The Surgeon General came out on Thursday and released a statement about how to encourage and better support breastfeeding moms. Of course, most of the actions mentioned were community and employer type things. All of those things are great, but what exactly is “family support”? How can people in a community support breastfeeding outside the suggestions given by the Surgeon General? Well, I’ve made a list.
Things Breastfeeding Moms can do to support one another:
– Nurse in public. I know, you don’t want to show your ta-tas to the world, but nursing in public brings breastfeeding to a public light. People get used to being around breastfeeding, seeing that it is more popular than they once believed. You open doors for all those behind you to nurse their babies when they get hungry wherever they are. I’m not saying you should whip out the girls in the most crowded public place imaginable with zero cover (though if you want to, good for you), I’m just saying that you shouldn’t hide in your car or the public restroom. You shouldn’t feel compelled to bring a bottle because bottle feeding is more publicly accepted. Make nursing publicly accepted!
– Encourage other breastfeeding moms. We know breastfeeding is tough, but being a mom is tough. Too often we discourage others from even trying because of our complaining about the experience. You should be able to share your breastfeeding struggles, but sharing them with a new mom thinking about breastfeeding probably isn’t the wisest thing to do. Keep your horror stories of cracked nipples and mastitis between yourself and your fellow veteran breastfeeding pals.
– Don’t be afraid to say “no.” The pressure of family and friends can be ridiculous when you’re a new mom. Feel free to tell people that they aren’t being helpful by constantly badgering you to let them give baby a bottle. Don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to offers to leave baby with grandma for a weekend. (If you need a weekend away, then go for it.) But don’t feel like you have to quit breastfeeding or even alter your breastfeeding for family or friend requests.
Things the Family and Friends of Breastfeeding Moms can do:
– Don’t continually push the bottle on Mom. She has chosen to breastfeed. Live with it. If she wants to supplement, she will. You stay out of it, it isn’t your place to tell Mom what to do.
– Don’t nag and whine about not being able to feed the baby. Change a poopy diaper if you want to “care” for baby in some way. Feeding is for the one with boobs full of milk. By letting you give baby a bottle to appease your need to be needed, Mom now has ridiculously engorged breasts that she has to deal with. You’re not helping at all. You’re adding more work to a new Mom. You may think one bottle is no big deal, but you are undermining the nursing relationship, and that certainly is not your place.
– Don’t constantly tell the Mom to cover up in public. Shame on you for expecting that sweet baby to eat in a public restroom or with a hot blanket over his head. Next time, Mom might bring a comforter to throw over you while you try to eat lunch or insist you take your plate to the smelly, germy bathroom.
– New Mom doesn’t care that you didn’t breastfeed. Breastfeeding is best, regardless of what you chose for your children. New Mom is not judging you, in any way, by choosing to breastfeed her child. She is making the best decision she can make for her situation. You don’t have to make her fail at breastfeeding so you feel validated.
– New Mom does not need a constant stream of visitors in those first few weeks. You’re just making it awkward. We know, you want to see the baby. But making sure baby is fed and Mom is recovering is really the important thing at the moment. If you do come over to “help” there are a few things you should know. Helping is not plopping down on the couch for an extended visit, forcing Mom to retreat with new baby to her room to feed. Helping is not holding the baby. Helping is not waking a sleeping child up. When baby cries, it is unhelpful for you to try to console baby. Typically newborns cry when they are hungry. Hand the baby over to Mom and leave the room. Helping is doing the dishes, doing some laundry, doing some light cleaning, etc. If you must see the baby, call first and make your visit quick. Those first few weeks are the hardest with a newborn. Those first few weeks can make or break a good breastfeeding relationship.
– Don’t offer to keep the baby so Mom can go out. She’ll feel like you are telling her that is what she should do. If she needs help, she’ll ask. Offering to keep a newborn for extended amounts of time (for a newborn, extended means it includes a feeding, but I have heard of crazy people expecting to keep a newborn for a weekend or even a week) is not helpful. You think you’re being helpful, but you aren’t. If Mom needs your babysitting services, she’ll ask.
– Quit telling Mom to pump! You may think it is no big deal to pump a bottle so you can keep the baby. (Or pump a bottle so you can feed a baby.) But it is really a lot of work. Pumping is doubling (or tripling) the work on Mom. You are expecting her to have enough milk for now and later and then later her having engorged boobs because baby isn’t eating. If Mom wants to pump, fine. But don’t push. You are not the one lactating, so keep your “pumping is easy” opinion to yourself.
– Your stories of how all your kids were on a schedule and sleeping through the night as newborns are not helpful. Neither is your incorrect advice that formula keeps a baby satisfied for longer or putting cereal in a bottle will help baby sleep. There are hoards of doctors and research out there to prove you wrong. Just because you did it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Schedules are not for breastfed babies, especially newborns. (When they get a bit older, they’ll develop their own schedule.)
– If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
What a Community can do for Breastfeeding Moms:
– It’d be nice if strangers could keep their opinions to themselves, especially when they are not at all helpful.
– Don’t expect a nursing mom to feed a baby in the dirtiest place around. If you don’t like seeing a breastfed baby, don’t look. I personally hate seeing a small baby with a bottle of juice, but you don’t see me telling the mom what to do. I also hate seeing babies continually strapped in their infant seats, even while awake. I realize that is a personal thing and don’t tell moms to hold their babies or at least get them into the stroller seat for a change of padding on the backside.
– Teach your kids about breastfeeding, even if you didn’t breastfeed. They need to know what boobs are for. And I feel terrible having to educate random children at the playground about breastfeeding. It’d be nice if parent’s taught their own kids this. (Some babies drink baby milk from a bottle, some babies drink baby milk from their mother’s breast. We’re mammals, so Mother’s make milk for their babies.- See how easy that is?)
Now, I know I probably come across as harsh on some of this, but really, it needs to be said. Nursing moms gripe together about these things. For the older generations, breastfeeding is something a bit new, especially to see it happening in public. But times change. For those that are of childbearing age, personal choices impact how they treat nursing moms. I’ve gotten thumbs up from Dads who support breastfeeding (which is a bit odd, let me tell you), I’ve had little old ladies commend me for taking care of my children as nature intended. There are happy breastfeeding supporters out there. I’ve also had my fair share of those who are flat out opposed to breastfeeding. Most people are not opposed to breastfeeding, at least most intelligent people. Many of the problems with how our society views breastfeeding are not from their utter disgust, it is from their ignorance. They don’t know what they’re asking when they ask a breastfeeding mom to bottle feed when in public or when they see fit. They don’t know what their asking when they ask you to sit in the car or restroom to nurse. We have this problem in our society where we have never taught our children about basic reproduction. We seem to focus our efforts on making sure they know about sex, STDs, AIDS, and birth control options. But we never seem to tell them about actual reproduction. How odd is it that most junior high students have seen the sex ed video, but most first time parents have never seen a baby born. I find that strange. Teaching them about safe sex is considered responsible, while teaching them about ACTUAL reproduction is deemed as too graphic. Strange world. Let me clue you in- when kids go to the zoo, they see baby animals breastfeeding. It is a perverted sense of nature to assume we are somehow different and the natural function of a human’s breast is somehow wrong compared to that of a warthog.
Help a Nursing Mom out and don’t make her job harder than it needs to be.