What is an ally?
verb: to unite or form a connection or relation between
noun: one that is associated with another as a helper; a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle
also: a nickname for Allyson
So what’s a lactation ally?
Breastfeeding and chestfeeding can be hard. At times your issue might feel downright impossible to figure out alone. Luckily, you don’t need to do it by yourself. An experienced lactation consultant can be your ally to help work through issues and challenges, providing both clinical expertise and emotional support.
When I work with families, I don’t want to just swoop in and fix the problem. I want to teach and empower you to make things work after our time together ends. I want to help build your confidence — and your toolkit of skills — to continue to meet your goals on your own.
At my weekly support group, I’m constantly saying, “We are doing this all wrong. This whole parenting-in-isolation-thing is NOT the way it’s always been. We’ve lost ‘the village’ and with it the circles of support new parents have always had.”
The first lactation allies you meet are often lactation consultants. But also on your team are your partner and your pediatrician. Your doula and your midwife/obstetrician. If issues aren’t simple, we often loop in infant feeding specialists, physical therapists, and mental health therapists, too. Challenges are always easier to overcome when you’re surrounded by a stellar support team.
Ally is more recently used to identify those with privilege who can help and support traditionally marginalized groups. Straight allies must support LGBTQIA+ communities. White allies need to use their power and privilege to identify and dismantle systemic racism that affects health outcomes for Black and Brown folks. Outspoken allies in the healthcare system are needed to address racial and socioeconomic inequities.
Lactation allies can also support new families in small ways. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors can lend emotional support, drop off meals, care for older siblings and more. Being encouraging of all feeding choices a new family makes helps build their confidence as parents.
Nursing in public normalizes breastfeeding for everyone. Do it. Or give a cheerful thumbs up to someone who is.
Employers can be lactation allies by supporting pumping parents when they return to work, giving them time, space, and facilities to allow them to feed their babies through the first year of life and beyond. Electing leaders who push the United States to have paid parental leave will be a game-changer for all families.
Know a lactation ally who is making a difference? Thank them for their support in other people’s success.