Breastfeeding provides a wonderful bonding experience for mums and babies, but it isn’t always easy. That’s when you need the support of your partner, family, friends and, if you’re returning to work while breastfeeding, your workplace.
As a new mum you’ll likely be flooded with offers to help, so here are a few tips you can pass on to those closest to you, including your employer, in order for them to help you optimise feeding time with your baby.
Breastfeeding and how your family and friends can help
When breastfeeding, nothing is easy to do on your own. A supportive partner is crucial to your success. Here’s what they can do to help:
- A healthy mum is a healthy breastfeeding mum. Partners can help by making sure mum has a chance to rest, eat regularly and have access to plenty of water – breastfeeding is thirsty work.
- Knowledge is key, so a great first step for partners is to identify what breastfeeding support is available. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a good place to start, offering all kinds of services and information, and access to breastfeeding specialists through its 24/7 Breastfeeding Helpline.
- Breastfeeding in public can be a little daunting. Support mum by helping her feel comfortable and avoid suggesting covering up or going somewhere private to breastfeed.
- Breastfeeding can be challenging at times but resist the urge to suggest bottle feeding at the first sign of difficulty. Instead offer a kind word and tell her she’s doing a great job.
- Be patient with her emotions. Simply listening to or keeping her company while she’s feeding baby is often all she’ll need.
You can always count on family to be there for you and having a newborn is no exception. There are lots of things family can do to not only help you breastfeed, but also help with other tasks. So what can family do?
- Stay with mum for extra support for the first few days after delivery, especially if she is having a hard time getting around.
- Breastfeeding is a very personal thing so give mum the space to navigate it in her own way. While advice is often appreciated, be mindful to not share too many personal experiences of anecdotes with her unless she asks for them.
- Pay mum a welcome visit to take care of the baby while she showers, eats a meal, or gets some sleep. It’s easier to breastfeed when she’s rested and feels a little bit more like herself.
- Lend a helping hand and make older children feel special and important during this time of change by giving them attention and praise.
- Help mum and dad cook and take care of household chores and errands.
- Comfort mum if she feels pressured to host visitors by limiting guests and encouraging her to rest and concentrate on breastfeeding in the early days after delivery.
The support of old friends can go a long way to helping you feel like your old self. What can they do to help?
- Don’t assume that she will want to be alone or in private to feed her baby. Most women don’t want to be locked away on their own – she will probably want to chat and talk to you as normal.
- Offer to help, by making her more comfortable or getting her a drink.
- Support her in her decision to breastfeed for as long as she wants to – every mum has the right to choose how she feeds her baby.
- If planning on going out together, it’s often nice to go to a venue which is welcoming of breastfeeding mums. Find breastfeeding-friendly venues in your area on the ABA website.
You may have thought you can’t breastfeed if you’re planning on returning to work after childbirth but that is not the case. By law, there are three key things your employer should provide for you:
- Space – Employers should provide mothers with a private space to feed their baby or express milk.
- Time – There should be a breastfeeding policy that clearly outlines the support for lactation breaks to allow mums time to feed/express during working hours.
- Support – There should be a comprehensive communication strategy in place for both stakeholders and staff which outlines the needs and considerations of breastfeeding mothers. If this level of support is not in place, there needs to be a shift within the organisation to create a supportive environment.
If you are on maternity leave and are considering or planning a return to work, be sure to speak to your employer in advance about accessing the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s comprehensive ‘Return To Work‘ toolkit. They are obligated by law to take reasonable measures to accommodate your breastfeeding needs.
If you’re finding breastfeeding a challenging experience, there are lots of places to find extra support. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268) which is available seven days a week. It is staffed by trained volunteer counsellors who answer calls on a roster system in their own homes.
Private Lactation Consultants are available through the Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ).