Badass Breastfeeding Moms seek virtual support

As the laundry steadily engulfs our upstairs floor, the dishes sprawl from one counter top to another, and my daughters nap simultaneously (insert applause here), I take foolish Facebook quizzes like this one to determine how many children I should have.

I’m asked to pick a favorite activity.

Option 1: Carrying a weight equivalent to a sack of potatoes around for two to three years.

Option 2:  Wearing clothing artfully spattered with vomit, urine, and feces.

Option 3: I can’t choose. They both sound delightful.

Umm… Option 3? I can appreciate a good bit of sarcasm.

I continue to answer questions about my financial status, what kind of car I drive, and how much sleep I require.

Then, “How many arms do you have?” the quiz asks.

Option 1: Four.

Option 2: I am actually an octopus.

Option 3: Two.

Seriously? This is ridiculous. I shake my head and choose Option 3. Obviously.

Nine questions answered. The screen loads.

You should have…

ONE.

We’re guessing you could handle a single child. After all, one child is more like an accessory than a total lifestyle change. Don’t push your luck though. Have any more than one child and you’re setting yourself up for trouble. With one child, you should be able to continue life as usual, at least after the first ten or twenty years…

Hurmpf. Guess this prophetic quiz came a little too late.

I find myself feeling a little sleazy for partaking in this nonsense. This virtual playground is where I often find myself searching for amusement, comradery and a strange sort of socialization as a work from home mom. These sleazy, little quizzes are nuances of “an elaborate infrastructure of virtual support” created by mothers and mothers-to-be. [http://www.praeclaruspress.com/VirtualBreastfeedingCultureHome.html]

In The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture: Seeking Mother-to-Mother Support in the Digital Age, author Laura Audelo, CLEC explores how “online breastfeeding support has produced a thriving and expanding community of women committed to strengthening the sisterhood upon which so many mothers have come to rely.”

The notion of mothers and children corporeally interacting in a tribe is nearly extinct in our culture. With the exception of 50 minute, Mommy and Me, Friday morning music classes, mothers interact with one another behind handheld electronics.

unnamed-2This shift in sisterhood has brought rise to niche Facebook groups including Lactation Counselor and mother Kiersten Dyer’s Badass Breastfeeding Tucson Moms.

Dyer says she initially created the group because she was “just looking for friends…that were in the same life stage…with similar parenting styles.”

“As the group grew it became so much more than that,” she says.

Today, the group has over 600 members. Its sister group, Badass Birthy Tucson Moms, houses just under 200 members.

Motherhood is isolating and thats why Dyer says that virtual support is necessary.

“There have been many days that I just can’t manage to get out of the house,” she explains. “But to be able to pull up that group and talk to mothers that know how I feel has been absolutely invaluable. And for mothers that are struggling with a newborn and trying to figure out breastfeeding, the ease of making a Facebook post is a necessity.”

When she was 18, Dyer had her first child in a hospital in Glendale, Ariz.

“It wasn’t until I got pregnant with my second child that I realized just how traumatic my first birth was,” she remembers. “I had a lot of interventions, some necessary and some not. It was definitely not the experience that I had envisioned and hoped for.”

Moreover, Dyer struggled with early breastfeeding.

“I had blistered nipples at first but was told that it was supposed to hurt at first, so I pushed through it,” she says.

Although she and her first daughter overcame many struggles, Dyer cherishes her breastfeeding relationship.

“I have one clear memory…of sitting on the couch nursing her in the middle of the night, trying not to drift off,” she begins. “I remember looking down at her sweet sleepy face and thinking, ‘At least we have this.’”

Dyer reports having regrets when she ultimately weaned her first born at 10 months.

“I regretted it even as I was doing it,” she says.  “It felt wrong but everything I saw seemed to tell me that six months was good enough. I never knew of the risks of formula.”

Dyer’s second and third children were both born at a freestanding birth center.

“I felt empowered with their births. I felt amazing and strong,” she recalls.

unnamed-1Dyer went on to nurse her second child for 17 months, and nursed her third child through her pregnancy with her fourth baby who was born at home.

“Motherhood has always been a part of my identity as an adult,” Dyer says. “Breastfeeding became a way of parenting, a way to identify with other mothers, and my favorite way to connect with my children in their early years. It was only natural to me to want to help others to have such an experience.”

She says that most of The Badass Breastfeeding Tucson Moms come to the group with concerns about supply and pumping output.

“Most but not all of the time, the milk supply concerns are resolved with some reassurance and education,” Dyer assures.

She also mentions that many moms feel that they need to cover themselves while nursing in public.

“With 100 degree plus temperatures for most of the summer, this can be a real challenge,” Dyer says.

Overall, Dyer reports countless mothers have found support, information, and comradery in the group.

She recalls one mother in particular: a mother of three, a first-time nursing mother, who posted nearly every day with questions and concerns trying to reach her goal of breastfeeding for at least three months.

“Eventually I offered to meet with her,” Dyer says. “Her baby is now closing in on two years old, and two years of nursing. Around a year she told me that she wouldn’t still be nursing if it weren’t for me. That was the moment that the importance of this group really hit me.”

In a virtual setting, advice isn’t always evidence-based though.

“Most of these mothers are relying on their personal experience and what they have heard,” Dyer says.

Luckily as the sole administrator, Dyer offers professionalism and credibility. She completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course because she was looking for an accreditation that was achievable as a stay at home mother of four. She also calls herself “a big lactation geek.”

“I love learning new things about breastfeeding and seeing new studies on breastfeeding and solving breastfeeding issues, and the opportunity to spend a whole week doing that surrounded by women doing the same was not something I could pass up!”

­Dyer says she found the counseling aspects of the course most helpful.

“I know a lot about breastfeeding, but learning how to approach the actual women and help them as a person was extremely interesting and beneficial to me,” she says.

You can find Dyer’s The Badass Breastfeeding Tucson Moms Facebook group here.

To find out more about The Lactation Counselor Training Program, click here.

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