CUMBERLAND — Would you like to eat your lunch in the bathroom? That’s the question that La Leche League member Melissa Lafferty asks in response to the disgust or discomfort that breast-feeding in public places causes.
“It’s culturally not like this other places in the world,” said Lafferty.
La Leche League International’s online source describes its mission to provide “support, encouragement, information, and education” to mothers in their breast-feeding endeavors. The Cumberland chapter of La Leche League is there to provide that support at a local level. At a recent meeting, approximately 16 mothers, two fathers and lots of smiling babies were in attendance.
When asked why they chose to breastfeed, the overwhelming response of mothers was the health benefits. La Leche League’s publication, The Womanly Art of Breast-feeding, says there is no formula that can compete with the overall health and wellness factors of breast milk.
“Your body knows how to make milk that is perfectly suited to your baby,” said Lafferty, adding that not only is the specific nutrient make-up good for the baby, but that breast milk will change in composition as the baby goes through his stages of life.
Another sentiment echoed by the mothers is breast milk’s curative properties.
“I think it’s amazing that you can use it for diaper rash ... earache,” said Candice Allbaugh of Keyser, W.Va. “Breast milk cures anything.”
Lafferty added that babies who have had breast milk swabbed on their umbilical cords after birth heal more quickly than babies who have not had it.
Most of the mothers in the room agreed that at first it seems easier to use the hospital-supplied formula.
“Be determined about it. Formula is easier ... but breast-feeding is better no matter what everyone around you says,” said Jami Hershberger, a visitor to the local La Leche League meeting from Shreveport, La.
Aside from the numerous health benefits for mother and child, it creates a lasting bond.
“I didn’t realize how much a part of parenting it was,” said Angela Welch of LaVale.
Carla Tesar, La Leche League leader and a licensed massage therapist who specializes in craniosacral therapy, said that while it might be hard at first to get started, breast-feeding is what is meant to happen naturally. She said that breast-feeding helps to shape the child’s palate and head. Tesar and Lafferty agree that even pediatricians and other doctors don’t always have a fix for any breast-feeding problems when they arise.
“Any problem you have can be fixed, if you find the right person,” said Lafferty. “Most problems are problems that have solutions.”
One of the challenges discussed was breast-feeding in the workplace. Maryland and Pennsylvania laws state that a mother may breastfeed her child in any place that they are authorized to be, including public places.
The majority of the ladies who met said they haven’t had too many problems with employers, but being able to express milk around their schedules and finding a suitable place to do it is a problem.
“It wasn’t anybody giving me grief, there wasn’t any place to do it,” said Lafferty, adding that she would frequently use her car.
Tesar said that using a breast pump, hand pumping and even getting a baby to latch on, all take time.
“I don’t have a flexible schedule,” said Amy Morton of Frostburg.
As a teacher, Morton said that if something arose during her free period, she wouldn’t get the chance to pump. But she said that her co-workers were fine with it.
Angie Diehl, a mother of two from Lonaconing, said that when she was a student at Frostburg State University, the biggest problem she ran into was timing.
“It was very frustrating and hard,” said Diehl, adding that she hand-pumped in between classes and any breaks that she had.
In addition to groups like La Leche League, support for breast-feeding mothers can be found online as well.
La Leche League meets the second Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Laso Healing Arts Center, 176 N. Centre St.
Emily Newman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.