10 Ways Families Can Support Breastfeeding

You are welcoming a new baby to the family. Congratulations! Breastfeeding is one of the healthiest, most rewarding things a mom can do for her baby. It is only natural that you want to support the new mother in breastfeeding and to make it as easy as possible for her to succeed. Here are a few tips that you may find helpful along the way.

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1. Learn more about breastfeeding before the baby arrives. Reading books and articles from respected, evidence-based resources can help you gain a better understanding of how breastfeeding works and what to expect. Talking to other mothers about their breastfeeding experiences can also be a valuable way to learn.
2. Support her choice to breastfeed. Let her know you’ll do what you can to help her breastfeed as long as she desires. Don’t try to persuade her to offer bottles of breastmilk or formula when not medically indicated. Remember that there are many ways for family members to bond with the baby besides feeding.
3. Bring her water or her favorite beverage and a snack. Breastfeeding can make moms feel thirsty and hungry. New moms tend to care for their babies before themselves, and their own needs may go temporarily unmet without a little help. A refreshing drink of water in the middle of a marathon feeding can really make a new mom’s day!
4. Give her a break. After she breastfeeds her baby, offer to hold, rock, or carry the baby in a sling or front carrier while she rests (or showers, or goes for a walk around the block, or…). Assure Mom you will let her know when baby shows early signs of hunger.
5. Help her with baby care. Offer to change the baby’s diaper or bathe the baby while she takes care of her own personal needs.
6. Help with the chores. Ask Mom what she needs you to do or ask her to leave a list on the refrigerator. Laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, cooking, dishes, and grocery shopping are chores that most often top the “to do” list.
7. If there are older children, read to them, play with them, or take them out for the afternoon. The one-on-one time will be special for them, and Mom will appreciate the time to bond with her new baby.
8. Entertain house guests and enable Mom to have a quiet space alone with the new baby. During the early weeks it is common for babies to spend a lot of time breastfeeding. Mom will still be healing after birth, and entertaining for long periods of time may be tiresome. She may even feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of certain people. Entertaining guests can help take the pressure off of Mom to be sociable and allow her time and space to rest and bond with her baby.
9. Help her deal with criticism about breastfeeding. Remind her of all things she is doing right. Provide her with unbiased, evidence-based information that will help her overcome the criticism (for example, if she is being criticized for not supplementing remind her of how to tell her baby is getting enough milk). If necessary, step in and speak for Mom in a good way.
10. Tell her you’re proud of her for breastfeeding. Your encouragement and support could be the difference between her continuing with breastfeeding as long as she plans to or stopping before she is ready. You are an important part of her success!

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