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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.

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