Breastfeeding Month: It takes a village!
Susan Campbell, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, is Director of Perinatal Services at Wayne UNC Health Care. She has been a nurse for over 30 years, caring for babies and their families, helping many of them have a successful breastfeeding experience.
As I talk with new families each day, I often get questions from new fathers and grandparents asking how they can support the mother who is breastfeeding. New moms and babies need the support of their families and friends not only to be successful, but also to feel successful with their breastfeeding experience.
There are lots of ways to make things go more smoothly for mom and baby. Whether you are a new dad, grandparent, family member, or friend, you want to show you care and are excited about the new baby. Here are some ways you can show support:
- Keep Mom and Baby together. Everyone loves to hold babies, and babies love to be held, too. But remember that the new baby needs to be with the new mom and dad so they can learn to be comfortable with their new bundle of joy. Ask before picking up the baby, and remember to wash your hands. If the baby begins to show hunger cues such as trying to suck on anything close to his face, by smacking his lips, or by turning towards his mother, give the baby to Mom so she can breastfeed. You may want to offer to give the parents and baby privacy to breastfeed and plan to come back at a later time.
- Offer to watch the baby while Mom and Dad sleep. This is a great way to be able to admire the cute new baby while sleep-deprived parents catch up on rest. When the baby wakes up, go ahead and change the baby’s diaper and take the baby to Mom. When Baby is finished eating, start over with the baby-watching. (It’s so much fun.)
- Help Mom get comfortable. Often moms find it difficult to get comfortable when they are nursing. Help Mom with a footstool, extra support pillows, or blanket rolls. Also keep water or other fluids available for Mom. Most moms are very thirsty when they are breastfeeding.
- Bring treats for the parents. Call or text Mom/Dad and find out if you can bring them anything. Treats like fresh fruit, breakfast bars, juice boxes, or even Mom’s favorite milkshake are great treats for a nursing mom who is beginning to get hungry or thirsty. If the family is already home from the hospital, offer to bring a meal. Having things prepared and ready to heat in the microwave is a blessing for new families. The last thing they may think about is feeding themselves when they are so busy feeding the baby.
- Remember to be encouraging. Every parent wants things to be perfect for their new bundle of joy. Saying things like, ‘you look so comfortable with your baby’ or ‘your baby looks so content’ speak volumes to new parents – especially moms. Remember, new babies do eat frequently and they will often cry to communicate with their parents. Avoid questioning baby’s appetite or mom’s milk supply. Mom is probably already questioning these things herself.
- Offer to babysit older children so Mom and Dad can have uninterrupted time with the new baby. Get the older children involved in household chores to help mom.
- Ask mom what she needs! Many mothers are so used to doing things on their own that it is hard to ask for assistance. Asking Mom what you can do for her will often make her feel more comfortable receiving assistance and support.
Enjoy having a new baby as a part of your family, extended family, and network of friends. Show you care by supporting mom’s choice to breastfeed her baby. Your support can make the adjustment to having a new baby much easier.
Looking for more more information to support the challenges and joys of breastfeeding? Call 919-731-6492; we’d be happy to provide you with additional resources.