A cup of hot tea. A tasty meal. A much-needed foot rub. In my early postpartum days, these supportive gestures from my husband helped while I was learning how to breastfeed our daughter, Jovie.
Like most parents, I felt the exhaustion that comes with a new baby. Yet, I remember also feeling empowered and well cared for by my family, friends, and health care providers. My confidence as a mother gradually increased and together, Jovie and I grew and learned through our breastfeeding journey.
We know that most women want to breastfeed their babies. Nature has equipped mothers and babies with strong instincts to help them get started, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Parents and their little ones need time and practice to learn how to breastfeed, and support from people around them to be successful.
What types of support do parents benefit from?
Learning how to breastfeed can be easier when parents have the support of their families. All relatives have a role: grandparents, parents, siblings, and extended family. Even if you’re far away, offering emotional support through active listening will be deeply appreciated by new parents.
Practical supports are just as important, such as doing housework, or picking up groceries. I’m grateful for my family; their help truly made a difference for us, both in the early days and over the last few years.
Support from a significant other can help a breastfeeding mother to build their comfort and confidence. Husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or a same-sex couple: all partners benefit from support. This type of support can help strengthen the relationship beyond the newborn period.
A friend, neighbour, or another mother who has had a good experience with breastfeeding can be a great resource. They can offer emotional support, encouragement, and tips and tricks. I found peer support online through a Facebook group of other moms and some of these ladies are my dearest friends today.
Single parents will benefit even more from the support of their close contacts. I was raised in a single parent home and learned about breastfeeding by watching my mom care for my younger siblings. Even at a young age, it was apparent how much my mom benefited from having support, help with household tasks, and visits from close friends.
New mothers may also appreciate support from experts in their community. Health care providers, breastfeeding groups, and advocates (such as Lactation Consultants and La Leche League leaders) are great resources.
They can enhance a mother’s knowledge, skill, and confidence to breastfeed their baby. Attending groups with Jovie was one of my favourite sources of support. It can feel empowering to be part of a community of breastfeeding mothers.
We all have a role to play
Seeing a mother and her baby thrive in their breastfeeding journey is rewarding. Support from family, friends, experts, and communities can enhance relationships and improve the health of mothers, babies, and families
You don’t have to be a breastfeeding expert to provide support to a mom and her baby; we all have a role in sustaining breastfeeding together.
Want to learn more about breastfeeding support? Check out these resources:
- Finding support – Baby’s best chance: Parents’ handbook of pregnancy and baby care
- Support for breastfeeding - Northern Health
- Why it’s important for everyone to support breastfeeding - Healthy Families BC