How to Support a Breastfeeding Mom

While I am not officially a lactation consultant, I am very passionate about breastfeeding and intend to become one. I am going to LLL meetings on the regular, and will be applying for Leadership at some point in the next few months. I know the LLL philosophy and agree with it, especially the part about giving moms sound and accurate information, and letting them make decisions that are right for them and their family. So this could include exclusive breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, doing both, supplementing with donor milk, supplementing with formula, or ending the breastfeeding relationship and going to formula exclusively. It is different for each mom, and it’s not for anyone to judge, but to support them along their personal journey.

So a friend of mine is pregnant – just over three months, and while it is still early to think about how she will feed the baby, I wanted to reach out and plant the seed that if she chooses to breastfeed, she may likely need some support, and I totally can help her find good info and a local support group, as she lives out of my area. I made sure to tell her that *if* she chooses to breastfeed, and if not, that’s cool, too. I do not want someone to think I’m some boob-nazi. Like you’re a bad mom if you don’t breastfeed – you aren’t. You’re a great mom. It’s just that breastfeeding is a learned behavior, while bottle feeding is pretty obvious.

So while I am getting information together for her, I figured that it makes for a perfect blog post. Here are my top pieces of advice for moms who are thinking about or just starting out breastfeeding, and also some great links to articles about newborns and nursing.

  1. Ignore advice and go with your instincts. You will know what to do, or at the very least, if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t go with it – like when people tell you that your baby has a sleeping problem or is breastfeeding too much. Ignore ALL that.
  2. Your baby CANNOT manipulate you. TRUST YOUR BABY. You cannot spoil a baby by holding it too much. Just as you like to snuggle with your significant other, or cuddle with them to sleep, or hold their hand, your baby has the SAME desire for physical affection. Cuddle your baby. Do not listen to anyone who gives you contrary advice. Your baby isn’t trying to be the boss of you. Your baby just wants to love you and to receive your love.
  3. Learn about what infant sleep should look like. Babies wake up frequently. It is normal. It sucks. But it is normal. Breastfeeding them back to sleep is biologically normal also. And you can sleep while you breastfeed in bed (safely). Ignore the baby trainers. Babies who actually sleep through the night are VERY rare. Babies cannot Self Soothe! That’s a myth and leaving your baby to cry it out is an awful practice.
  4. It IS okay for you to only breastfeed your baby, and there are many other ways for other people to bond with your baby that are outside of feeding them. Speaking of which, one of the BEST ways to bond with your baby is to wear them. So sign up dad and the grandparents to go for a mall-walk, pop that baby in a Moby wrap (or other wrap or carrier) and head out. Grandma WILL love this, and will take pressure off the feeding-bonding nag.
  5. Breastfeed ON DEMAND, and not on a schedule. Formula babies are different. You measure out specific ounces and give at regular intervals. Breastfed babies feed on demand, and they do this for specific reasons. Your milk supply will increase during growth spurts and your baby will need all that milk and will “cluster feed” to help them through the growth spurts. (And they happen regularly also!) Keeping your baby on a schedule does not meet the other needs that breastfeeding provides, and can also affect your milk supply.
  6. Breastfeeding satisfies every single need your baby has. Do it often, whenever then need it. To say that they have fed, they have a dry diaper, they’ve been burped- they have no other needs, ignores their most basic need for warmth and affection. If they are bored, scared, cold, tired, hungry, teething or in other pain, sick, happy, or whatever else – breastfeeding meets every need they have.
  7. The law protects you. Nurse in public. Call the police if you get harassed. No need to elaborate on this. Do NOT nurse on a toilet because some ignorant jackass told you that you can’t nurse in public.

That’s some pretty basic stuff that I feel like made a big difference to me and my relationship with my nursling. But also, here’s some awesome articles that I feel gave me great information and a good starting point to being able to navigate the beginning of our journey. And let me just add that if you are doing some googling for your own info, please do not follow breastfeeding advice from *ANY* formula company.

  • Breastfeeding Basics : This is a fantastic website with articles written by IBCLCs  and who links to other great breastfeeding support pages, such as The Badass Breastfeeder. She also links to some videos to help you out.
  • Kellymom : She is linked on my Breastfeeding Support page. An IBCLC who is like the go-to when you have questions or issues, such as how to tell if you have a plugged duct. Great info, and accurate.
  • La Leche League – how milk is made : Supply and demand. The more milk that is removed, the more you make.
  • La Leche League – getting your supply off to a good start : What you need to know to establish a great milk supply and what hurdles you should be aware of.
  • La Leche League – how to feed on demand/determine hunger cues : Many moms don’t know what to look for to see if the baby is hungry. Or they think they just fed the little booger 20 minutes ago, yet here is his crying – can he be hungry again? Yes.
  • Parenting Science : Why should you feed on demand?
  • Kellymom – Nursing a newborn: What does it look like, how to tell if baby is getting enough, or are you even doing it right?
  • Kellymom – Growth spurts : You aren’t doing anything wrong. Your baby is growing. Growing pains can hurt! Your baby will cry and seem unsatisfied. But it will pass. Your baby needs you. You aren’t doing anything wrong, don’t worry.
  • Babywearing International : Wearing your baby can make huge differences. When you can carry your baby and also be hands free to cook, eat, go to the bathroom, and many other things – including dealing with other children. There are many ways to do it and you can spend $20 or $500 or more on carriers and wraps. Save your sanity and consider wearing.
  • Attachment Parenting Theory : I think it’s important to talk about the label here – I’m not a by the book person, but breastfeeding and attachment theory goes hand in hand. There are basic principles behind attachment parenting and the theory behind it. It isn’t granola hippy stuff. It’s also not permissive parenting. It’s responding to your baby, holding or wearing them, empathizing with them and respecting them as individuals, throughout your parenting experience. Understanding what your baby is doing, having a healthy knowledge of their development and what they are capable of understanding, is all part of it.
  • Kidspot.com – What is your baby thinking? How do you respond to that? Hint: Not by trying to teach them to self-soothe, because that’s a myth!
  • The Wonder Weeks: How is your baby’s brain growing? What will they learn next?
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block: Seriously, get this book. This is about the theory of the Fourth Trimester. Just because a baby comes out doesn’t mean they’re any different from five seconds ago when they were in! They still want to be curled up and warm and listening to mom’s heartbeat to soothe them. Life. Saver. This book was.
  • The Continuum Concept : The continuum concept is the idea that in order to achieve optimal physical, mental and emotional development, human beings — especially babies — require the kind of experience to which our species adapted during the long process of our evolution.

Now, things change quickly as the days turn into weeks which turn into months very fast! And as your baby grows, their behaviors change, their phases change, they sleep more and less. And you can read more about that. But in the beginning, you are really thrown for a loop. You can’t prepare enough, I think. There are many moms out there reading all about their pregnancy and the growth of their new fetus, and they are unprepared for when it comes. And by unprepared, I mean for the unrelenting advice of people telling moms they are doing it wrong, or to go against their instinct.

Your instincts will be different than mine. Your journey will be different. You have to make decisions about your baby that you can live with, until that child grows and can make them for his or herself. So what I’ve listed and talked about here is all to be in tune with your own personal instincts. Not mine.

 

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