August is National Breastfeeding Month, and we already know breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby. For example, breastfeeding can reduce the mother's risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular complications (Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2010) and can also reduce the risk of breast cancer (Stuebe and Schwarz, Journal of Perinatology, 2010). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breast milk helps build a stronger immune system for the baby and reduces the risk of getting allergic conditions.
Breastfeeding can be a challenge, so it's important to help moms through this critical time. Here are a few ways family and friends can support breastfeeding moms:
• Learn about breastfeeding. From nursing magazines to scientific journals, gather as much information as you can. The first step towards helping a breastfeeding mom is to understand what she's going through.
• Connect with experts. Doctors, nurses, breastfeeding counselors or even friends that are also breastfeeding are great resources. Everyone has a different experience, so stay in touch with them and gather useful tips.
• Take over household responsibilities. Do the laundry, mop the floor, do the dishes, take out the trash, cook, and even run a bath for the mom. Provide a clean, relaxing environment so the mom can focus solely on taking care of the baby.
• Connect with the baby. Nursing is hard work, and it's important to show the mom that she's not alone. Show her that you care about the baby as much as she does, and offer to take care of the baby so she can get enough rest.
• Make the mom happy. Buy the mom some flowers and tell her that she's beautiful. Let her know that she is doing a great job taking care of the baby. Nursing moms often forget to take care of themselves, so the people around her should take care of her.
Family and friends play a huge role in a mom's breastfeeding journey. Don't overlook the power of support. Even though you can't take over the breastfeeding role, you still have the ability to help make the breastfeeding experience amazing!