It’s National Breastfeeding Week in England (27 June – 3 July) and the theme this year is ‘everyone has a part to play in helping mums to breastfeed’. As a breastfeeding mother of one, who had my baby during the height of the pandemic, this is a topic close to my heart!
I’ve been thinking about how individuals, groups, and organisations can help mothers to breastfeed. As a whole, we can all strive to do so much better when it comes to helping mothers start and continue to breastfeed. We all have a role to play and simple conversations around breastfeeding can make a big impact – especially when it comes to supporting a new and tired mum!
So let’s look at the different ways we can all help a mother breastfeed – during National Breastfeeding Week and beyond!
How the hospital can support breastfeeding
Breastfeeding starts soon after birth, and most baby-friendly hospitals look to ensure you have immediate skin-to-skin with your baby in the first hour after birth (known as the golden hour). This is because it’s proven to help promote bonding and breastfeeding from the very start.
If you are unsure about anything, ask a midwife for help and support with breastfeeding. If it’s not forthcoming, or you are not happy with the advice given, ask to speak with someone else. Breastfeeding training for midwives is optional and not mandatory. You can ask to speak with the hospital’s infant feeding expert for specialist breastfeeding help. The most important thing is ensuring your baby is feeding well from the breast so don’t stay silent if you need help.
How partners can support breastfeeding
Having a supportive partner when the nights get tough and you are close to giving up can mean everything. A kind listening ear at 3am can really make a difference. I’ve been there and having my Husband remind me why I wanted to breastfeed kept me going on the difficult days. He really encouraged me and did his own research too, meaning he was able to come up with suggestions when we had challenges like nipple trauma. Finding solutions to breastfeeding problems shouldn’t just fall on the shoulders of the mother!
Your partner can become your biggest supporter and ally when it comes to breastfeeding. You can read this article by a fellow breastfeeding mama for ideas on how partners can support breastfeeding.
How family can support breastfeeding
You are more likely to breastfeed if you were nursed as a child or if you have seen it normalised in your family. However, many of us did not grow up in a breastfeeding family. Choosing to breastfeed after our own mothers and even grandmothers formula fed can feel like a big decision. It’s a good idea to let your family know of your intentions to breastfeed and that’s it’s important you have their support.
Family members may wonder how best they can support you when breastfeeding if they know nothing about it – but there are plenty of ways they can help you. The biggest one is letting you focus on feeding baby whilst they help in other ways – such as making dinner, doing the dishes or putting a wash on! They can have precious bonding time with baby by giving them a bath, taking them for a walk or playing with them. This also gives mum some alone time and a chance to have a shower or catch up on some sleep.
How your friends can support breastfeeding
An understanding friend/friendship group can be it’s own form of therapy for a new mum! Talking about birth trauma, explosive nappies and breastfeeding struggles in the park with a stranger can make you friends for life.
Having a friend to listen to your worries and problems – even if they don’t understand – can help. Sometimes a mum just needs to vent, or have a little cry to get things off their chest. Being a listening ear can help so much. A friend doesn’t always have to offer solutions.
How businesses can support breastfeeding
Businesses like cafes and restaurants can be a scary place for a nervous mum. Breastfeeding in public can be very daunting. Will my baby cry? Will they latch straightaway? Am I covered enough? It can be stressful so many mums just don’t do it – opting to stay at home or go to their car to nurse. Knowing a venue is breastfeeding friendly can given many mum’s a feeling of reassurance that they can feed with confidence. Businesses can sign up to the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme which is free and can benefit the venue.
Breastfeeding mums say what they appreciate most is a welcoming atmosphere and friendly, attentive staff: something you can provide for free. I experienced this first hand when my baby needed feeding whilst out and about and we quickly dashed into a cafe to sit down and feed Staff spotted me and were able to offer table service even though they didn’t usually. This meant I could enjoy a coffee while feeding my baby without having to worry about going up to order. They even bought over a glass of water, knowing that breastfeeding is thirsty work. Since the staff in this particular cafe were so lovely it encouraged me to go back again and again.
How employers can support breastfeding
Many women feel their return to work cuts their breastfeeding journey short as there is pressure to stop feeding before you go back. However, breastfeeding mums are protected by law and an employer must undertake risk assessments when a person returns from maternity leave. Returning to work doesn’t have to spell the end of your breastfeeding journey!
As an employer or colleague supporting breastfeeding mums returning to work can be easier than you think. Asking questions about what they need will instantly put them at ease, allowing for an open and honest conversation. Simple alterations such as having a fridge to store breast milk in can make a world of difference to a breastfeeding mother returning to work. I’ve previously written about returning to work and how my employers helped support me as a breastfeeding mother.
How EVERYONE can support breastfeeding
If you see a mum breastfeeding in public offer a smile and ask her if she needs anything, a smile gesture can go a long way and make a big impact. While out with my newborn my friend was running late this meant I had to breastfeed alone, something I’d never done before. Another mum approached me with a smile and told me what a good job I was doing, and this honestly made my week. I will never forget this kind lady.
I now always carry Yes Mumma breastfeeding cards in my purse, car, and changing bag to hand out. In the last two years I’ve probably given out about 20! They are free and a lovely way to brighten someone’s day.
Overall we can all do more to help breastfeeding mums. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture or expensive to do. Being supportive can happen in many ways. We are all responsible for improving breastfeeding rates.
Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and boobingit is not responsible for any outdated or factual inaccuracies which may appear. Please seek the help of a medical professional should you need it whilst breastfeeding.