Healthy Living in the North

Supporting each other: mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate the mothers in our lives. While we recognize the important roles they play in the lives of their children and families, today I want to reflect on how mothers also support each other.

In particular, I have benefitted greatly from my connections with other breastfeeding mothers. I remember a time, a few months before my baby arrived, that I shyly peeked over a friend’s shoulder to watch how her baby latched onto her breast. I recall swapping stories and laughs (and maybe tears, too) with friends who also nursed their children. And then, there came a day when I was the mother who nursed her toddler while a pregnant friend looked on, and she shared with me that she planned to breastfeed her baby, too.

While support for breastfeeding can come in many forms, I found that connecting with other breastfeeding parents was especially important for me. It was so great to share and connect with others who understood some of the joys and realities I was experiencing – they got it, they understood. Simply knowing other parents who breastfed their children in the toddler years, in public, and on the go, helped me to feel comfortable doing the same.

group of mothers breastfeeding.

Mothers and families can benefit greatly from connecting with other breastfeeding mothers and families.

Like me, mothers might be able to get this type of support through family and friends. Parents may also get similar support from programs or volunteers in their communities. For example, La Leche League (LLL) is an organization that is founded on peer-to-peer support:

LLL Leaders have breastfed their own child(ren) and …enjoy talking with other parents, sharing information, and helping others resolve challenges.” -Sue Hoffman, Coordinator of Leader Accreditation in BC, LLL Canada

Leaders don’t just have valuable personal experiences to share; they also receive training from LLL in order to better support parents and to provide accurate information. Leaders might provide support via phone, email, or in-person visits, or through monthly informal group meetings. One leader described these meetings as “safe place(s) where any breastfeeding parent can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.”

Group settings provide the bonus of participants being able to connect with other families:

It’s so wonderful to have a group of parents come together and support one another. Each parent attending has valuable experiences to share with the next parent.” -Rowena, LLL leader

Whether through personal connections, or through an organization like LLL, breastfeeding parents benefit from connecting with other breastfeeding parents. One parent shared:

We have found a community of other breastfeeding mothers, a community which supports us as we support it…I encourage every pregnant or breastfeeding momma to join.” -Hayley, northern BC mother

Families who are expecting a new baby and those who are breastfeeding or chestfeeding* can connect with LLL for support, through the La Leche League Canada website, by finding a group in BC, or by calling the LLL central telephone lines.

*Some parents may prefer the term chestfeeding. For more information, see LLL Canada’s Transgender/Transsexual/Genderfluid Tip Sheet.

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.


La Leche League of Canada: Raven Thunderstorm talks about breastfeeding supports

Breastfeeding baby. Photo by April Mazzelli.The first week of October is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada! It is a great time to reflect on breastfeeding as an investment in healthy babies, mothers and communities. You can read more about World Breastfeeding Week here (and don’t forget to share your story for a chance to win a great prize!).

Yes, breastfeeding is natural; however moms need time and support to learn how. We are very fortunate to have individuals across the North who are passionate about breastfeeding advocacy and support. Raven Thunderstorm, from Terrace BC, is one such individual who wears many hats in the breastfeeding community: La Leche League Leader, birth Doula, and Childbirth Educator with the Douglas College Prenatal Program in Terrace.

What is a La Leche League Leader you may ask? Raven explains that the La Leche League of Canada provides mother-to-mother breastfeeding support through phone calls, emails or in person. Raven describes it as a safe place where any woman can get practical information about breastfeeding in a non-judgmental and supportive environment.  They host monthly groups on a variety of topics including benefits of breastfeeding, challenges, nutrition, and weaning. They also discuss some common myths and misconceptions about breastfeeding. For example, a common worry for new mothers is low milk supply, or that they won’t be able to produce enough for their baby. However, most moms are able to produce more than enough milk for their babies, as long as baby is feeding often and transferring milk effectively. It may be helpful to know that babies have tiny tummies – they start off as the size of a cherry! Also, a baby who seems fussy at the breast may be experiencing a growth spurt, and frequent feedings is actually your baby’s way of telling your body to make more milk – how amazing is that!

Raven’s interest in becoming a La Leche League Leader originated from her own experiences with breastfeeding her daughter while living in Iskut. She remembers that there were very little supports available for mothers in rural areas at the time, and in many areas that is still the case. She was fortunate to connect with a La Leche League Leader from Vancouver, and received valuable support over the phone. For women who may be encountering challenges with breastfeeding and are having difficulties accessing supports in their communities, Raven suggests picking up the phone and calling any of the La Leche League central telephone lines.

For information, resources and support visit the online breastfeeding community at La Leche League Canada Website, or find a La Leche League group  in your area.

Note: Raven was previously a LLL leader in Terrace, but is no longer active in that role. For more current La Leche League information please see Supporting each other: mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding or visit the La Leche League Canada Website

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!