The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has put attention on the huge need for mothers to receive continued breastfeeding support not only in the beginning but throughout her breastfeeding experience.
This topic is near and dear to my heart since I’ve been supporting mom’s and babies for many years through La Leche League: an organization that pioneered the whole concept of mother-to-mother support. They recognized the need for support and accurate information in the community. To continue to shine the light on this huge need here are 5 ways we can all support mamas with breastfeeding.
#1 – Community: You can support all moms by praising them when they breastfeed in public! Encourage mom to keep up her amazing work of providing the very best nutrition to her baby. Educate yourself on the incredible benefits of breastfeeding. Change your views, if you believe breasts are just for sexual pleasure or you think breastfeeding in public is indecent. Accept that mom’s will breastfeed where ever she needs in order to feed her baby. It’s OK if she doesn’t cover up! Many babies hate to be covered up or it might be too hot out to cover up. Be compassionate toward a breastfeeding mom and know that she’s doing her best to meet all of her baby’s needs.
#2 – Family Members/Friends: You can help mom and baby by:
- Bringing the new family meals
- Bringing mom a snack and water while she nurses. Maybe she needs an extra pillow to support her back, so she’s more comfortable
- Doing the laundry, dishes, picking up around the house
- Holding baby while mom takes a shower or nap
- Giving baby right back when mom says “oh, it looks like she’s getting hungry”
- Saying things like “You two look so happy and content breastfeeding” or “That is so awesome you decided to breastfeed! What a healthy, happy baby!” Or “What can I do to help?”
#3 – Work/Schools: Supporting moms with breastfeeding and pumping in the workplace actually saves time and money and creates more productive employees! Get familiar with and implement strategies from “The Business Case for Breastfeeding”
#4 – Hospitals: You can help support mothers with breastfeeding by going through the 10 Steps to becoming a Baby Friendly Hospital. Change your policies and procedures to evidence based practices that help breastfeeding including practices around labor and delivery. http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/
#5 – Husband/Partner/Significant Other: You are the essential key in this picture! The type of support you give to your partner will usually make or break breastfeeding. I know I sound so dramatic, but it’s TRUE! You are the one that is present during the most hormonal, scary, exciting, unsure time in a mother’s life. Your opinion on breastfeeding matters. Your support and encouragement for breastfeeding is HUGE.
The early weeks of breastfeeding are all about mom and baby learning to breastfeed together. Yes, breastfeeding is a natural process, but there is a learning curve. If your mind-set is just whatever about her breastfeeding or not, then those few days and nights her nipples are so super sore, the baby won’t latch on, and is crying non-stop, there may be some wavering in how you support her.
You may offer to make just one bottle of formula from that free can you received in the mail. You may say something like “maybe your just not making enough milk” or “obviously she is hungry, let’s just give her a bottle”. A partner may not realize, thinking he is being helpful by offering this kind of help, but it actually undermines the mom’s effort to feed the baby.
How to support your partner with breastfeeding: Think of that same scenario above mom with the sore nipples, baby not wanting to latch on and crying non-stop… Here’s how to help:
- Make sure mom is comfortable with all that she needs (water, food, pillows, comfortable place to breastfeed)
- Undress baby to just a diaper. Remind and encourage mom to get skin to skin with your baby. Cover them both with a blanket. Encourage as much skin-to-skin as possible! By the way, you can do skin-to-skin with your baby too!!
- Throw away those free cans of artificial baby milk (formula), trust mom and baby’s body and the biological process of breastfeeding and tell mom that you know she can do it!
- Trust in your own and your partner’s intuition.
- Remember that breastfeeding class? Remember how they showed you what a good latch looks like? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zln0LTkejIs . Watch how your baby is latching on and help mom make adjustments that she may not be seeing.
- Give your partner the number of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (What is an IBCLC) for help and take the baby for a few minutes so she can get her questions answered.
- Help mom keep baby with her all the time. Visitors want to see the baby and a lot of times they want to pass the baby around and maybe even want to feed the baby, this does not help breastfeeding. Let visitors hold the baby but keep a close watch for those early hunger cues and bring baby to mom as soon as you see them. Visitors want to help you both out, but may not know what to do. Keep a list of things that need to get done (food shopping, dishes, laundry etc…) on the fridge and if a visitor asks how they can help direct them to the list! Ask visitors to make meals!
- Commit to learning as much as you can about breastfeeding. Commit to being a breastfeeding advocate for your partner and baby! Your support and encouragement makes all the difference and will bring you and your new family even closer together. Watch how amazingly healthy, alert, and smart your baby is because he/she breastfeeds.
CHEERS to all the breastfeeding supporters out there! The work you’re doing is so needed, appreciated, and is changing the world. Thank you!!
Get informed, trust your intuition, do what’s best for your family!