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Breastfeeding is the best thing for baby and mom.

Everybody knows it. So why are so many people, from health professionals, to friends, to mothers-in-law, to husbands, intent on making the mother feel inadequate and getting her to quit breastfeeding? I have to think that many of them are not doing it on purpose. That they are misinformed and uneducated about thebenefits of breastfeeding, about how milk supply works, and about the normal course of breastfeeding.

If you want to support a woman that is breastfeeding, maybe your spouse, your sister, your friend, your daughter, your daughter-in-law, your colleague, your neighbour, your patient, your client, then this post is for you!

What not to do

Let’s start by understanding what you shouldn’t do. A number of people have written excellent posts on this already, so rather than repeat what they said, I am going to link to them. Please read them. It is important.

How to make breastfeeding difficult: This amazing article by IBCLC (that’s International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Linda J. Smith, written in 1986 (that’s 22 years ago!), has been making the rounds ever since and is still as relevant today as it was back then. I’ve seen it crop up on at least 3 blogs in the past week, including two of my favourites The Canadian Lactivist andParenting Baby to Sleep. This article busts a bunch of the myths about breastfeeding that misinformed people so often use to undermine breastfeeding mothers.

How to know a health professional is not supportive of breastfeeding: Written by breastfeeding guru Jack Newman, this handout helps you to understand if a health professional is supportive of  breastfeeding or not. Too many women blindly listen to their doctor or nurse without realizing that they often only have a few hours of breastfeeding education under their belt. If you like this, please also support the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic & Institute that is in desperate need of funding.

A plea to MILs and Mums everywhere (oh and Dads of course): This is a guide for the grandparents of the new baby on what they shouldn’t say and also what they should do to support their breastfeeding daughter or daughter-in-law.

What to do

Now that you understand what not to do, here are some suggestions on what you can do to support a breastfeeding mother.

Tell her how proud you are of her: Breastfeeding isn’t always easy (but don’t remind her of that). Instead, tell her how proud you are that she is breastfeeding her baby. Tell her this when the baby is 1 day old, 4 weeks old, 3 months old, 6 months old, 1 year old, 2 years old, and so on. Breastfeeding doesn’t stop being the best thing for baby at a specific age and many moms find that the support they have from others decreases exponentially as the baby grows. The World Health Organisation, Health Canada, and other key health organizations recommend at least 2 years of breastfeeding.

Help her get knowledgeable support: If she is struggling with breastfeeding, unless you have training in lactation, help guide her to someone that does have that training. Often people that have breastfed think they can give great advice to others. However, each mom’s experience is different and things that may have worked for you may not work for others. For example, some moms can go for more than 3 hours without breastfeeding and not have their supply compromised and not get plugged ducts, but many many others cannot. Some moms can eat anything they want while breastfeeding and others find that their baby is sensitive to certain foods that they eat. Help the mom to get access to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), get her to attend a La Leche League meeting, or if she likes using the Internet for support get her to go somewhere with knowledgeable breastfeeding counselors assisting other moms like message boards.

Buy her a book or take one out from the library: Get her a quality breastfeeding book, like Jack Newman’s Guide to BreastfeedingLa Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, orMartha and William Sears The Breastfeeding Book. Or get her to spend time online on the research-based Web site that provides lots of information and advice on breastfeeding.

Offer to help with everything BUT feeding: Everyone always wants to feed the baby. Sorry, but that is mom’s job. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t help. You can change diapers, burp the baby, do laundry, cook meals, run errands.

Cross posted from PhD in Parenting blog

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