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how to get free or inexpensive breastfeeding help

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Breastfeeding’s minimal cost is not the most important reason for doing it, but it sure helps. In this post, Hannah Katsman of A Mother in Israel and Cooking Manager gives tips for expectant mothers on preparing for breastfeeding and getting help after birth, with an eye toward saving money.

I recently met a friend, pregnant with her first baby. “I haven’t thought about breastfeeding much,” she told me. “I figure that instinct will take over.”

I wish that were true. But mothers with the best intentions can still have problems. Hospital policies conflict with best breastfeeding practices, and the staff may not have the time or skills to help. When there is a even a slight complication, medical professionals, family and friends often discourage a vulnerable mother, who may not have the information or emotional resources to investigate or to challenge the system.

Breastfeeding *is* instinctual for babies. Mouth muscles are among the few that newborn babies can control—it’s a question of survival. But for mothers, breastfeeding must be learned. When breastfeeding was the norm, girls and women saw moms nursing all the time so they knew the basics. For instance:

  • How to hold and position the baby.
  • Babies nurse frequently and not necessarily on a schedule.
  • Babies are not always calm between feedings.
  • Nursing is pleasurable, and calms babies and mothers. It’s not just food.

How can expectant mothers prepare for a good start to breastfeeding?

  • Learn from mothers who enjoy breastfeeding. If you don’t know any personally, try La Leche League, a volunteer organization comprised of experienced breastfeeding mothers trained to give information and support to others. Membership within Israel, at NIS 80 a year, goes toward translations, publications, and leader enrichment. With membership you can go to any group in the country and get a discount on conferences and parenting books. It’s a good investment because as you learn what’s normal and how to prevent common problems, so you can continue nursing for as long as you want. The recommended donation for a single meeting is NIS 20.
  • Read as much as you can. The critical early days are the also most challenging, so knowing what is normal and what’s not will help you decide whether you need help. Avoid literature and gifts, especially free powder, from formula companies. Their goal is to discourage breastfeeding, and they are good at what they do. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and So That’s What They’re For are two good examples.
  • Consult with a breastfeeding professional before birth, especially if you have a chronic condition requiring medication (most are safe), a history of hormonal issues or breast surgery, or if you suspect a breast abnormality. If you failed at breastfeeding an older baby, you may want to review the situation to prevent similar problems.
  • Choose a hospital that a) encourages natural birth, b) keeps baby and mother together day and night until discharge, c) has professional lactation consultants on staff, and d) encourages breastfeeding after a cesarean or when the mother is not mobile. And find out from new mothers whether the policy is enforced.

How to get free or inexpensive breastfeeding help after the baby is born

Israel is a country of Jewish mothers, and they all like to give out breastfeeding advice. But there is a difference between a neighbor sharing her personal experience, and a professional who has been trained to counsel mothers and provide information from reliable sources.

In Israel, many women call themselves breastfeeding counselors or lactation consultants yet do not have certification. In Israel there are two main organizations that can put you in touch with a qualified helper.

La Leche League:

La Leche League Israel’s website includes a Hebrew and English forum, listings of support groups throughout the country including several in English, and home phone numbers of Leaders. A free breastfeeding hotline operates five days a week at 1599-525-821.

LLL Leaders (see above) mainly lead support groups and provide phone counseling. Since LLL Leaders are volunteers they generally don’t do home visits. You can usually get free one-on-one help at a meeting, but it’s best to arrange this with the Leader in advance.

LLL specializes in the whole picture as well as technical issues. They can help the mother pinpoint the problem and determine whether she needs additional help. Sometimes a mother is sure she needs a home visit, when a phone call can resolve the problem.

La Leche League International’s website has English forums for mothers and articles on a wide range of breastfeeding subjects.

Professional Lactation Consultants:

A growing number International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) work in Israel. IBCLCs have amassed a large number of clinical hours, taken a comprehensive course, and passed an exam. IBCLCs focus mainly on problems immediately after birth that requiree evaluation and instruction in person.

Some IBCLCs get their clinical hours as nurses in the hospital maternity ward, others with LLL and still others through breastfeeding clinics. Try to get a personal recommendation and talk for a few minutes to see if you click. Also clarify how much the visit will cost, and whether it includes follow-up.

IBCLCs make work through private clinics or home visits, and charge for their services (typically around NIS 400). A few work in health funds and hospitals. It may be possible to get a refund from your health fund for an IBCLC visit, depending on your level of insurance. For instance, members of Clalit Mushlam can get a private consultation for NIS 150. The organization of IBCLCs has a list of members who see mothers through Tipat Chalav well-baby clinics throughout the country (in Hebrew, best viewed with Internet Explorer). At Mamash in Tel Aviv, you can be part of a group consultation at a reduced price of NIS 200 (03-647-2411).

More breastfeeding articles by Hannah Katsman

Articles on aliyah

Articles on frugality

Feed Your Baby Frugally at Cooking Manager.


  1. Thanks, Jonathan, for posting this and I’ll be happy to answer questions

  2. LeahGG says:

    couple of things – I started reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and its opening pages put me off so badly that I couldn’t continue reading it. It’s a philosophy and not a how-to guide. You can breastfeed without co-sleeping, babywearing, etc.

    second, maccabi’s tipat chalavs usually have an l.c. on staff. The one in Maccabim is SO BAD that she’s worse than nothing at all. As in, she grabbed me without asking and then told me I had no milk, when I was already making some progress with my son.

    She did different, but equally damaging, things to a friend of mine, who also fortunately didn’t listen to her and went on to successfully nurse for quite a while.

  3. Leah, thanks for your comment.
    1) There are many people who feel as you. On the other hand, it’s the most popular book on breastfeeding ever written and contains comprehensive and good, practical information as well as philosophy. A new edition is coming out this summer, and we’ll see whether it addresses some of your concerns.
    For me, a “how-to” book would have been totally ineffective. Because as Neufeld said, learning parenting skills (which includes breastfeeding) is not enough to become a mother.
    I most definitely needed all the encouragement about trusting myself and my baby, etc., that Womanly Art gave me. It spoke to me, although like everything else in life, one size doesn’t fit all. Fortunately there are many excellent alternatives including books by Dr. Newman and others.
    2). Thank you for sharing your negative experience about the LC at Maccabim. It is always best to get a recommendation.

  4. […] On Shomer Shekalim, I have a guest post up on preparing for breastfeeding and getting help after birth. […]

  5. Kate says:

    There are definitely different styles of breastfeeding books out there, with good information “packaged” differently. I have Womanly Art, but it feels dense (I preferred it for troubleshooting rather than a straight read-through)–when I went to the hospital I took “So That’s What They’re For!” by Janet Tamaro. It’s a funny book, but very serious…and I know people who have been very turned off by her anti-formula stance.

    My Leaders in NY both really liked Bestfeeding.

  6. BookishIma says:

    Glad to discover Shomer Shekalim – I’m here via Mother in Israel. As always, wonderful advice, Hannah! I wanted to add two suggestions. One is to ask specifically, after your baby is born, that s/he be examined for a tongue-tie (ankyloglossia). It’s a common condition (occurring in 4% of babies, if I’m remembering correctly) that often complicates breastfeeding but is so easy to correct. In my case, my son was able to nurse effectively but it was extremely painful to me. I could have saved a lot of trouble if I had known to ask and even get the correction done at the hospital instead of a specialist (though not all offer it).

    I also wanted to recommend the English book “The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning” by Kathleen Huggins. It’s not only about weaning, but covers a lot of topics that many other breastfeeding books don’t, especially about nursing after the newborn period.

  7. observer says:

    I used, and liked, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, but there are a couple of issues with it. Firstly the whole “package” places a huge burden on women, especially those who don’t fit their parameters of a “good” mother. For instance, there is a whole section on why women should be stay at home mothers, and talking about all of these high powered women who were SOOOO happy about their choice to leave their work, and how they never had regrets. Talk about making vulnerable women doubt themselves! That chapter, by the way is very discouraging, because it implies that you might as well not bother to try to nurse if you are going to “abandon” your baby anyway – not that you are likely to succeed. No, they didn’t say that, but it really is the impression it gives.

    They also never acknowledge the possible negative ramifications of some of the lifestyle choices they push. For instance, they had a whole section on the issue of being “touched out”. While it’s good for a new mother to recognize this as something that sometimes happens, and nothing to panic about, on the other hand, this is not something that should be happening on a regular basis (as they imply happens with “good” mothers who are”open” to their children”). They simply don’t even acknowledge that possibility that if this is a regular occurrence, this is bad for the mother herself, and for the parent’s relationship. Considering the evidence that maintaining a healthy relationship between parents is the best thing for the kids, it’s simply stupid.

    The underlying cause of this, in my opinion, is that this is not so much about helping women to learn how to mother in the general sense, but about a particular, somewhat political, philosophy.

    That said, at the time I read it, it was one of the most reliable books available, in terms of factual information, for which I was very grateful. If the new edition keeps up the standards of factual accuracy, taking into account new research, and backs off a but from the lifestyle issues, I think it could be extremely popular again.

  8. Thanks for the extensive comments about Womanly Art, and alternative suggestions for books. They’ll be helpful to readers who come across this article.
    Bookish Ima: Some say the tongue-tie rate is as high as 20%. There seems to be a lot of it and Diana West, who was recently in Israel, thinks the rate might be increasing. It is probably a good idea to check every baby. Diana also taught about different types of tongue-tie, which I had never seen in any book.

  9. AR says:

    Hannah, I appreciate that you are trying to do good by mothers. It’s not easy. I’ll just add my point of view regarding books and “professionals”

    I think we have done ourselves a disservice as women by allowing breastfeeding to become the province of “professionals”. All the letters in the world following your name do not signify a willingness to help in the good old fashioned way of listening, sympathizing and carefully offering advice. Some IBCLCs are wonderful, some should be tarred and feathered, but the idea that we need to prepare ourselves for breastfeeding by studying, or meeting with a professional, I think undermines whatever natural confidence we have left and can turn into breastfeeding into some kind of test we have to pass instead of a long, interesting journey we take together with our baby where we learn and grow together mostly on our own pace and by our own standards.

    The most important advice I would give any woman who asked is to believe in herself and her ability to take good care of her children even when things are difficult. I think that places the right emphasis on both aspects – the need to believe (I don’t need some professional to authorize me) together with the acknowledgment that life is full of challenges. Self confidence does not make everything go smoothly all the time, it equips me to handle it when it doesn’t.

    That said, if a woman wants to read up, wants to meet with whoever – a bi gezunt. The main thing, I think, should be for mother and baby to thrive, not for them to live up to some social standard, not even one set by other women.

  10. AR, thank you for your comments.
    There are specific cases where it is helpful for an expectant mother to speak to a professional. I certainly don’t recommend it for everyone. When I said consult I meant by phone, not necessarily in person which is usually not necessary.
    The fact is that while breastfeeding should be natural and instinctive, it’s not for modern women, for the reasons I explained above. If a woman grew up in a house where she saw breastfeeding, she is more prepared. Also, the reasons that breastfeeding can go wrong are increasing lately because of surgical births, “advanced” maternal age, multiples, obesity, diabetes, etc. And some experts agree that there seems to be an increase in tongue-tie as well, as I mentioned.
    AR, if a woman is not prepared, she is likely to accept a bottle of formula when the nurse tells her that her baby is nursing so frequently because she “doesn’t have enough milk yet.” I could give a million different examples, but if she comes in without any knowledge or understanding of breastfeeding, there will be plenty of people happy to “educate” her at a vulnerable time.
    Self-confidence is important, but it’s not usually enough. I certainly don’t equate reading up on breastfeeding to “studying for a test.” Do you feel the same way about birth, which is also natural and more instinctive than breastfeeding. Do you oppose pre-natal classes and books?

  11. AR, I agree with much of what you wrote, which is why I recommended getting to know mothers who enjoy breastfeeding and spending time with them. A new mother can then see the beauty of it and learn why it’s worth sticking it out if it doesn’t go so smoothly in the beginning.

  12. I’m afraid I also bounced off The Womanly Art — despite agreeing with the majority of the opinions, at least to some extent, I found the tone offputting somehow. (The going-back-to-work thing was key: yes, some women have the choice whether to do so or not, but other women don’t, unless their partner suddenly gets a 150% raise.) I loved So That’s What They’re For! and also got a lot of mileage out of one of Jack Newman’s books that a friend lent me, whose title alas I can’t remember.

    No, we shouldn’t need experts and books and professionals to help us feed our babies or to validate our choices. But guess what? with so many friends, relations, and medical professionals telling us it doesn’t matter, why are we putting ourselves through this, just give the kid a bottle already … sometimes we do need that kind of support to help us persevere through the difficult times. I was lucky to have supportive female relatives (mother, sister, aunt) who had nursed their own babies and respected my enthusiasm for breastfeeding (even when I was a little strident). However, I have many friends who were not so lucky — and I had all my sisters-in-law to tell me all the ways I was doing things wrong as a new mother. Sometimes quoting an “expert” is a good way of, if I may put it bluntly, shutting these people up so that you can get on with feeding your baby in peace ;^).

  13. AR says:

    Hi again,

    To clarify:

    1. I think the best “preparation” is development of self confidence and patience, together with a reasonable dose of “technical” information (physiological aspects of birth, labor whatever). I believe that strength of character is more important than “professional” preparation in equipping a woman for birth or breastfeeding and that women who work on developing not just their store of technical knowledge but their positive attitudes, patience and self confidence are less likely to be distracted by every woman, with or without certification, who tells her to do things differently.

    2. I don’t “oppose” classes or books nor do I oppose women consulting anyone they want. I am interested in examining the cost to women of these accepted behaviors. I see that many women who “prepare” conscientiously for birth and breastfeeding have no confidence in their ability to figure anything out. They feel pressured to learn a “right” way from an “expert”. The meeting with “expert” leaves some women feeling dependent and inadequate. If women benefit from whatever counseling or advice they get, wonderful.

  14. LeahGG says:

    I certainly had the experience of an “expert” telling me that I couldn’t possibly nurse on a floppy couch while sitting Indian-style – which was the most comfortable position I ever nursed in, and I did 90% of my nursing that way.

    I also had an “expert” (a different one) tell me that I had no milk and that I wasn’t latching correctly. When I left her office and decided I didn’t care and went into my own house with my own floppy couch and sat Indian-style and latched exactly the same, the baby seemed to swallow and be happy…and I didn’t have any cracking or chafing or any of the other issues associated with bad latch. (though that was the same fool that I un-recommended above)

    So I think it’s important to realize that so-called experts only know what usually works for most women and your mileage may vary.

  15. […] it for “pushing” strong views of parenting on its readers. Comments on a guest post where I recommended the WAB reflected this. But even the naysayers acknowledged that WAB has always had the most comprehensive […]

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