Are you wondering how you can best support a breastfeeding mom? Breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy and support is essential in the early days of forming a breastfeeding relationship. Each baby is so unique and a mom’s prior experience breastfeeding does not guarantee smooth sailing! Here are my tips to support a nursing mom based on my experience nursing our four kids.
10 Ways to Support Breastfeeding Moms
1. Water, Water, Water
Breastfeeding moms need water. Like A LOT of water. While mom is nursing, make sure she has plenty of water nearby before, during, and after nursing. My husband made a habit of keeping full glasses of water near each location in our home where I regularly nursed (bed, chair in the kid’s room, etc.). I remember literally guzzling water while nursing. Nursing moms are providing liquid for two whole human beings (each made of 60% water!) and it takes work. Offering water will make mom feel supported and keep everyone hydrated.
2. Nourishing Mom with Meals
Breastfeeding hunger is real. Or it was for me at least! I remember waking up around 6 am to breastfeed our baby, eat breakfast, and enjoy our day. Then at 10 am needing to have a second breakfast. Sometimes that was a big bowl of spaghetti from the night before because, well, I was hungry and making food for two. Just like with water, mom needs enough nourishing food to feed herself and the growing baby. I was always appreciative when my husband would anticipate my nursing hunger and cook a healthy meal so I didn’t end up snacking on whatever was nearby. Make mom a salad, smoothie, offer nuts, a sandwich, roasted vegetables, sushi, nursing cookies, her favorite meal, etc.
3. A Private and Quiet Space
Nursing takes focus and energy and sometimes moms need the space to do that. Preferably a private, quiet space. A wonderful rocking chair and pretty nursery can do wonders! But we will also be happy with time away from distractions (like other kiddos). In public or at someone else’s home, some moms may want a nursing cover to hold that private space for mom and baby. As a mom, when I was in a new environment, I remember looking around to scout where I could nurse and change a baby’s diaper. Space to care for a baby matters!
4. Emotional Support
As I mentioned, breastfeeding takes work. Mental, physical, and emotional work. Moms have lots of hormone changes with pregnancy and breastfeeding and they need emotional support from their partner. Checking on mom to see what concerns she has, how she feels she is doing, how she may feel better supported, and simply talking about breastfeeding is essential. As a new mom, lots of conversations will literally be about poop. And poop directly correlates to breastmilk, the latch, how many urine diapers there are, how much weight baby is gaining, and so on. My third baby had a significant tongue tie that impeded nursing and I was constantly anxious that he wasn’t getting enough milk. A visit from a mom neighbor and good cry helped ease my mind. Be there to talk about what is on mom’s mind.
5. Tasks around the House
I asked my husband for a tip and he said to preemptively do tasks the nursing mother would normally. This way she won’t feel the urgency to do chores while managing nursing. Also, with babies and nursing moms (read leaky moms) there is always laundry to do. Help mom feel at peace by taking charge to keep laundry clean.
6. Support the Act of Breastfeeding
The nursing mother may want to time how long she nurses on each side. Or if the mom is pumping, take the lead on cleaning the gear afterwards. Listen to mom and what she thinks is important to enable her to nurse and get to work! This shows the mother that the partner also values her efforts with breastfeeding.
7. Breastfeeding Supplies
Breastfeeding supplies simply make breastfeeding more convenient. A lot of these items you may have gotten on your baby registry, but if not, grab them! Here are some essentials: Breastfeeding timer app, my breast friend pillow, Boppy, breastfeeding bra, Silverette for cracked nipples, breast pumps, nipple cream, burp cloths for spit up and leaks, water bottle for extra water, Mother’s Milk tea, and more!
With children, we all learn quickly that sleep is precious. We are perpetually exhausted and nursing a baby at night can make us even more exhausted. If mom is sleepy, how can you support her? Could you offer to bottle feed the baby at night or let mom sleep in a little? Helping make sure mom is getting enough sleep will help keep mom well overall. And when mom is happy, the family is happy!
9. Open Communication
I shared about emotional support earlier, but open communication is essential too! Keep communication going about how breastfeeding is going, how long you may plan to breastfeed (mom and baby’s decision!), how to react to questions or concerns about breastfeeding from others, etc. There may even be questions from family members or in-laws about breastfeeding. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page and share your support of the breastfeeding mom and her decisions. Open communication also means chatting about help with holding the baby after nursing so mom has a moment to go to the bathroom alone too!
10. Lactation Consultations
Ok, so you may not be able to actually consult on lactation, but it’s GREAT to support a mom who needs professional support. Nursing doesn’t always come naturally and using resources are essential. We used our amazing home birth midwives to help coach us on any breastfeeding hiccups we had. We also learned from our Bradley Method Birth Class, the Breastfeeding Center, La Leche League, and friends who nurse. There is beauty in breastfeeding, but there can also be breastfeeding hiccups like poor latch, mastitis, lip and tongue ties, over supply, under supply, blood in the baby’s stool, and so much more!
What are ways you have felt supported while breastfeeding your baby?
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