Breastfeeding means different things to different moms around the world. Working moms may breastfeed their babies through expressed milk, and others may provide babies with breast milk through donations and even more directly feed their child through nursing. Some moms offer their babes a combination of the above breastfeeding methods, and others provide both breastmilk and formula to their little ones, and still others provide formula exclusively to their babies.
The result is the same: A happy, healthy baby who has absorbed natural nutrients and antibodies from his or her mother, reducing instances of SIDs, asthma, allergies, ear infections, and respiratory illness. Breastfeeding also helps a mother’s body recover from pregnancy and birth and may lower her risk of ovarian and breast cancer.
With such amazing benefits to be gained through breastfeeding, it’s unfortunate that this practice isn’t always supported by friends, family, other moms, employers, or occasionally, medical professionals. Though we have often heard “breast is best” or the less catchy “fed is best with a focus on breastfeeding,” breastfeeding is still occasionally stigmatized.
This article honors World Breastfeeding Week by discussing how you and those around you can encourage and support breastfeeding of the babies and toddlers in your life.
How You Can Support Breastfeeding
We can all do better to support breastfeeding moms. No matter how you encounter a mother who is breastfeeding – in your family, among friends, a stranger waiting for the bus, or at work – there are ways you can support the mother in her and her child’s breastfeeding journey. Here is a series of guidelines you can follow when you see someone breastfeeding their little one.
Much of the stigma around breastfeeding is simply a lack of education on the subject. Here are a few facts you can keep in mind when you encounter someone nursing their child or expressing breastmilk for their baby:
- Breastfeeding lowers a baby’s disease risk both through infancy and even as they grow into adulthood.
- Breastfeeding saves families money as they don’t have to purchase formula for their child.
- Breastfeeding is exhausting and hungry work. Moms who breastfeed need to eat 500 more calories, drink at least a quart more in fluids, and get 45 more minutes of sleep than moms who don’t.
- Nursing a baby can help calm him or her down if the baby is fussy.
- Breast milk provides babies with all of the liquids they need throughout summer – babies under 6 months should not drink any water and should only get their liquid through milk. That means in summer babies are nursing more often.
- To produce enough milk, women must empty their breasts frequently. If they don’t do this, they will produce less milk and be unable to fulfill their baby’s needs. Additionally, not expressing milk regularly can lead to pain, clogged ducts, and a dangerous condition called mastitis. It is important for moms who are breastfeeding to express milk or nurse when they feel the need.
- Just as you may get distracted while eating, a baby can become distracted by talking or loud noises while nursing or taking a bottle.
- Breastfeeding can be difficult, so moms need the support of their loved ones, coworkers, employers, and society at large.
- According to the World Health Organization, babies should not be given solids until six months or older. Before that point, they should be fed breast milk exclusively if possible.
- Both nursing and expressing milk by pumping or hand expression are breastfeeding.
- Some moms are unable to breastfeed due to physical situations, work obligations, or other issues. At the end of the day, all that matters is a well-fed and healthy baby.
It’s important to provide encouragement and support to both mom and baby, no matter how that child is being fed.
Provide a breastfeeding mom with space, quiet, and comfort
No matter how you see a mother breastfeeding, remember that she is expending a lot of energy. Give her the space and quiet she needs to do this important work. If you know the mother in question, you may want to provide her with a cushion or put a tall glass of water near her free hand.
Give the breastfeeding mom your encouragement and support
Whether you agree with breastfeeding in public or not, don’t give a mom a hard time for doing so. If she is nursing her child, she is focusing on providing the baby with nutrition with all of her energy and strength. She may be on an uncomfortable bus bench or sitting in a corner trying to be unobtrusive. Give her an encouraging smile and move on with your day.
Make allowances for a breastfeeding mom
If a guest who is either nursing or pumping is coming to your home, provide her with options for this important and often uncomfortable or awkward task. Give her a room (not the bathroom) with outlets and comfortable seating if she is pumping or designate a comfy chair that she can set up however she likes for nursing. If your mom friend is staying with you, provide space in your refrigerator or freezer and on your countertop for milk storage and bottle sterilization.
Finally, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, just ignore it
Let’s say breastfeeding gives you the willies. Well, if you are not a breastfeeding mom’s employer or spouse, nor are you in her support network, you can safely ignore a breastfeeding mom. Follow the saying “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all” and simply move forward with your day.
On the other hand, if you see a mom bottle feeding her baby with milk or formula, and you believe all babies should be nursed – try to remain neutral or supportive. You don’t know that mother’s story and your opinion about how she feeds her baby won’t change her ability to do so.
Breastfeeding is important work and provides babies with vital nutrition. Here at Flow Natural Health Care, we encourage mothers to breastfeed for as long as their child needs and work with moms to support their own and their child’s health throughout infancy, toddlerhood, and beyond. Contact us today to schedule your well woman exam or to set up your child’s pediatric care.