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Katie Madden

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Angie Gray

The good news is that, thanks to lactation awareness initiatives launched 10 years ago, breastfeeding is on the rise. “That increased breastfeeding, but without structures to succeed,” Madden says. “We had more women starting to breastfeed, but more women struggling with it.”

A lactation consultant with The Birth Center in Newark at the time, Madden also saw a rise in postpartum mental illness. “Breastfeeding can be protective of postpartum depression, but only if it goes well,” she explains. “Otherwise, women can experience pain and feelings of failure.”

In 2013, Madden started BalancedBreastfeeding.com to share her lactation knowledge and create a forum where women could share their experiences. Now the website gets 1,500 daily hits from people in 199 countries, and Madden’s private Facebook group has more than 1,200 members. The big draw is Madden’s holistic approach to breastfeeding.

“We put mom at the center,” Madden says. “Breastfeeding is one component, but not the most important one.” Sleeping, eating and healing from childbirth are crucial for women’s mental and physical health. So is socializing, which is why Madden leads an in-person support group that attracts 20 to 30 people to The Birth Center every Friday. “We can’t avoid the struggle, but we can minimize it,” Madden says.

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