Supporting Breastfeeding Mamas
Breastfeeding is a learnt skill that doesn’t come easily to every Mama and baby. Many mamas will look back and realise how difficult but amazing those times were. One way you can prepare for a successful breastfeeding journey is to have the support of your partner, and those closest to you. Support is invaluable while breastfeeding, as you are the only source of bubs nutrition and hydration and this usually consumes a lot of your time. Those first few days of cluster feeding and your milk coming in can be challenging mama, as well as the weeks and months that follow, juggling breastfeeding, household duties and time to yourself. When your partner, family and friends are aware that you want to breastfeed and understand the importance, they can support and encourage you, especially on those tough days.
Breastfeeding is something that should be done as a team, you and your partner overcoming any challenges together. When partners learn information about breastfeeding, how it works and how to get help if you need it, they can support you. We know that when mamas have a supportive partner or network around them, they are more likely to have a positive and longer breastfeeding journey. Partners often feel helpless in the early days when you are breastfeeding bub a lot, but there are so many tasks they can do to help take the load off you. This also means your partner has time to nurture and bond with bub. Skin to skin is a beautiful way for your partner to bond with your baby, and this can also be a great way they can assist to settle them. Other ways your partner can support you; burp bub, change bub’s nappy, do bath time, use a baby carrier or take bub for a walk in the pram. Bringing bub to you in the night for feeds can also be helpful, or your partner can even give bub a bottle of expressed breastmilk if you choose. Remind you and your partner to tag team with your baby, taking in turns to care for bub while the other rests or has an hour to themselves.
Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has a fantastic resource called ‘The Breastfeeding Partnership’ which has more information on how your partner can support you and feel included in the partnership of parenthood, to give you and your baby the best chance of breastfeeding for as long as possible.
Sometimes mamas think they’ll be okay and can handle everything, or don’t want to ask for help for many reasons. To make your transition to motherhood smoother while learning to breastfeed, let your village of family and friends support you. This village is what will carry you through the postpartum period and make things a little easier for you and your partner on the harder days. Being well-supported results in parents appropriately responding to their baby’s needs and are more likely to have a secure bond with bub. Your village is a circle of those that you trust, whom you can call on at any time, that will drop around meals or come and help you with washing or cleaning. If you are experiencing any difficulties with breastfeeding, lean on someone close to you for support that has breastfed before; seek advice from a fellow Mama and find out what worked for them. Always know there are people around to ask for help.
A family or friend can also be the first to recognise if a mother or father is struggling.
Beyond Blue states that mental health conditions are common around the time of having a baby, so if anyone thinks a new parent is struggling, it is important to tell them you are concerned, offer your support or encourage them to see a health professional. If you have limited support around you and need help with breastfeeding or experiencing low moods, contact a hotline such as Beyond Blue, ABA or PANDA, attend a mother’s group, shout out to fellow Mama’s online for assistance, or consult a lactation consultant or GP. Remember this stage won’t last forever, and sharing your thoughts or challenges with someone that will understand will make you feel a lot better and more reassured.
Useful ways partners, family & friends can support a new Mama:
- Ask ‘how are you feeling?’ and listen without judgement. Acknowledge that the fourth trimester can be overwhelming and give Mama the chance to talk through any feelings and concerns. Also, give mama encouragement of how great she is doing.
- Ensure mama is eating regularly and staying hydrated with plenty of water, electrolytes or fresh juices. Have a water bottle and snacks near mama’s feeding chair, hydration and extra calories are very important when breastfeeding.
- Give your partner the job of grabbing you a Franjos Kitchen lactation cookie throughout the day to help support your milk supply and nourish your body!
- Remind Mama to take regular pain relief (if needed), especially post C-section. Even write a list of the pain killers she’s taking and times they are due, or set reminders on your phone.
- For family and friends - if visiting the new parents, take over a meal to put in the fridge or freezer that makes mealtimes easier for them. You can even create a roster for close family and friends to take in turn dropping around regular meals.
- Offer to do tasks like nappy changes and burping bub, which can be great for partners and visitors to help Mama out.
- Do practical jobs around the house, such as washing the dishes or bottles, hanging out a load of laundry or vacuuming the floors.
- Help with looking after bub or other children to give the new mama time alone to rest, shower or enjoy a hot drink/meal.
- If the new mum needs to vent or is finding things tough, be her shoulder to cry on and encourage her to connect with support groups or reach out to health professionals if she needs extra assistance.
- Text or call the new parents to see what they need or what you can do to help them, even if it’s dropping off some groceries.
- If you don’t live close by and don’t know how to help, send the new parents a food voucher or care package in the mail!
I hope you enjoyed these tips!
Midwife, Aliza Carr from Bumpnbub.
Incredible image by @lophotobirth