Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and amazing things a woman’s body can do.
We produce “liquid gold”, a perfect food for our babies. But to many women, breastfeeding doesn’t just happen. In fact, it can be difficult and frustrating. From an improper latch to sore, painful nipples, there are many challenges women can face while establishing a breastfeeding relationship with her newborn. Despite how badly I wanted to breastfeed there were many days I could have just thrown in the towel and given up.
I was lucky to have a strong support system. I had an amazing lactation specialist, a husband who understood my breastfeeding goals, and mommy friends who had experience. But sometimes I think friends, family and spouses assume there’s nothing they can do to help a new mom when breastfeeding isn’t going well. They might feel helpless when a new mama is crying because her baby won’t latch, or breastfeeding is painful. But actually, friends and family play a pivotal role in a mother’s life! Their support can actually affect how long a mother decides to breastfeed. Here are a few ways others can help a struggling mom:
1. Help her find resources for help.
A mother with a newborn is exhausted and weary. She may have forgotten tips and tricks she learned from friends and her breastfeeding class. Help her schedule an appointment with a lactation specialist, and offer to watch her other children while she goes to her appointment. Find her local La Leche League on Facebook so she can attend meet ups or talk with other breastfeeding mamas from the comfort of her own home. Facebook is especially useful for those late nights when she is the only one awake in the house, but wants to reach out to other moms that understand. Encourage her to seek help from trained professionals and other experienced women.
2. Be her cheerleader.
Remind her of what a great job she’s doing. Tell her what a wonderful mommy she is. Breastfeeding is a very personal experience, and women can feel less-than-adequate when they have difficulty. We are told what a “natural” process it is, so when it doesn’t come “naturally” it can feel like a failure! The first few weeks are hard and can feel very lonely. Offer words of encouragement so she feels loved and supported during this difficult time.
3. Bring her snacks and water.
It’s easy to forget to keep yourself fed and hydrated when you are caring for a newborn around the clock. It’s even harder when you have additional children to care for. Simple, easy-to-make snacks are essential to mothers with newborns. Nursing moms need water to produce milk, and they need to increase their calories consumed to compensate for those burned while breastfeeding!
4. Offer to do other chores around the house.
Breastfeeding is a full-time job in itself, so other household chores feel like huge obstacles to a new mom. Fold the laundry that has been in the dryer for two days, walk the dog and clean the litter box, run the dishwasher, pick up other children’s toys. Anything to make her life easier. Breastfed newborns feed every 2-3 hours, so mama should be able to rest while baby is napping.
Sometimes a mom doesn’t want advice, she just wants someone to listen. Let her cry, yell and vent when she is frustrated. Hug her and let her know you are there for her.
What are some things that you found helpful as a breastfeeding mom? What kind of help do you wish you received?
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