Every mom’s breastfeeding journey is different, but there’s a common thread throughout: It’s harder than you think, and everyone could use a little support. Even small gestures can go a long way—in fact, research shows breastfeeding support can help stave off postpartum depression and boost women's breastfeeding success. So how can partners, friends, colleagues and even total strangers go about cheering on a breastfeeding mom? Here are 14 ideas to get you started.
1. Get Help from the Start
If your pregnant partner is planning to breastfeed, sign up for a breastfeeding class or schedule a meet-up with a lactation consultant. And nope, it’s not just for her—both of you should go and learn. It’s a wonderful way to prepare for breastfeeding, head off problems and ensure your partner feels supported.
2. Bring Her Things
Starting a breastfeeding session is kind of like getting into the car for a road trip. If you didn’t gather everything you might possibly need beforehand, well, you’re stuck without for a long while. Help a nursing lady out and always ask if she needs anything. Chances are, a glass of water, a pillow adjustment, the TV remote or good book might be just the thing.
3. Learn Hunger Cues
It happens all the time: Partners, mother-in-laws and friends hand a fussy baby directly to Mom, saying, “I think the baby is hungry.” But fussy newborns can be fussy for a myriad of reasons, not just hunger. Instead, learn what baby’s “I’m hungry” signs truly are, so when they’re not actually clamoring for milk, you can comfort baby on your own.
4. Don’t Assume She Wants to Be Alone
Making a polite exit when it’s time for baby to nurse might seem like the right thing to do, but breastfeeding can be lonely. Just ask Mom: “Would you like some privacy?” If she says no, stay and chat.
5. Participate in the Process
Attention partners: Even though you’re not nursing, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the breastfeeding practice. Sit with your two loves during a feed, stoke baby’s head, take a photo (if mom okays it) or just snuggle close and be there.
6. Join the Night Shift
There’s more to be done in wee hours than just breastfeeding. There are diaper changes, burpings, rocking and more. Don’t assume since your breastfeeding partner needs to be up that she should do it all.
7. Wash the Pump Parts
It’s kind of like the whole “you cook, I clean” dinnertime scenario. She just pumped; you do the wash and dry. The CDC even put together a handy how-to guide to help you out.
8. Offer Respite
Hold the baby, play with the baby, go for a walk with the baby, and if it’s been discussed and is part of the plan, bottle-feed the baby. Breastfeeding mamas spend a lot of time with their newborn and they need a break. Make it happen.
9. Mind the Break
Once you’ve taken the baby off Mom’s hands, there are no take-back-sies. Don’t interrupt her well-deserved bath or pedicure or nap with a baby care question. You got this.
10. Offer Encouragement Sans Judgement
“You’ve got to keep at it!” “Breast is best!” “If I did it, you can do it!” All of the above may seem supportive, but they’re all tinged with ever-so-subtle judgement. For genuine encouragement, try, “you’re doing a great job.”
11. Have Breast Respect
Just because a nursing mom’s breasts are out and about does not give you permission to comment on them. No cow jokes; no “they look huge!” comments; nothing. Even you, fellow mom who nursed—your friend doesn’t need to hear about how nursing destroyed your breasts.
12. Hear Something, Say Something
If you’re ever in an airport, a coffee shop, a Target, wherever, and you catch wind of someone attempting to shame a mama who’s breastfeeding in public, come to that woman’s defense, immediately.
13. Tell Her About the Mamava App
This genius app is for on-the-go moms who need to find a private and secure place to pump or nurse that’s not a bathroom.
14. Pay it Forward
If you’ve been to a breastfeeding support group or know of an awesome lactation consultant, tell your nursing friend. Offer to give her the info if she’s interested. Heck, offer to go with her if she’s nervous. Share any and all support you benefited from during your own breastfeeding days.
Published April 2019
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