Breastfeeding mothers need support and encouragement from YOU.
The early days of breastfeeding come right after the exhausting hours (or days!) of childbirth, so mothers are beginning this new journey already overwhelmed with fatigue and hormones, and possibly even recovering from surgery! Now we toss in learning a brand new skill with a newborn who also needs time to learn… No wonder breastfeeding can be challenging in those first days and weeks.
So as a spouse, partner, family member, friend, neighbor, how can you help? As an advocate for breastfeeding, here are five ways you can BE to make it easier and more joyful for the moms and babies in your life.
- Be supportive. Be a shoulder to lean on, lend a calm ear, and acknowledge her… for her effort, for her strength, for her mothering. Understand how emotional breastfeeding can be, this is normal, so have the tissue box ready when she needs it. If you’ve breastfed (or tried) yourself, resist sharing your own personal breastfeeding experience unless it’s truly helpful and pertinent. It’s like sharing your own labor story with another woman in labor… it usually doesn’t help.
- Be encouraging. Just like almost every aspect of parenting, it takes time to build up confidence in breastfeeding. Words of encouragement should be kind and positive. Give reassurance that any challenges can be managed. Calm her fears. Shield her from negative people. Celebrate the small stuff with her, and cheer her on!
- Be knowledgeable. You don’t need to be an expert in lactation to be an effective advocate, but it is helpful to learn some basics. First and foremost, you don’t want to give inaccurate information though, so if you don’t know for sure, don’t offer advice (even if you saw it on TikTok 😉). Find out what breastfeeding resources are available in your area, so you can point her in the right direction if she needs help. Common sources of professional lactation support are virtual lactation consultants such as TeleLact, outpatient lactation services at the local hospital, health departments, home visit lactation consultants, and La Leche League leaders.
- Be patient. Anything worthwhile takes time to learn. It is important to understand that every experience is unique, and the early weeks of breastfeeding have a significant time investment. Give the gift of time by offering to help with anything and everything, except for feeding the baby. Encourage mom to be patient too, with herself and with her baby. Everyone’s patience is vital for breastfeeding success.
- Be nurturing. The best way to help once the baby arrives is to nurture the nurturer. You support breastfeeding by understanding that helping mom means taking care of her needs. This empowers her to effectively care for her baby’s needs. Cook or bring a meal, do a load of laundry, clean the bathroom, help her post photos, walk the dog, hold the baby so she can take a shower or a nap. Don’t just offer… many women resist asking for or accepting help, so if you see somewhere you can help, just do it!
Remember… it takes a village! Be a part of that village for the mothers in your life. Be a breastfeeding advocate. Pay it forward, pay it backward, lift the mothers around you up… the health and happiness of mothers and babies matters to us all!