The decision to breastfeed is first and foremost, and exclusively, the mother’s decision. Breastfeeding is supposed to be natural, it should happen on its own but in many cases, it is a challenging experience for both mothers and babies. The environment’s support, especially that of close family members, can make all the difference.
What does supporting breastfeeding involve?
It is important to remember that like any other aspect of the baby’s health, perseverance and success are not the sole responsibility of the breastfeeding mother or just her “business”, but a topic that should be important to both mother and father and all close family members.
Consequently, one can start with practical steps to make it easier for parents, such as taking care of the shopping, cooking, tidying and housekeeping, and of course also helping to care for older siblings who probably need more attention now.
Even before offering help during breastfeeding, it is important to support the new mother: encourage her and help her adjust to the new routine, to eat and drink regularly and have a varied diet and to get as many hours sleep as possible. It is important to provide breastfeeding mothers support which is customized to her needs (whether physical or emotional): ask her what would help her the most, encourage her to ask for and receive support and help.
Solidifying the unique bond with the baby
At times, supporting a breastfeeding mother can mean taking care of the baby between feeds in order to give the mother time for herself. Partners and other family members can work on their unique bond with the infant in different ways such as skin to skin contact (without clothes), baths, burping and changing diapers after nursing, putting the baby down for a nap, taking baby for a walk in a stroller or carrier and at times when the mother is expressing breast milk, feeding the baby, especially at night.
It has also been found that participation of both parents in antenatal preparation courses and support groups for new parents and sharing reliable professional information about breastfeeding with all family members (immediate and extended) are effective in breastfeeding success.
Important to know: Many studies have found that the family’s mere support of breastfeeding is insufficient and support that is sensitive to the mother’s needs and respectful of her breastfeeding autonomy is required. In this manner, the chances of a positive nursing experience are enhanced.