to things she’s learned attending the monthly meetings.
Group leader Erin Lewis said that’s one of the benefits of the group.
“Mothers can meet other nursing moms and it helps them to feel less alone,” said Lewis, who has led the group since 2008, “especially if they didn’t know anyone else who was breastfeeding.”
In this group, mothers find the support to be a key benefit and they also can get information that is evidence based from trained La Leche League members with knowledge to give them and apply it to their own situation, according Lewis.
Last Monday, Young, along with a few other mothers, held their meeting at Meadowdale Baptist Church in the nursery.
While their children played in a nearby room, the mothers discussed the facts and fallacies of breastfeeding.
Lewis read information and each member would say if they thought the statement was true or false.
“There is no benefit to breastfeeding. You can’t breastfeed after six months. Mothers can’t breastfeed after the baby gets teeth,” Lewis read.
All of those statements are fallacies, according to Lewis.
Also participating in the group were Sarah Boswell and Candida Johnson, along with Young. Lewis said attendees vary each month, sometimes they have three to five women and sometimes there are 10 to 12 moms in the group.
La Leche League runs through a series of four different topics during their meetings. During the first month, the topic deals with the advantages and benefits to breastfeeding.
“Every time you come its a different angle on the advantages,” said Lewis.
The second meeting topic discusses new babies and what to expect in the early weeks.
“We may focus on siblings, dads and just incorporating that new baby into the family,” she said. The third topic is the art of breastfeeding and overcoming difficulty.
And the last meeting the group discusses nutrition, weaning and starting solids.
Boswell, who is currently pregnant with her fourth child and due next month, has been nursing for almost six years. Her children are ages 5, 4 and 2. She says she does it for the health benefits and bonding. “It makes me feel closer to my kids,” said Boswell, who has nursed her first and second at the same time. She is still nursing the 2-year-old.
“I still see her as a baby, to others she’s so big, but to me she’s my baby,” Boswell said.
Lewis said it’s perfectly okay to nurse while pregnant. “Some people think you can’t because it takes away from the baby,” Lewis said. However, that’s a myth.
Johnson has been a member of the group for close to eight years. The mother of 8- and 1-year-old boys said she breastfed her oldest until he was 3.
She’s still breastfeeding her younger son who will be 2 in May. She says there is no set time on when to stop. “Weaning is a gradual thing,” Johnson said.
Lewis is also a long time breast feeder. Her children are 10, 7 and 3. “I’ve pretty much been breastfeeding for 10 years off and on,” she said. “I still breastfeed my 3 year old.”
Some misconceptions about breastfeeding that Lewis has heard are it’s the same as bottle-feeding. “I’ve heard that you can leave your baby for a couple hours and your milk will be ok, that may be true for one mom but not the other,” she said.
Lewis said some people seem to think that breastfeeding is something that is not to be done in public.
“We hear that often and try to encourage moms because that’s the normal way of feeding your baby,” she said. “We want them to feel comfortable being a part of society as we do what we know medically and biologically what is best for their babies.”
Another common misconception is that breastfeeding will make babies too dependent on mothers. “Breastfeeding produces a more confident child,” Lewis said. She continued, “Babies are meant to form that secure attachment with their mother early on in life and from that secure base, they can grow into other relationships with other people in a healthy way.”
The La Leche League started almost 60 years ago in a Chicago suburb.
The northwest Georgia league meets every second Monday in Calhoun at Meadowdale Baptist Church at 10 a.m. and in Rome every third Tuesday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 10 a.m.; membership is $40 a year.
For more information, visit www.lllofga.org and click on the northwest Georgia link. Erin Lewis can also be reached at 706-234-3980.