If you thought breastfeeding was a one-woman job, think again.
You might be the lady with the boobs and the only one who can actually feed the baby, but the truth is everyone has a role to play in supporting a breastfeeding mama. From husbands and partners to family and friends, health care workers, employers and governments.
The trouble is the UK doesn’t do a very good job of encouraging, supporting or protecting breastfeeding mamas (see a piece I wrote for the business support network Enterprise Nation on why I gave up my dream job to breastfeed for my take on that) which is one of the reasons breastfeeding rates in the UK are so low.
According to Unicef eight in ten British women stop breastfeeding before they want to, in many cases because they’re returning to work and there simply aren’t the systems in place to support them during this brief moment in their career.
Encouraging, supporting and protecting breastfeeding is the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, which takes place every year from August 1 – August 7. Every year I like to do something to mark the event, and with this year’s theme in mind I thought I’d share 5 simple ways to support a breastfeeding mama based on my experiences feeding Bluebell, Max, Marigold and Violet.
I exclusively breastfed all four and am still breastfeeding Violet, making me one of the one in 200 mamas in the UK still doing any degree of breastfeeding after a year.
Without a doubt the fact that I’m self-employed and can work from home has enabled me to breastfeed for so long, and during that time I’ve also learnt what does (and doesn’t!) help make it a little bit easier!
5 simple ways to support a breastfeeding mama
1. Ask her if she has everything she needs
And if she doesn’t offer to fetch it for her. Because no matter how much you plan for the next feed things like water, the remote control and your phone are always annoyingly just out of reach. Which is especially annoying when they decide to cluster feed. Oh, and have a wee for her too because you can put money on her needing the loo the moment the baby decides to settle down for a big long feed!
2. Make her a cup of tea
Or coffee. Because while you’re feeding is pretty much the only chance you get to sit down and drink one hot. And if you make it yourself you can bet that by the time it’s ready they suddenly decide they don’t want to feed after all.
3. Don’t let her get hangry
Because there’s hungry, and then there’s breastfeeding hungry. And the trouble with breastfeeding hungry is that it can make you hangry. One of the things they don’t warn you about breastfeeding is that is makes you really hungry, and you can’t really do anything else while you’re doing it which is a bit of a problem if you’re so hungry you could happily eat a horse. Make sure she’s got all the snacks within easy reach (anything that can be eaten one handed with a non dominant hand is perfect) and offer to cut up her food for her so she can eat it one handed too.
4. Encourage her to sleep when the baby sleeps
Which is easier said than done, and virtually impossible after baby number one. But sleep deprivation is cumulative and the more rest she can get in the short term the better she’ll feel in the long run. And the happier the whole household will be too!
5. Be kind.
Because you never know how many times a breastfeeding mama got up last night.
Did you breastfeed and do you have any top tips for supporting a breastfeeding mama? I’d love to know what they are!
This post was written in support of World Breastfeeding Week 2021.