When a Clique Don't Click
I am a strong advocate of mama support groups. My girl gang got me through those early days. But it’s about finding the right group for you. As in life, you usually have a few cringy winches before you find the right chemistry!
Despite my best efforts, breastfeeding my first didn’t work. And as you know, I would have jumped through fire to breastfeed my second, so at 32 weeks pregnant, the hell pit of ‘the breastfeeding support group’ seemed a good place to start.
In the waiting room (a family kitchen), sat a new mama. She looked shattered. Her difficulties were almost identical to my previous woes. As I empathised with the new mama my wee boy emptied the fruit bowl onto the floor before turning his attention to the router switch. With one arm on him, and one on my enormous belly, I explained to this mama that my issues were the same. The group leader left the room and new mama asked, “when did you know it was OK to switch to formula?” I told her that "formula feeding was the best thing that happened to me and G. I switched at two weeks and I don’t regret it for a minute. I wish more than anything that I could have BF him but I couldn’t, so I didn’t."
I felt like I was sharing contraband, right under the nose of the warden. An enemy within. I thought I might be kicked out if caught. The mama got taken into a room for support with latch and I got ushered into the living room where a mammary of mummies awaited me. I sidled in, holding the hand of my formula fed child. And the smugness commenced.
For a meeting, entitled ‘Difficulties of Breastfeeding and Getting Started’, I was the only mama in there with any problems. Everyone else was months in and going strong. Clearly I was going to be in for a treat, all these women were here to help me.
Alas. Ten minutes in and the cards were on the table. Each mama had to read out their card to the group; it was then open for discussion. The cards included, and I am paraphrasing;
‘Breastfed babies have high IQ’s’ ‘Breastfed babies have better oral hygiene’ ‘Breastfed babies are less likely to be sick’ and my favourite… ‘breastfeeding improves relationships’ which led to someone saying that husbands of breastfeeding mamas are more satisfied?! Well you can imagine the discussion. The mammary of mummies were self satisfied and completely oblivious, and I slunk lower into the sofa.
This moment shaped me as a mother and as a friend. I can't fully explain how I felt but I was a little angry, mostly humiliated, guilty and ashamed. I wanted to cuddle my wee boy and tell him not to listen, that he was perfect.
Needless to say, I didn’t go back. I did however eventually pluck up the courage to write an email to the group, which I might share with you later – as the response highlights the general ignorance towards mamas in my situation.
I can’t leave it there though. I have to tell you about the good. Granted I never found a true support group I got on board with, but I did find a woman, working out the back of a secondhand children's clothes shop, who didn’t make me feel like a freak. I went twice, because that is all I needed. I went for support and I left armed with practical advice and a pat on the back.
Breastfeeding is tough, and it can be lonely. Some groups feed mama guilt and no mini will thrive with a down trodden mama regardless of their chosen tipple. Some of these ‘support groups’ are an exclusive club and one which a struggling mama needs like a hole in the head, but support is out there, perhaps in a different guise. If you need a good girl gang don't hide away, polish your crown, stand tall and find the clique that click for you. The rest can just cluck off.
We started Frank when we searched for help to no avail. Our aim is to support all mamas, nobody needs a frenemy. So we want to know what would help you, what would have helped when you needed it most?
If you would like to share your own story then please get in touch via Your Voice.