Supporting breastfeeding mothers
Supporting breastfeeding mothers
The early days and weeks can be really intensive for breastfeeding mothers as they’re trying to establish their supply and get used to feeding and positioning and this is a great opportunity to offer practical and emotional support for her.
Many studies are showing that if breastfeeding mothers have good support from somebody near to them who is supportive of their efforts to breastfeed, then this really increases their chances of success. So if you are a mother or a grandmother or a partner of a breastfeeding mother, then you play a really important role.
I find it really interesting to look at studies that look at different cultures and how they support breastfeeding, and some of these cultures allow the lady to sit around for a number of weeks while she gets breastfeeding established. She is not really allowed to do housework and all those things so the extended family tend to rally around and do a lot of that. And while we may not have the same level of support in our culture, I would encourage you to know that your role is really vital. And there are also studies to show that if you’re supporting a breastfeeding mother, it can really be advantageous to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding. Now this might be that you go along to a class or have a look at all of our videos and learn as much as you can because this will give the breastfeeding mother a really good chance. You’ve got to learn how breastfeeding works, how to get breastfeeding off to a good start, as well as the health advantages for mother and baby. And also learn about how babies feed frequently and how to know that the baby is getting enough milk because all this information is going to help you to help her when she’s going through this really intensive time in the first few weeks.
I can really understand that many, many people want to feed the baby in the early weeks, as a means of support. But the truth is that it’s far more important that the lady gets her breastmilk established and is able to feed that baby solely. Now there will be flexibility later on. We know that breastfeeding mothers often try to do far too much in the early days and weeks when they really need to be establishing their milk supply. So ultimately it will be good to have a chat with that lady, find out what it is that would help her; now that might mean housework, hoovering, cleaning, changing baby’s nappies, it could be a whole load of possible things. It might simply be that she would rather you were sitting, chatting, and offering psychological support so let’s never assume we know how to support her, but find out from her and give that support appropriately.
And if the breastfeeding mother has an older child, it can really be difficult to give her time to that child as well as getting breastfeeding established so it might be that you’re able to offer to do the school runs, or to sit with the toddler, to occupy the toddler in some way. All of that could be so, so helpful in those early days.
And if she is keen, why don’t you bring her along to a breastfeeding café or a breastfeeding drop-in where she can get support with breastfeeding if she needs it, but also to be able to chat with other breastfeeding mothers because it can be daunting to come out the first time to some of these places. So this is a really good, supportive thing that you can do to help her to boost her confidence getting out and about.
And I cannot stress enough the importance of your psychological support, helping this breastfeeding mother to get breastfeeding established, building up her confidence and going forward into the future.
Review dates, references & further resources
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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