Wonderfully Made Births

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What does support look like? What to do and not do to support a breastfeeding mother | PhD in Parenting

What does support look like? What to do and not do to support a breastfeeding mother | PhD in Parenting.

Often times, others say it better.  In the above referenced posting from my favorite parenting resource on the web, the author cites a variety of articles on how to support a breastfeeding mother, and how NOT to.

I will just add a few thoughts to the discussion.

As I have said about birth, I firmly believe the best possible way to affect a real change in our attitudes about breastfeeding is to shift the way we talk about it.  While I don’t believe women should be “guilted” into breastfeeding, I DO believe that hearing other moms who have successfully breastfed for any period of time talk positively about the experience can work wonders.

When a couple initially interviews me to be their doula, I hand them a stack of papers including a lengthy list of things they might want to consider for their birth plan.  I preface it by saying that it likely includes many things that they do not care about at all, but also many things that they might never have considered.  What smells bother them?  Are they fearful of throwing up (any kind of fear can cause difficulties).  If this is a boy, have they considered not circumcising?  I feel the more the discussion is open, the more clarified certain things become.  Rather than making it too complicated a process, seeing things side by side can make it easier to separate the chaff from the wheat, if you will.

Why not write a breastfeeding plan?  If we truly believe in evidence-based decision making, why not go ahead an put all the potential issues out on the table so a woman can see them laid out before her?

Rather than assuming that seeing the potential challenges of breastfeeding will discourage a woman, let’s imagine that she can make good decisions for herself and her baby when given accurate information.

Let’s include on these lists all the intangible benefits, also.  Nutrition is a great ideal, but in life few of us can wrap our minds around it in a way that makes it real, hence our obesity problems.  Let’s talk about getting to hold your baby so close and warm as often as you like without feeling apologetic for it.  Let’s add the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for bonding.  Let’s discuss the multitudes of disorders caused by invalidation and lack of proper attachment, and how the oxytocin boost from breastfeeding can help avoid some of the behaviors that can cause or contribute to these problems.

We can add that if you don’t have good support, you might have more hurdles to overcome.  Help her come up with a plan to do just that.  “What will you do if…” planning can help her visualize and own a situation, which can make it that much easier to deal with if it actually happens.

Here are some very practical, simple ways to plan for successful breastfeeding:

1.  Cook meals ahead.  I did this with each of my last two pregnancies, and it was so nice to just go to the freezer to pull out dinner.

2.  When you visit, keep the visit short when the baby is very new, and do something helpful.  Throw in a load of laundry, wash some dishes, and for crying out loud call ahead and ask what is needed from the store.

3.  Bring foods (or prepare and freeze them if you are the new mom) that can be picked up with one hand to eat!  Sounds silly, but it’s no easy thing to juggle a newborn and a fork and a plate.  A breastfeeding woman needs 300 calories more than a pregnant woman.  This time is much more appropriate a period to “eat for two.”  Some great suggestions:  nutritious smoothies, muffins with extra goodies like fruit and nuts in them, and sandwich wraps or pitas stuffed not-too-full.

It’s not a long list.  As I said, others have done a better job than I could here.  But I do have one last thought.

If you are not 100% on board with the breastfeeding and cannot think of anything encouraging to say, or even if you have a question that you could really get answered elsewhere (by someone not quite so hormonally challenged or tired and overwhelmed or emotionally vulnerable) – KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, and just hang back and witness.

You might just learn a thing or two.