Hope Hillman sat with a group of moms as part of a breastfeeding support group and made a comment that resonated with other moms: “(My grandfather) said that breastfeeding is easy; that our bodies were made to do it.”
With her 5-month-old daughter seated on her lap, Hillman continued to tell her story about the days following Alanna’s Feb. 18 birth. Alana arrived three weeks early at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont. Hillman said she kicked her grandfather out of her hospital room — temporarily, of course, after he made the comment.
Like a lot of mothers, Hillman did not find breastfeeding easy, and she wasn’t about to take grief from her grandfather.
“There is this mom shaming when you can’t do it right off the bat,” she said. “That is what’s great about this group — all the moms here are incredibly supportive.”
The breastfeeding support groups
The mothers in the group are all of different ages, and not all of them delivered at LPH. But they were there for support and to build friendships that blossom from the hospital’s breastfeeding support groups.
“This group is all about them,” said Becky Boyd, a registered nurse and lactation consultant with UCHealth.
Boyd started the Monday group in September 2017 and in January 2018, she started the Saturday Family Support Group, which welcomes breastfeeding couples. She had helped grow a similar group at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland several years before.
“It’s the relationships and friendships that come out of these breastfeeding support groups,” she continued. “And the empowerment it provides moms — knowing there is someone who cares — helps promote longevity in breastfeeding.”
Chelsea Yoder spoke up next.
“I don’t think I would have made it through without this support,” she said as her 4-month-old son Samson sucked contently on her breast. He was born full-term on March 20, 2018 at LPH, but she struggled to get him to latch properly in the weeks following, resulting in what many mothers experience: sore and bloody nipples. She had moved to Longmont only the year before and didn’t have a strong support base established by the time she had delivered. “I didn’t have anyone,” she explained.
The breastfeeding support groups thrives in a relaxed atmosphere. Two moms sit on chairs, both nursing their several-week-old babies, and have a private conversation while one of the lactation consultants helps a mother of twins get her babies out of their car seats and weighed. About half a dozen women sit on blankets that are spread out on the floor. Each one of their babies was working on a different milestone: some were rolling over, some sitting and some crawling. The moms talked about the challenges of motherhood.
“This group has really prepared me to go out and do other things,” Yoder explained. “The first week home, I was by myself, so I was nervous about going out. But coming here gave me that self-confidence to do other things, and I’m also less self-conscious about breastfeeding in public.”
The room began to fill with chatter, babbling and a bit of fussing. Another mother, who had red, tired eyes, put her car seat down. The red in her eyes showed exhaustion, and a lactation consultant leaned in for a hug. The two talked for quite a while.
“Asking questions doesn’t mean you are a bad mom, it makes you an advocate,” Hillman said.
A group for all moms
The children were of different ages, too. For some moms, this was their first baby, but others also had their toddlers by their side. A middle-school aged girl was sitting, thumbing through her phone.
Mothers don’t need to have delivered at LPH to attend the weekly Monday group, which happens from 10 a.m. to noon in the third-floor conference room. Moms don’t even need to be breastfeeding to seek the group’s support, said Boyd, who referenced one mother who had to stop breastfeeding but still attends to get help with other feeding challenges.
“We are promoting health by encouraging moms to continue to breastfeed but also by providing them sound evidence-based practices,” she said. “So many of them go to Dr. Google, but you’re not always seeing the most current research. We help them get sound medical advice because this is an ongoing journey.”
As part of that, Boyd brings in speakers about once a month to the Monday group to discuss relevant topics for moms. This has included a dietitian who discussed allergies and introducing solid foods, and a Boulder County RN from the Children with Special Needs program who talked about infant development and sleep. They’ve also had a mom yoga session and information on baby sign language.
It takes a village
Although the Monday group is for the moms, the Saturday group allows partners and support people to attend as well.
“Because it’s a family journey,” Boyd explained.
The family support group is 5:30-7:30 p.m. two Tuesdays a month (look for “breastfeeding support” classes and events near you).
The family support group gives the partners an opportunity to talk with others experiencing similar circumstances, and it gives moms a safe place to breastfeed in front of other people, which Boyd said promotes breastfeeding safely in public. A speaker often joins that group each month.
“This is such a cool way to unite people,” said Kait Harper, a mother of a middle school child and 9-month-old Odin, who was on her lap. “I didn’t realize the social benefits of breastfeeding support groups, but there is a need to meet other mothers, and it’s great to watch the babies bond together.”
Making friends as an adult is hard, explained Amy Quinn, who was the first mom to attend the group when it started. That’s why the group also created a Facebook page. It’s allowed members to connect outside of the class, which resulted in such social gatherings as a barbeque at one member’s home that about a dozen of the moms and their families attended.
“I was thrilled when I heard this,” Boyd said. “These are young moms, and they need that support. We are building a strong community by providing breastfeeding support groups, and I feel this is a small piece of UCHealth’s future in supporting health care in this community.”
Support groups near you…
Longs Peak Hospital
Meets every Monday at 10 a.m. on the third floor in Conference Room A
1750 E. Ken Pratt Boulevard
Longmont, CO 80504
Questions? Call 720.718.3199
Medical Center of the Rockies
Meets every Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon on the lower level of MCR
2500 Rocky Mountain Avenue
Loveland, CO 80538
Questions? Call 970.624.5120
Poudre Valley Hospital
Meets every Thursday at 10 a.m. to noon and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon at Westbridge Medical Suites in the Westbridge Conference Center
Our lactation team also offers a NICU support group for parents on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the NICU parent lounge
1107 S. Lemay Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Questions? Call 970.495.8283
Also search for “breastfeeding support” on uchealth.org/events.