The Time I Accidentally Attended a Breastfeeding Support Group

Alternate title: 
The Time I Accidentally Attended a Breastfeeding Support Group 
(And why I Don’t Think I’ll go Back)

So there I was, enjoying a cup of coffee at a local cafe. I was fresh out of a well-baby check for my two-month old (an appointment where my newborn screamed her little head off after getting her first round of vaccines), and was “wearing” my little one, when someone came up to me from the room next door.

She noticed I was wearing Madilyn and wanted to see if I cloth diapered her. I told her that I didn’t, but she handed me an invitation to a cloth diapering event. “That’s cool,” I thought, and already decided in my mind that I wouldn’t be attending (not because we don’t cloth diapers, but because it was in the next town over and I just didn’t feel like it). I put the invitation in my purse and then she lingered around for a second too long. I could tell she had more to say, so I looked up at her. She asked me if I breastfed by chance. “By chance, I do!” I told her, and that’s when she invited me into a meeting currently going on—it was a La Leche League Breastfeeding Support Group. My ears perked up, because I’d actually been curious about attending one for awhile, but never got around to it.

The meeting was almost over, but she said it was okay if I popped in. So with my baby strapped to my chest, I packed up my things and went into my first breastfeeding support group.

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At first, things were cool. I introduced myself and shared a quick version of my breastfeeding history, and felt welcomed. I looked around and quickly realized it was a somewhat diverse group. There was someone asking about mastitis, another lady was nursing her newborn with a boppy, there were several women openly breastfeeding their little ones of all ages, and a few women wore their babies in cool carriers that I can’t afford quite yet. I felt welcomed…like these could be my people.

The hot topic of the meeting was about wearing a cover while breastfeeding in public. I personally don’t wear one (you can read about that here), but if others do, that’s cool. I was excited to hear what other women had to say about that topic since I know levels of comfort vary. It was positive at first and people offered suggestions on what to say if someone suggested you cover up while breastfeeding in public. But then the conversation got awkward.

Someone said (I kid you not, and I’m sorry for even writing this “out loud”) that she was at a pediatrician’s office and was breastfeeding her daughter in the lobby when someone sitting across from her (who was bottle feeding her child) asked her to cover up. Now, I get it; I’d be slightly annoyed if someone asked me to cover up, too, but what she said next was uncalled for, completely inappropriate, and utterly distasteful. The breastfeeding mom told this other women: “Well, I’m more offended that you’re putting a [insert type of sex toy here] in your child’s mouth.” Excuse me? Say what again? I didn’t even have time to get over the shock of what I just heard when the actual leader of the meeting said, “Yeah, I’m way more offended by bottle feeders than I am with seeing someone’s breast from breastfeeding in public.”

What just happened? Was that real life? I was in total shock!!!

First of all, how dare anyone equate a bottle to a sex toy? That’s completely and extremely irrational. Second, not that it matters in the slightest, but you don’t know that mom’s story or reason for not breastfeeding at all—it’s not anyone’s place to judge her. You don’t know that it’s not breast milk in the bottle. The baby may be adopted, or the mom may have tried and tried and tried her absolute hardest to breastfeed and just couldn’t. Or, you know what? She may not have wanted to even bother with breastfeeding, and that’s okay, because she’s the parent of her child and she’s the one making her own parenting decisions. Third, for it being a “support” group, that was the absolute least supportive thing I’ve probably ever heard. There were first-time moms there who may have been struggling—who were struggling from the conversation I heard when I walked in. Now if they ever contemplate or need to stop breastfeeding, there’s a really good chance they’ll feel even more guilty, and trust me, there is nothing like the guilt you feel as a mom when you don’t think you can provide the “most natural thing on earth” for your child. Been there, done that.

Moms: feed your baby however you want. Yes, scientifically speaking, breast is best, but you know what? It’s not the only way. Before I had my second baby I was mentally prepared to give up on breastfeeding. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle going through what I did with my first, and for my sanity, we even had formula on hand just in case. And on top of feeding your baby however you want, please surround yourself with uplifting people who are positive and support your decision. There are too many things we’ll feel guilty for in our parenting season, and the trip down guilt lane shouldn’t start here.

I was honestly extremely ashamed to be a breastfeeding mom in that moment. There’s this whole “normalize breastfeeding” movement happening nowadays, but it can’t happen with the I’m-better-than-you stigma that some women have. Yeah, I’d be slightly upset if someone asked me to cover up, but there are a million and one other responses instead of what she said. And to be offended by bottle feeders? No way, jose. Without the bottle and formula, so many of us wouldn’t be here today.

Whew. So. That’s my story about how I accidentally attended my first (and last) breastfeeding support group. I just really hope I went to a fluke of a meeting and that there are other groups out there that are actually helpful, considerate of their members, and more uplifting than the one I attended. And if you bottle feed your child and have ever felt put down by a breastfeeding mama, I’m so sorry for your experience; not all of us think formula is the end of the world!

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14 Comments

  1. I have never heard anything good about LLL. It's always "their way or you're poisoning your baby and we're calling CPS on you." Not even joking, okay, maybe a little but they came to talk to my centering group when I was PG with my first and my friend said she was going to formula feed and the lady goes "oh, and which powdered poison have you decided on?" WHAT!?! Not supportive at. all.

  2. Preach it sister! And praise the Lord for formula! Without my child wouldn't be alive, we tried breastfeeding with my first and she simply wasn't gaining enough weight! And how in the world is anyone ever supposed to adopt a baby without formula?

  3. I'm still appalled. I don't know how anyone could be that offensive and ignorant.

    When I was pregnant with Charlotte, one of the older ladies in our church had asked me about breast/bottle feeding. When I told her I was planning to breastfeed, she said, "No one did that when I had kids. Everyone bottle fed their babies. It wasn't popular then." Her kids are probably 10-15 years older than I am. My mom nursed me for a while, but stopped because I had reflux (though they didn't know that then, and there were no baby meds for it) and the doctors recommended a certain type of formula. My brother was 100% bottle fed. Very few of my friends' mothers nursed them. In fact, growing up I knew NO ONE who breast fed. My first 'experience' with it was when my SIL had my niece. My MIL nursed all of her kids, but only because a friend had told her that she believed God made her body to produce milk for a reason.

    It may not be the healthiest option, but is fast food the healthiest option for adults? NO. We choose to eat it for many reasons: ease, access, we don't feel like cooking, etc. There are far better reasons moms choose to us formula. This kind of attitude is why people want nothing to do with "those crazy women who breastfeed."

  4. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That's my reaction to this.

    I am really sick of the "breast is best" mantra and the attitude that goes along with it. I breastfed our son (and plan to do it for any future children). I am supportive of people who choose to breastfeed and think it's probably a good thing for moms to try. BUT to make it a cut and dry issue is ridiculous. Your worth as a mother (or a woman) is not determined by whether or not you breastfed!

    Glad you posted this (and even more glad that you're not planning on going back!).

  5. I couldn't agree with you more. You have to do what's right for your family, but the La Leche league (as a general whole) are very against (to the point of being rude like that) to bottle feeders OR pumpers. It's embarrassing!

  6. Yikes.

    I was able to breast feed, but I know some people can't or don't want to. It's their choice. I don't understand people who get so upset if people decide not to breast feed.

  7. That makes me sad 🙁 I felt super welcome and supported at my local LLL when Penny was younger, but yeah, sometimes people would say some weird things… not as crazy as that! I breastfed for 2.5 years, and my kid still had a bottle sometimes. At least the baby is getting fed.

  8. Holy moly. I would be so unsettled that I'd probably have said something snarky and walked out right then and there. Not cool of them at all. I don't do well with judgmental people. :-/

  9. Oh wow! That is unreal. I breastfeed, but because it works for me, but that doesn't make me a better mom. The most important thing is to care for our babies and support each other as moms doing the best job we can. Knocking down other moms is not cool. Great job on the post – agree with you.

  10. This makes me super sad. I've attended LLL meetings before and while there were always some strange comments nothing like that. The ones I attended were pretty informative and everyone was so supportive. Maybe you could try another one in another area? When I started weaning Dominick I had a TON of stored breastmilk and wanted to donate it, but didn't want to go through all of the screening for hospitals. The leader for my LLL group that I attended gave me a handful of people/facebook pages to post on. I gave mine to a mom who wasn't able to produce enough. It just makes me sad that there is so much negative stigma to moms who don't breastfeed or strictly pump. Motherhood is hard enough without all the judgement and negativity from another mom! Thanks for posting your experience.

  11. I had a bad experience with the LLL myself. The meeting I went to was extremely judgmental of any and all decisions I had made. I have also found this to be true with my MIL who at one point was a LLL Leader. I will say that I do not think that they are all the same. My friend loves her group of ladies and said that nothing like this has ever happened to her there. She mentioned that they were not judgmental and it was more of a place where you could share ideas, techniques and tips. She said she had to try several to find this particular group.

  12. Oh, this makes me mad. I actually started attending LLL when I was still just pregnant with my first at the suggestion of a friend, and it seemed to be a bunch of super-crunchy moms who didn't think you could breastfeed without co-sleeping. I left there mad because my husband and I had decided that co-sleeping wasn't for us. I did end up going back the next month, and it was a much more pleasant experience, with a lot of different types of moms (still a lot of crunchy, cloth-diapering, co-sleeping ones, but less forcing it down my throat). I found a good support through that LLL group, and a handful of moms who had to supplement and some adoptive moms who were trying to lactate but also feeding from bottles. When we moved from the area, I actually donated the rest of my freezer stash to one of those moms.

    I'm sorry you had such a terrible experience with LLL. In this new location, I've found that all of our hospitals have breastfeeding support groups run by actual lactation consultants, and I've gone to one so far, and it was good. Less of a bitch-fest and more focused on each mother/child pair and their issues.

    1. p.s. for the curious, I still have never co-slept, but I successfully breastfed my first for over a year (after some initial issues), and am now doing just fine with baby #2

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