Breastfeeding: What, Why, How?

In the early 1950s in the USA, three breastfeeding mothers met at a church picnic and realised that they all felt disappointed that breastfeeding was not being ​supported or encouraged enough​. ​Shortly thereafter they were joined by four more mothers, and they became an energetic mothers’ support group. From those humble beginnings, La Leche League has become a worldwide organisation, officially recognised by the WHO and UNICEF. LLL has published many books, of which their key publication, ​The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding​, is now in its 8th (revised) edition.

What​ is the value of breastfeeding?

It has ensured our survival from the beginning of time and gives our babies the best foundation for life. The first 1000 days of a person’s life have a direct impact upon the rest of that life. If a baby is not given the right nutrition, good care, love, and security this can have a negative effect, causing enduring physical and mental problems. It is said that breastmilk is​​ ​one of​ ​the greatest gifts you can give your baby.

Why​ should it be supported and encouraged?

In spite of the above, breastfeeding mothers ​often​ ​lack help and support from hospitals, midwives, medical staff, and even their own family and circle of friends. Many mothers are already discouraged while pregnant. Some mothers feel that breastfeeding is not possible, as they will be returning to work. Not all governments do enough to counter the undermining of breastfeeding by manufacturers of formula or breastmilk substitutes. This is where organisations like LLL can provide support, knowledge, and encouragement for mums and dads.

How​ to do it? As with birth preparation classes, look into breastfeeding preparation sessions as well. These will help to prepare for the time after birth, when many mothers feel unsure of how to start breastfeeding. Occasionally, emotions are in disarray due to hormonal changes, and breastfeeding may help mothers to connect with their babies. For a baby, the comfort of nursing at mother’s breast is a wonderful way to start life after the safety of the womb and the shock of coming into a strange new world.

Check the internet for information and look at the LLL website for your country, where there are contact details of leaders and group meetings for pregnant and nursing mums. You can also find LLL advisors on the internet and call them up for help and advice.

Positioning is one of the main difficulties new mums experience, and help from a LLL Leader can help to get Baby in the right position at the breast, thus avoiding sore nipples. Trust your instincts and disregard rules on timed breastfeeding. You are the best person to give your newborn security, comfort, and the suitable nourishment which also helps prevent serious infections, allergies, and more in the early years and in later adult life. And the hormones involved in breastfeeding are passed on to your partner or husband and will make him more gentle and protective. ​

So maybe if you are expecting a baby, or even thinking of having one, you would like to think about the ​What​, ​Why​, and ​How​ of breastfeeding: these will show you the best way for you and your baby to get off to a good start with breastfeeding.

By Joanna Koch

Joanna has been a La Leche League advisor since the early 1990s. A mother from one of her groups launched the idea of ​Mothering Matters​ (now Family Matters Switzerland) in 1994, which has developed into a successful online website, helping mothers, fathers, and families over many years. Joanna has three children and eight wonderful, loving (and breastfed) grandchildren.

Illustration by Aleksandra Koroleva

Aleksandra, originally from Moscow, Russia, now lives in Adliswil with her husband and almost-four-year-old son. She specializes in clinical psychology and started studying illustration after her son’s birth. In her free time Aleksandra likes sleeping, just as all mothers do.

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