Each One, Teach One
I'm sure most of you have read or heard about the recent Wall Street Journal article, "Dying for Milk." I hope you responded to the Journal to let them know that even though we zealots don't have the money that the formula pushers do, we will not tolerate that kind of biased, sensational reporting. The article has focused widespread attention on the small percentage of women who, for whatever physiological reason cannot produce adequate milk to nourish an infant. We all know that these cases exist. There are women out there who are out there who want to breastfeed, but who cannot produce enough milk.
What we in the trenches dare not forget is that these women are a very small minority. I have heard both 1% and 5% with no concrete reference for either. There are also women who will not breastfeed. Think of motivation as a bell curve. Some women won't breastfeed no matter what you do. Some may or may not breastfeed depending on what you do. Some will breastfeed no matter what you do. We need to focus on the last two groups, particularly on the middle one. It is these women, the ones "on the fence" who most need our help and support. Given the right information and support, many of these women will be able to have a nursing experience that meets their own goals. (Each woman has her own idea of how long she'd like to nurse. If she is empowered to meet that goal, her breastfeeding experience will be a success.) Given the wrong information or not enough support, the women in this group will fail to meet their own goals or may not even attempt to nurse.
This brings me to my main point. How do we make sure that the women in the "maybe I'll try nursing for a couple of weeks" group get the support that they need to feel good about their nursing experience? That's where "Each One, Teach One" comes in. Allow me to share a personal anecdote. As I was working on the FactPacks to bring to the  ILCA Conference, the young man (probably college age) at the print shop started looking over my shoulder. I handed him a complete FactPack to read, and he was stunned. He had no idea that breastfeeding was so important. I handed him the QuotePack and the other FactPack, and he was even more amazed. He began to ask questions about some of the Facts and Quotes. "Doesn't nursing for THAT long (six months) hurt?" I explained that pain during breastfeeding is a sign that something is wrong and told him about proper positioning. "How long should a baby nurse?" gave me an opening to mention the option of child led weaning and to quote "it's the lucky baby who gets to nurse 'till he's two." [Dr. Antonio Novello, United States Surgeon General, Parade Magazine, Nov.11, 1990] I also told him that my happily nursing two year old was exploring the store with her dad and would be back to inspect the copier shortly. He was horrified by the marketing of formula and is now a supporter of the Nestle Boycott. He told me that he had a friend who was pregnant and that he would pass the information along to her. I gave him copies of the FactPacks, my business card, the card of a Lactation Consultant and the phone number of the local Le Leche League Group. I'm glad that I was able to educate him about breastfeeding and even more glad that he'll pass on the information. His friend may pass that information on to someone else. If we each reach out to the people in our sphere of influence, then they reach out, then slowly the word will spread. One person at a time.
©1994 Hannah J.G. Smith
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