It’s hard learning new things. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever learned? Chances are you struggled at first. Chances are you were able to overcome the challenge, in part, by having someone there to help you; having support.
Breastfeeding is no exception. It may seem like it should come naturally. But, as with learning any new thing, breastfeeding takes time, practise and support for both mom and baby.
Why is Breastfeeding Important?
Breastfeeding is good for mom and baby – research shows it can reduce the risk of chronic disease for both. Breast milk is the safest, most nutrient-rich food for babies and can provide lifelong health benefits. Breastfeeding also enhances bonding and the social and emotional development of babies and children. On a larger scale, breastfeeding helps our communities be healthier places. It’s a green option that’s key to sustainable development and breastfeeding is affordable for all mothers and families.
How Can You Support Mothers and Babies?
Everyone plays an important role. Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding involves family, friends and even society as a whole. Here’s a look at five settings and groups where you can have an impact. Where do you fit in? What can you do to help?
In the home. Family members, partners and fathers.
Breastfeeding is more successful when family members are involved. Research shows that partners and husbands are the biggest influence on breastfeeding success. Grandparents also play an important supporting role, especially grandmothers. Some things partners and family members can do: give the new mom praise and encouragement for how hard she is working. Offer to help with baby or child care, household chores, and take the baby out for a walk to let new mom sleep. Read more.
Social settings. Friends and mom groups.
Along with offers to help where needed, friends can be a tremendous support just by listening. New moms may not be looking for advice, but simply want someone to listen about what it’s like to be a new mother. Getting together with other moms (whether new friends or old) is another way to find support. One of the best ways to learn how mothers cope and care for babies is by joining a support group in your community, such as La Leche League. Find a group near you.
Clinics and services. Healthcare providers.
Health care providers are instrumental in giving families the information they need to make the best decisions for their baby. Family doctors can assist with supporting mothers in their decisions about infant feeding and medical issues that may come up for mom or baby. Midwives and lactation consultants have a wealth of experience helping mothers prevent and overcome challenges. Public health services like telephone counseling, home and office visits, and breastfeeding clinics are other great sources of support and guidance. Look for services nearby.
Public spaces. Everyone.
Whether at the mall, on the bus, at the pool, or park, all mothers have the legal right to breastfeed their children in public in British Columbia. Asking a mother who is breastfeeding her child to move or cover up is discriminatory and illegal. Accepting breastfeeding as the normal way for women to feed babies goes a long way in creating safe, secure and supportive environments for women to breastfeed. Read more.
Work. Colleagues and employers.
A mother might worry what her co-workers will think about her pumping or breastfeeding at work when her maternity leave is up. Employers can support new moms by helping her plan the transition back to work and supporting her breastfeeding goals. Employers and colleagues can work on making the workplace a breastfeeding friendly environment. Here are some ways to do so.
Every year during the first week of October, British Columbia recognizes Breastfeeding Week. Here’s our challenge to you: support breastfeeding for more than just one week. Think about your own behaviours and how you can protect, promote and support breastfeeding women and babies in your community all year round.