Supporting Breastfeeding Online
My journey toward breastfeeding support began 7 years ago, after I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree in Special Education. I taught in an elementary school for a year before I had my first baby, when I left teaching to stay at home.
After I became a mother, I discovered my love for birth and breastfeeding. I attended trainings and received certifications to become a birth doula, monitrice, postpartum doula, and placenta encapsulator. I eventually discovered my passion and aptitude for helping women breastfeed, and decided to become a Lactation Consultant.
Once my older children started kindergarten, I taught High School Resource English online. I wouldn’t describe myself as a very high-tech person, and even married a computer geek so I wouldn’t have to learn about computers. (I always joke that my husband is my IT department.) He helped me a lot in the beginning, but I eventually figured things out. My confidence with technology grew as I learned to work with students and parents remotely.
Eventually, I saw the benefit and possibilities of supporting breastfeeding women online. I quit my job and dedicated myself fully to breastfeeding support. Much of the support that I offer is online; there are so many ways to support a breastfeeding woman in a virtual environment, such as web searches, breastfeeding blogs, forums, email groups, social media threads, and even video conferencing. Breastfeeding women have access to more resources and support than ever before.
One of the easiest ways for a breastfeeding woman to get answers to her questions and make an informed decision is to do a simple web search. It is helpful to search for the exact information that is needed such as “symptoms of mastitis” or “How can I tell if my baby is getting enough breastmilk?”. There are researched-based articles on numerous blogs and websites dedicated solely to birth and breastfeeding issues. Women can subscribe and follow regularly, finding excellent answers to most questions. Joining Yahoo’s email-based discussion groups allows her to ask questions and respond when others have questions.
One of the most convenient ways for a Lactation Consultant to offer support to a breastfeeding woman is through texting and email. This gives the mother and her Lactation Consultant the ability to communicate throughout the day, and even into the night, asking and answering questions at their convenience. Text messages don’t only come to your phone, as many web-based services exist to send and receive SMS text messages on a computer.
One of the most popular and fastest growing ways to get the help with breastfeeding is to join birth and breastfeeding groups on Facebook or Google Plus. On these social platforms, women are able to post their questions and receive answers provided by the members of the group. The members of the group can be experienced birth professionals, specialized Lactation Consultants, or other mothers that have had similar challenges. Sometimes advice is provided, and other times a listening ear and compassionate commiseration is extended. The moderators of these groups can also post questions to engage followers in a discussion and bring up issues that may not otherwise be discussed. Many of these groups are closed and members are not permitted to see threads or post questions unless they are approved by the moderator. This gives the members of the group a feeling of security and supportive community. Hypnobirthing Utah’s Facebook presence is a good example of a thriving online support group.
Facebook private messaging provides a conduit for quick and convenient support. This gives breastfeeding mothers the ability to engage service providers in private dialogue and feel free to ask questions of a more personal or sensitive nature. An added benefit is that the messages go simultaneously to all Facebook-enabled devices in your possession, such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and even dumbphones with only text message capability. Bettering your chances of seeing and responding quickly to a question increases the level of service you can provide, especially in this fast-paced world. FaceBook private messaging also has the added benefit of notifying you if and when the message has been seen by the recipient, easing your mind if you haven’t had a response yet.
Perhaps the most connected way to support a breastfeeding woman is through the numerous web-based videoconferencing platforms that are available for free. Using Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceBook videochat, you can meet with a breastfeeding mother face-to-face on a computer, tablet or even your smart phone! This makes it possible to meet at otherwise inconvenient times for you or the mother that you are supporting. You can even give clear demonstrations of latching and positioning techniques, and make well-informed recommendations for possible issues such as thrush, mastitis, or sore nipples. Distance-education breastfeeding classes taught over a videoconference are also possible.
It is best to meet in person at least once to establish a good relationship with the client and her baby, but most client finding and follow-up can be done virtually. As long as a mother has access to a phone or an internet connection, so many forms of support are available!
Wendy is a lactation consultant and breastfeeding instructor for Breastfeeding Utah.