August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. We’re celebrating by talking candidly about nursing all week here at MamaGab. Yesterday, we shared 7 ways to support a mom who can’t breastfeed. Today, we look at 7 ways you can support a breastfeeding mom.
Did you know that one of the top factors in a nursing mom’s success is her support system? It’s true. Support from her husband can almost singlehandedly determine the outcome. But support from her family and friends can make all the difference in her success and in her nursing experience.
But what if you didn’t breastfeed or couldn’t? Or perhaps you’ve never been a mom? You can still support her and be an encouragement to her. Here are 7 ways to be that kind of friend.
Build up; don’t tear down. Do you know her or are you just passing by when you spot her discreetly nursing her infant on a bench? Either way, you can say something kindhearted as you walk by, like “Way to go, mama” or “Isn’t that the sweetest thing?” You may not have nursed a baby for very long or maybe you never nursed at all, but if you’re a mom, you know the sweetness of little bitty baby cuddles. You can relate more than you even know.
While sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room with my newborn, my baby got very hungry and I began nursing him. The two moms sitting across from me just smiled sweetly. One began telling me how sweet it was to nurse her babies and how she kind of missed that stage. The other mom just said something polite and encouraging. No, she hadn’t nursed her babies, but she knew how to encourage a stranger.
2. Offer to watch the kids for her while she nurses at a playdate.
She’ll be so grateful! Do you know how hard it is to chase a 3 year old and a 1 year old at the park while nursing a baby? I do. It’s not fun to have to unplug the baby to rescue a disobedient toddler.
3. But don’t show her where the nursing room is as soon as she starts to feed her baby.
You’re probably wanting to be helpful, but it’s kind of like telling your friend that it offends you when she feeds her baby.
Nursing rooms are a bit controversial lately. It’s a great way for a mom to get away from noise and chaos to nurse her baby in privacy. But it also isolates the nursing mom, and some nursing moms feel that it’s society’s way of getting breastfeeding out of plain sight. I actually don’t feel that way–I found them to be convenient with my first baby, especially when we were troubleshooting some issues. But they were horribly inconvenient with my second and third babies because how in the world could I keep an eye on my bigger children if I was off in a nursing room? Disney World has nursing mom stations and I never once used them because I wanted to be around my family. I nursed my baby on the rides, in restaurants, or on a bench. It was just easier.
At the same time, she may find it nice to nurse in quiet, so if a nursing friend comes over, you can help her feel comfortable by letting her know she can nurse in your bedroom or right there on the couch–either is fine with you.
4. Do ask her how it’s going
If you’re good friends, she probably wants to tell you about it. It might be painful for her right now or she might be overly concerned about baby’s weight. Let her talk without judgment. And skip the advice that can’t pertain to her. My second baby had reflux, and you wouldn’t believe how many people advised that I put rice cereal in his bottle. And they all knew I was breastfeeding.
5. Refrain from sharing horror stories.
She has probably heard every failed breastfeeding story out there from all of her friends who had to use formula. She knows about mastitis and bleeding, cracked nipples. She knows about babies who never got enough breast milk and were dehydrated and failed to thrive. She knows about how some moms just don’t make enough milk. And if it’s her first time breastfeeding, she probably worries that she is one of them. What can you say instead? I’m so glad that breastfeeding is working out for you guys. It is sweet.
6. Give her a nursing basket as a gift!
Fill it with items like breast pads, a cute nursing cover or Boppy cover, hands free snacks (like granola bars), or even a box of Mother’s Milk Tea. If you’re not sure, just ask other friends who breastfed to find out what their favorite, must-have items were. And check her registry! She probably has her favorite brand of nursing pads on thelist, but most likely no one bought them for her. (My sister buys me these kinds of things because she knows no one else will!).
7. Remind her that she can bring her baby with her.
After my first baby, I just didn’t have time to pump to leave the baby with my husband for special events. I really found it easier to bring my babies with me everywhere, and it was nice to have one-on-one time with my baby, since I was used to chasing toddlers all day. Your friend may prefer bringing her baby too instead of pumping bottles (and some babies won’t take bottles anyway!). But she also may feel uncomfortable being the only woman at Mom’s Night Out with a baby. When you’re a new mom, it might even be a little awkward to bring a baby to a bridal shower or to tote him along to all of the women’s ministry planning meetings. But if you go out of your way to remind her that her baby is welcome, it will put her at ease. I can tell you that having women at my church who encouraged me to bring my nursing baby with me is the only reason I attended a couple of women’s retreats. I really thought I should stay home though when I was still nursing my 15 month old, but the women at church twisted my arm and I went. I’m so glad I did!
And here’s a bonus tip that will build your friendship: Always assume the best in her.
If you’re a mom that chose formula or had no option because nursing wouldn’t work out, then it’s easy for you to feel judged by moms who nurse. But you know what? We’re not judging.
OK, I won’t presume to speak on behalf of all the breastfeeding moms out there. Let me say that I’m not judging. Truly, I’m not. I’m sitting here nursing my baby. I’m not nursing her to show you how cool I am. I’m not nursing to prove that I’m a hippie (I’m really not a hippie). And I’m not nursing to show what a great, smart, talented woman I am. Nursing almost didn’t work out for me, so I know there are many moms who could not make it work. Failure to breastfeed does not equal failure as a mommy.
And I’ve seen over and over again that good mamas look at the facts in front of them. They look at their situation, their children, and what’s going on in their lives. And they make decisions that work for them. And those decisions might be different than mine.
So when we nurse our babies, we’re not nursing at you (Remember that awesome article, Quit Pointing Your Avocado At Me?). We’re just feeding our babies. That’s all.
Half of the mommy wars are in our heads. And if we stop believing that people are judging us and simply be moms together, we’ll find friendships deepening.
I know some amazing moms. Moms that I want to be like when I grow up. And you know what? They love their babies fiercely. And not all of them breastfed. Some of them couldn’t. Maybe it was a lack of information or a rough set of circumstances that doomed the nursing relationship. Or maybe it just didn’t seem to fit their family. It really doesn’t matter to me. They fed their babies. They made sure that their babies were growing and healthy. This is what matters.
What would you add to my list? How can you encourage a breastfeeding mom?