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Five Ways to Support a Breastfeeding Mother

line infant gazing over shoulder

“What is the most important question you want answered in a breastfeeding class?” I ask at the start of every class. Partners always want to know how they can be supportive.

To be supportive, you should understand that the first two weeks postpartum are especially important. This is when a woman’s breast structure is changing. She is creating the capacity for an abundant supply. If she is has any difficulty or questions, get lactation help sooner than later. Then breastfeeding can be a comfortable habit for the whole family.

If possible, ‘give’ yourself at least the first two weeks. I know we lack a paid family leave in our country. Therefore, we have to claim that time ourselves. You may need it… and just being there does make a difference.

Here are some specific ways to provide assistance.
1. Validate how she feels. Even though “everyone says the latch looks good” though it doesn’t feel right to her… that is important information. Trust her gut feelings on this and get some help.

2. Have a list of breastfeeding resources in your area. A person to person resource is usually more effective than compiling data from the Internet. See the list below.

3. Keep a record of the daily diaper chart for the first week. That gives you specific data points! Chart the number of feedings, wet diapers, bowel movements. Diapers are one sign of effective feeding. Take a class and learn more.

4. Make a safe, quiet space for her. Sharing the news with friends is wonderful, though visits can become overwhelming. Some families set specific hours. In addition to ‘hours’, you can give people a helpful task (a meal, wash the dishes…) to do while they are there. Meanwhile, both parents can aim for two naps during the day. 15 minutes twice a day and you’ll feel the difference in your body and your mind.

5. Review how the pump works. Sterilize the parts before she uses it so it’s ready. Clean the pump parts and bottles as necessary. You can print out the chart from these guidelines for storing breast milk and post it in your kitchen.

Most importantly in the first weeks, if a mother has to pump, set up a pumping area so it’s convenient and comfortable. You can co-ordinate feeding the baby while she pumps. That will save both of you some time.

A supportive person can do everything a mother can do except breastfeed. Hold the baby, sing, straighten up the bedroom, change the cat litter, put the dishes away. As always, your kind words and massage will be welcome, too.

Adults and babies have the same priority: eating and sleep. Make a space that’s calm, safe and nourishing and that will support your whole family.

 

Resources for you:
•Anywhere in the world, you can find a Lactation Consultant.
• Ten Experienced IBCLCs who make home visits. LCHomeVisits.com
Eastern and Central MA, Southern NH, Northern RI.
• Come to one of the Baby Cafes. Free breastfeeding support groups.
• Find support in your zip code: Zipmilk.org.
For your information:
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of MA, Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts reimburse for the cost of a home visit.
Aetna covers visits from preferred providers so you pay no out of pocket expense.