Balancing the 24/7 needs of a newborn with her own recovery needs can make the postpartum period challenging for even the strongest of mothers. One piece of the puzzle that can seem overwhelming in the beginning is breastfeeding – how often does baby need to eat? How long should the baby nurse? How can I tell if the baby is getting enough milk? Amidst these many common questions, moms need access to the best information and they also need the support of the people around them.
So what can you do to help a new mom succeed in meeting her breastfeeding goals?
Keep her company
Everyone has a different comfort level, but most moms would prefer not to be exiled to a bedroom or spare room every time their baby needs to nurse. Encourage her to breastfeed wherever she’s comfortable. She may prefer privacy while getting the baby to latch, but then welcome company and conversation while the baby nurses. Normalizing breastfeeding begins at home, so do what you can to help mom feel at ease.
Be her advocate
Whether you’re supporting your wife, friend, client, or relative, be her cheerleader. Tell her she’s doing a great job, especially on the days when she doesn’t feel like she is. If the baby gets hungry while you’re out and about, encourage her to breastfeed wherever she is comfortable. Point out comfortable spots and assist her if she wishes to cover up while latching or feeding or tell her that it is just fine to nurse without a cover, too.
Keep her glass full
It’s easy for a busy mom to forget or ignore when her body is thirsty. If you see her sitting down to nurse without a glass of water nearby, fill a glass and bring it to her. In the early days of nursing, it’s also common for mothers to feel a bit of a “hot flash” while breastfeeding so a cool glass of water may be a welcome relief.
Prepare and offer healthy snacks
Breastfeeding uses a tremendous amount of energy. The average mother will burn 300-500 calories a day just from breastfeeding, which means that her need for good fuel is critical. Foods that are rich in iron, protein and calcium are especially beneficial for breastfeeding moms. It’s not necessary for moms to go on any special diet while breastfeeding; her goal is to eat healthy foods and to satisfy her hunger.
If trouble arises, help her find professional guidance
Trouble with a latch or worries about weight gain don’t need to end a breastfeeding relationship. If a mom is having trouble breastfeeding, help her find support and information to work through the hurdles. A lactation consultant can be a great resource; your hospital or pediatrician is a good place to start for local references. Your local La Leche League or breastfeeding counselors are also great places to turn for information and help. Knowing she is not alone and finding tips to overcome challenges can be a huge boost to a new mom.
Ask her what she needs
When we feel cared for, we have more emotional reserves to care for others. So when a mother’s needs are met, she will have more “in the tank” to meet the needs of her baby. Every mother is going to be in a different place, both physically and mentally, during the postpartum period. She may not want to bother someone by asking for a glass of water while she’s nursing the baby for what may feel to her like the 20th time that day, but she would love it if someone were to offer. There may be a pillow across the room that would make positioning the baby easier. She may simply want you to hold the baby for a few minutes so that she can take a shower. If you aren’t sure how to help, simply ask if there’s anything you can do or if there is anything else she’d like, then tell her she is doing a great job and she is a terrific mother.
According to a 2012 U.K. study by Renfrew, et al., it’s been statistically proven that women who receive breastfeeding support – whether from a professional, a friend or a peer – are more likely to continue breastfeeding and reach their breastfeeding goals. The simplest things, such as sitting and chatting while a mother nurses or offering her a glass of water, can make a lasting impact not only on the success of a breastfeeding relationship but on the heart of the mother herself.
Jennifer Stutzman, Freelance Writer
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