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Breastfeeding Is a Contact Sport:
A Lively Outside-the-Box Look at Breastfeeding in the Context of Other Adult Behaviors, Society's Values and Economic Priorities

Presented by Coach Linda Smith, BSE, FACCE, IBCLC
Reported by Larissa Lee
East Brunswick, NJ, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 5, October-November 1999, pp. 107-108

(This article is a report on a 1999 LLLI Conference session.)

In the United States, sports are big news. From neighborhood soccer clubs to professional football leagues, sports dominate advertising and the media, attract a lot of money and resources, and hold a generally positive image in society. Why doesn't breastfeeding get the same attention?

Coach Linda Smith's session "Breastfeeding Is a Contact Sport" took a look at breastfeeding in a new light. The session was lively and humorous, but also carried a strong message: let's get serious about breastfeeding. Smith's model was based on the fact that breastfeeding is a normal behavior and that breastfeeding is beneficial to everyone. With a degree in physical education and a life-long involvement with athletics as a coach, trainer and participant, Smith drew a series of parallels between breastfeeding advocacy and sports.

Training and education should begin early, with all students gaining a basic knowledge of breastfeeding from the school curricula just as they take physical education through all years of school. Intense education should take place during pregnancy, using a wide variety of books, videos and courses. Smith said that the education should be based on optimizing success and providing safety skills to avoid injury or to treat injuries quickly. Sponsorship and funding for breastfeeding education should come from organizations like booster clubs and alumni associations, groups that raise enormous funds for athletic organizations. Smith noted that education would also let industries know that everyone benefits from breastfeeding.

Smith also discussed the importance of attitude. Mothers need to want to be on the team and they should want their babies to nurse successfully. just as people wear logos for sports teams Smith suggested we wear our team colors - t-shirts, bumper stickers, jackets, buttons, or jewelry that promote breastfeeding. We should form and join booster clubs and act shocked if breastfeeding is blocked in any way.

To build a winning breastfeeding team, we may want to study top performers. Coaches, trainers and athletes spend a lot of time watching videos, to study every aspect of technique and form in order to maximize performance.

Breastfeeding counselors should gather as much technical information as possible and scientific research should be encouraged and accessible to all.

There should be safety systems set up to prevent injuries and to have prompt remedies and treatments if problems arise. Smith noted that athletic trainers are diligent in watching players to prevent and detect injuries.

If injuries occur, rehabilitation begins right away. We can prevent a mother from being sidelined if we can catch potential problems early in the game. Smith suggested we post our successes. We also shouldn't hide the fact that breastfeeding is fun.

Here are Coach Smith's tips on how to win at breastfeeding: sign up, come to practices, listen to the coach, get an attitude, take the plunge, study the game plan and the rules, don't cheat (avoid pacifiers and distancing), don't do drugs (drugs during labor interfere with the beginning of breastfeeding), trust your teammate (that's your baby), avoid spies from the competition (anyone who intends to undermine your breastfeeding), use good technique to avoid injury, wear your uniform and team colors, hang out with the pros, use good equipment, no whining-success takes commitment, adapt to changing conditions in the field, celebrate your victories, stick with it until the season ends, the season will end, no shortcuts, repetition builds skills, expect gradual (not sudden) improvement, fire the bad coaches, and pay the players what they're worth.

Smith added that breastfeeding truly is a contact sport and does require lots of mother-baby contact.

Coach Smith ended the session with a set of rules and the admonition to "be proud, be gutsy." Here are Coach Smith's Rules:

1. Feed the baby.

2. The mother is right.

3. It's her baby.

4. Nobody knows everything.

5. There's another way.

To find out more about Coach Linda Smith, visit her website through www.bflrc.com/

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