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  • Jenna

Breastfeeding: naturally, unnatural.

Updated: May 6, 2020

If you’ve ever been frustrated after hearing the phrase, “Breastfeeding is natural” and thought: “Well maybe so, but it’s not something that comes naturally!” Good news! You’re exactly right.

During my training for lactation and postpartum support work, I was introduced to a concept that really resonated with me. I first read it in an article that featured an interview of the late Dana Raphael, PhD, anthropologist and breastfeeding advocate who spent much of her life’s work studying breastfeeding habits around the world and more specifically why breastfeeding works in some cultures but not in others.

In this interview, Raphael states:

“I had discovered that there was a physiological process (breastfeeding) that needed to have something in place in the culture or else the lactation function would not work. I don’t know of any other biological process that needs the culture to supply support…”

She goes on to describe how a mother needs to have a supportive person nearby in order to allow her reflexes, such as the let-down reflex to work properly. Interesting!

It makes sense to us that a woman needs practical support in breastfeeding - learning positions, how to get a good latch, how to watch for hunger cues and know when to feed her baby, etc. But what about supporting her in ways that allow her natural biological instincts and reflexes do what they’re meant to do? If a woman is stressed, scared, overwhelmed, or in pain to name a few, breastfeeding, recovering from birth and bonding with her baby can be greatly affected.

That’s when the concept of a postpartum doula really took hold for me. Sure, there are a ton of practical, helpful things doulas can do for new mothers, but one of the main functions of a postpartum doula is to provide the emotional and mental support that a mom needs to relax into her role as mother and let her body do what it was meant to do!

It’s no surprise that Dana Raphael was an outspoken advocate for doulas - from birth through the postpartum period. She recognized early on in her work - in the 1970’s that doulas were a key part of women’s success in birth, breastfeeding and beyond!

The key message here is that support is very important for your success as a new mother. Check out my free PDF (at the bottom of the page) for ways to begin assembling your postpartum support team and reach out to me if you’re interested in knowing more about what a postpartum doula can do for you!

Excerpt from the article, originally printed here:

Kishi, Rieko. “Breastfeeding and doula support interview with Dana Raphael.” University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing. (2007)

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