August is national breastfeeding month, and many organizations exist locally to help mothers through their breastfeeding journeys.
OhioHealth Lactation Consultant Laura Allen, RN BSN IBCLC oversees a breastfeeding support group with three other lactation consultants to help mothers who choose to breastfeed. Mothers meet in the Labor and Delivery Unit at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m.
As a lactation consultant, Allen sees all moms that come through OhioHealth that decide to breastfeed. She also speaks with and educates mothers that are making the decision of whether to breast or bottle feed their babies.
She stressed that breastfeeding is a choice and explained that she would never force it on a mother.
“I provide information on breastfeeding so women can feel comfortable making an informed decision,” said Allen. “I’m here before their baby is born, postpartum and after they are discharged when they have questions.”
She started a support group, called TLC or “The Lactation Club,” so that mothers could come to a free group to share and get help along their breastfeeding journey.
“It’s a place where moms can come and openly talk about questions and concerns,” said Allen. “They can share successes and troubles, and they can get advice from myself and three other lactation consultants.”
During the session, lactation consultants also offer a weighted feed to ensure the baby is transferring milk properly to ensure proper growth.
Concerns that moms come in with range from breastfeeding-specific issues, such as latching, to concerns about motherhood as a whole, such as going back to work.
“Moms will come and share advice,” explained Kristie Smith, RN CLC, another lactation consultant for TLC. “Some come without babies just because of the community. The group is fantastic not only for getting breastfeeding advice, but also for moms connecting other moms with community resources, online groups and local area groups they have found to work for them.”
Allen spoke about one Mansfield mother, Shaina Barretta, who came to the group initially because she was struggling to breastfeed shortly after her baby was born. With the advice of the lactation consultations and other mothers, her baby was latching and growing properly within a couple of group sessions.
But she kept coming back to the support group long after she had received the help she needed. She even attended the weekly sessions on her lunch breaks from work for almost a year, just to help new mothers as others had helped her.
“All the help and support I got meant so much to me. I wanted to return that [support],” said Barretta.
By doing so, she realized that helping these mothers was a great passion of hers. Because of this, she became a Breastfeeding Peer Helper at WIC.
As a Peer Helper, Barretta meets with prenatal and breastfeeding mothers. She offers support and encouragement to moms about breastfeeding, and she checks in with them regularly throughout the entire process.
Barretta said that without The Lactation Club, she never would have moved into the position. “If it wasn’t for them helping me with a successful journey of breastfeeding, I wouldn’t have been able to get this job,” she said. “I found this would be a way to support others after all the support they gave me.”
She stressed that with breastfeeding, a support system is essential. She credits her success with her second child to her family and The Lactation Club.
Allen agreed that a support system is absolutely essential to be successful, and if a mother does not have one at home, this is when support groups are especially helpful. She said that the mothers in her group often discuss other local groups with one another.
She also discussed how mothers in the group become a support system for one another outside of the group as well.
“I’ve seen many friendships develop in the support group,” said Allen. “There’s a group of moms that came everyday for a year that take swimming classes together. Some moms come after they’ve gotten all the help they need just for the community.”
For more information, visit the OhioHealth breastfeeding support page.