August marks National Breastfeeding Awareness month and World Breastfeeding Week, which are movements to promote, protect and support breastfeeding by any woman anywhere and at any time. This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is “Sustaining Together.” Initiating breastfeeding is not just a responsibility isolated to the nurse, lactation consultant or the parents. It really does take a community to help a mother begin and sustain breastfeeding. Everyone has a role to play! During both Breastfeeding Week and Breastfeeding Month, we at AWHONN want to get the whole family involved in the support of breastfeeding.
Let’s first start with the basic how-to of breastfeeding, according to Healthy Mom&Baby’s Breastfeeding Basics: You, Your Baby and Your Nurses. Begin breastfeeding right after baby’s birth, preferably within the first hour. That way you and your baby will have the greatest likelihood of sharing the special bond of breastfeeding for as long as you both desire. Your nurses have the expertise and clinical skills to help you and baby get off to the best possible start with breastfeeding. Here are the four aspects of breastfeeding that you should ask nurses to help you with after your delivery. Have your nurse:
Show you how to properly place your baby skin-to-skin with you, even after cesarean.
Help you guide your baby to breast as he or she begins to root, acting on natural instincts to feed.
Help identify baby hunger cues such as smacking lips, putting their hand to mouth, and others so you can meet baby’s desire to feed with breastmilk.
Show you how to pump and feed breastmilk if baby is premature or needs extra care apart from you.
The more time you and baby spend together the better you will get to know each other and the more likely you’ll start and continue breastfeeding. Another great tip is to keep baby near you while they sleep so your baby can feed every 2–3 hours, whether baby wakes or if you rouse them to eat. Research shows moms don’t sleep longer or better when their infants are in the nursery.
Now, dads or partners can also play a vital role in breastfeeding by being the support system for the mother. There are many ways a dad or partner can help a new mom breastfeed. Here are four ways dad or partner can ease mom’s breastfeeding experience:
Get educated. The more you know about breastfeeding, the more you can help her in the tense moments. Read resources or pamphlets on breastfeeding and attend breastfeeding classes with her.
Offer to help her. When she is breastfeeding, check to see if there is anything she needs help with or if you can get her anything.
Change diapers. Since a new mom is feeding the newborn for approximately two hours a day, dads or partners can help by changing some diapers. This little break provides an opportunity for mom to relax, use the restroom, or to simply make her life a little bit easier.
Wake up in the middle of the night with her. I know this one is hard but it makes a difference to be up with her to offer help or to even put a pillow behind her back to help make the task of breastfeeding easier.
Breastfeeding is an important part of a newborn’s development and by utilizing these tips it can help enhance the breastfeeding experience. Even other members of the family can offer to help a new mother while she is breastfeeding, which will make a huge difference in her eyes. If you want to find out more useful resources on breastfeeding, go to health4mom.org.