August 1 – 7 is “World Breastfeeding Awareness” week. This week I thought I would look at what we could do to support our breast feeding friends.
1. Don’t question her decisions
– Why are you feeding so often?
– Why aren’t you feeding more?
– Are you sure the baby is getting enough?
– Why aren’t you giving her/him some formula?
– Why are you giving him/her some formula?
– Are you sure s/he needs another feed?
You may mean well but these questions/suggestions aren’t helping anyone. You’re probably just stressing your friend (and her partner) out. So please stop. Unless she asks you for advice, you don’t need to be sharing your unsolicited advice.
2. Just express
While expressing can be a life line – it can cut loose that ball and chain feeling sometimes felt when breastfeeding – it can also be soul destroying. Expressing is a different experience for every woman out there.
I had a love/hate relationship with expressing. Doing it meant that I could have a break from my child but getting that liquid gold out was hard work!
I would finish feeding my baby but then I had to continue to sit in my chair and pump some milk, so I could get a future break. The problem for me was that I would pump for 40 minutes, and sometimes all I would get was 100mls! It took more than that to keep baby happy.
To this day, the look/sound of the pump gives me the sweats.
3. Feed and water her
It’s said that in order to keep a steady supply of milk, the mum needs to keep herself hydrated and nourished. That can be easier said than done.
The thing is, sometimes, between feeding, everything else that comes with looking after a baby, and lack of sleep, it’s hard to include feeding self into the equation. So, when you drop in to visit, give your mate (and her partner – because they are just as wrecked and sometimes overwhelmed) a ready made meal that can go straight from the fridge to the tummy or the most work that has to be done is to reheat it before eating.
4. Let her sleep
When you visit your friend and the baby don’t expect to be entertained. Go over and be of some practical help. After she has fed the baby, offer her the gift of sleep. If she is comfortable leaving the baby with you, take the child and send her up to bed for a power nap (or a long shower or just some her time – whatever she wants to do). That was one of my all time favourite gifts!
5. Don’t ask her if she’d feel more comfortable feeding in another room
Sometimes breast feeding can be such an alienating experience because as soon as you go to feed your baby the room may clear or you will be asked if you’d like to feed somewhere more private.
The intentions can be well meaning – let’s assume they don’t want the mum to feel uncomfortable feeding in front of others but the question that should be asked is who will it be more comfortable for – you or the mum?
6. Give Her Space
I know I just said to not vacate the room when your friend is feeding, however if that is what your friend wants, please respect her wishes and give her the space (and time) she needs.
7. Tell her if she’s leaking
More often than not, you can feel the leakage but if your friend is not aware, let her know. Don’t make a scene. Be subtle about it and then get practical. Ask her if she needs some tissues to stuff in her bra, loan her a top or a scarf to cover the leaks if she so wants. However, if she’s happy doing nothing about it, then let her be.
8. Don’t assume
Your friend is not just a mum. She’s still herself. While she may not have been able to meet up as much as she used to, don’t assume she can’t always make it. Don’t make her feel excluded. Include her in all plans but don’t pressure her into going. Let her decide.
If she has agreed to meet up but has to cancel at the last minute, don’t make her feel bad. Don’t tell her, she should have expressed more milk. She should have let the baby have more bottles before this meet up so she could have gone out and left the baby behind. You don’t know what she has done and what decisions she has made, and why, in the lead up to the meet up.
9. Don’t pressure her
Your girlfriend will stop breast feeding when she is ready. If that’s at day one or when the child is walking and talking, that is no-one else’s decision to make but hers. Your constant questions of why don’t you continue or why don’t you stop already aren’t helping anyone – oh, and it’s none of your business!
10. Just be there for her
Everyone’s breast feeding experience is unique and therefore everyone’s needs are going to be different. Take the lead from your friend and be whatever support she needs you to be.