Why Social Media Might Be Your Best Source for Breastfeeding Support
It’s 2 a.m.
Your newborn baby won’t stop crying. She’s nursing for what feels like the 50th time in a two-hour stretch. She seems satisfied after feeding – for now – but you know she’ll be howling again in 30 minutes.
You start to wonder if your milk is enough. No chance of sleeping now — you need some help. And the only help available at this hour is what you might find online.
Typing “is my baby getting enough milk?” into Ye Olde Google can lead to some interesting results – some that prove to be lifesavers and others that will make you fear the worst. My search years ago was quite fruitful, leading me to breastfeeding support groups on Facebook and some amazingly helpful mamas who were also awake at 2 a.m. and eager to answer my panicked concerns.
They told me they had been there too, especially in those first two weeks home with a new baby. He was cluster feeding, a process in which babies feed off the breast frequently to fill their tiny tummies since breastmilk is so easily digestible. It was normal, and it too would pass. If my baby was having wet diapers, he was getting enough.
What a relief! Soon, that Facebook group became my go-to source for breastfeeding information, and I often found the women there – some of whom were lactation consultants themselves or lactation consultants in training – to be fonts of wisdom. As months passed and I became more confident in my breastfeeding journey, I started answering so many questions and helping so much that the group leaders made me a moderator. Soon, I was the one looking for posts at 2 a.m. so I could help some frazzled new mamas. Dozens of groups can be found by doing a simple Facebook search. From groups for moms of newborns to moms who work outside the home to Latched Mama’s new group, you can find one that works best for you.
Is the key to breastfeeding success something as simple as joining a Facebook group? Not so fast. It’s true that social media has its benefits, and multiple studies have found that Facebook groups have helped mothers reach and exceed their breastfeeding goals more in-person sources have.
But all groups aren’t created the same. Here are some things to look for before diving in.
-Who’s in charge? A good support group should have involvement from lactation consultants at the admin or moderator level. Otherwise, inaccurate advice could go unchecked, possibly leaving mothers worse off than before. When everyone is saying what worked for them or what their grandmothers did in 1950, it can leave new mamas confused. Latched Mama has a team of certified lactation consultants, birth and postpartum doulas available for accurate breastfeeding support – and they’re there to help in the Facebook group as well.
-Beware of recommendations. You could spend a fortune listening to everyone’s tips for increasing milk supply. Maybe coconut water worked for them, but mamas have been breastfeeding long before pink drinks and sports beverages came on the scene — chugging those aren’t going to ensure the success of your breastfeeding journey. A good group will encourage best practices like nursing on demand when you’re with your baby and pumping every 2-3 hours when separated from your baby by work, travel or a hospital stay.
-Can the group help you reach your breastfeeding goals? If you visit a social media group with a concern, hopefully the members will encourage you to keep going if that’s what you want to do! I get disheartened when a mama appears to have thrown in the towel when her baby is barely two months old, and other mamas are saying “the same thing happened to me.” Many breastfeeding swan songs are really a cry for help – while it’s great to sympathize, make sure to offer assistance and advice to help her keep going if she wants, as her issue is often one that can be solved with accurate support and education.
-In-person support remains crucial. A visit to a lactation consultant can help when you have latching concerns or worries about your milk supply. But when you just can’t wait, your online support groups are available 24/7 – but wise members there should suggest you see someone in person as well.
I’ve had nothing but positive experiences from my time in breastfeeding social media groups. In addition to them helping me nurse my boys well over a year, I’ve made some friends for life, even though we’ve never met in person. Some members have used their social media support group experience to launch second careers as lactation consultants, gaining enough knowledge to earn appointments to local, regional and national organizations for breastfeeding advocacy.
We’ve all come a long way from that desperate search for help online at 2 a.m. And with the help of your social media tribe, you will too.