World Breastfeeding Week 2014 1-7/8 – Support a Breastfeeding Mum Near YOU!

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2014 is just around the corner, running from 1 – 7 August.  The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) theme for WBW 2014 is “BREASTFEEDING: A Winning Goal – for Life!” and asserts the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.

In the spirit of the village (as in ‘it takes a village to raise a child’), we all need to do our share to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in our families and  communities.  Whether you’re the partner, relative or friend of a breastfeeding mother or have never met a breastfeeding woman in your life, there are several simple yet significant ways you can get involved on a personal level.

If you have a breastfeeding woman in your life, you should know that the number one factor influencing a woman’s success in breastfeeding is the support of her partner and family.  It’s hard work nurturing a small human around the clock and, if mum doesn’t get some nurturing herself, she can quickly burn out.  Newborns need to breastfeed at least 10 to 12 times per day so, to meet this challenge, mums need to stay as well nourished, hydrated, rested and emotionally supported as possible.

It’s safe to assume that a breastfeeding mum is constantly ravenous and thirsty, and will have only one hand free to feed or hydrate herself.  As part of her breastfeeding support team, you can lend a hand:

  • Bring her meals and snacks that are easy to eat and packed with nutrients. A simple lentil barley soup or oat muffins would be great, or there are plenty of recipes and cookbooks that specifically support the needs of new and breastfeeding mothers.
  • Pick up an assortment of protein bars at your local natural foods shop or make a batch of lactation cookies.
  • If you don’t cook, a gift voucher to a local restaurant that does take-away (or, better yet, delivery) will be greatly appreciated.
  • Help her stay hydrated – bring mum a new water bottle or tea flask so she has one to stash wherever she sits to breastfeed.  Add a box of breastfeeding tea to the gift bag or simply make her a supply of barley/fennel water to aid milk production and prevent baby from getting wind.

It’s also safe to assume that any new mum* is tired and a bit fragile emotionally.  Below are some tips  to provide support:

  • Give  a new mum a break so she can get some rest –  offer to sit and hold the baby or take the baby for a walk whilst mum showers and has a nap.
  • When you visit, be prepared to do the washing up, clean the kitchen, throw in some laundry or do whatever needs doing.  You are not there to be served!
  • For emotional support, let her know that a full range of feelings is completely normal and provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on when things get challenging (and resources, such as PANDA, if you feel she might need professional support).
  • Finally, never underestimate the benefit of caring touch – how about a gift voucher for postnatal massage?

When contemplating a gift for an expectant or new mother who plans to breastfeed, an annual membership to a breastfeeding support organisation such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League International would be greatly appreciated.

And if you don’t have a breastfeeding mother in your life, you can still help to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in your community.  One of the simplest but most important means is to ensure that your local shops, cafes and public areas are welcoming to breastfeeding mothers.  Laws protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed in public vary from one state or country to another.  Become familiar with the laws in your area and take a stand if you encounter someone harassing a breastfeeding mum.  If a teen-aged barista can do it, so can you!

What other ways can YOU help to support breastfeeding?

*  In the spirit of respect for all parents, I want to emphasise that all new mums and dads are deserving of help and support, no matter how they feed their babies.