6 Simple and Subtle Ways to Promote Breastfeeding
By Norah Piehl
You’ve been breastfeeding your baby for a while now. You’re starting to feel like an old pro who can balance your nursing baby in one hand and your favorite novel in the other. Those early days and weeks of breastfeeding discomfort and uncertainty are just a distant memory—kind of like labor pain—and you and your thriving baby are both delighting in your breastfeeding relationship.
If you’ve reached this point, you’re probably feeling great about breastfeeding, and you may want to help other new moms achieve the same level of breastfeeding success and satisfaction. But how? Sure, you could stage a “nurse-out,” boycott companies that promote formula and lobby for pro-breastfeeding legislation. You could even train to become a breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant.
A nursing “care package” can be a fantastic baby shower or new baby gift.
1. Give the Gift of Great Beginnings
A nursing “care package” can be a fantastic baby shower or new baby gift. Fill a basket with supplies to make a nursing mom’s life a little easier.
Lanolin cream, gel packs and nursing pads can help make those early days a lot more comfortable. Add a couple of books: one about breastfeeding—The Nursing Mother’s Companion (Harvard Common Press, 2005) or So That’s What They’re For: Breastfeeding Basics (Adams Media Corp., 1998)—and one paperback novel just for fun. Pack some energy bars, trail mix or other nutritious snacks, and include a CD of relaxing music that Mom and Baby can both enjoy. A nursing mom is always thirsty, so don’t forget to add a big water bottle that she can keep by her rocking chair. Slip in a note with the phone number of her local La Leche League leader; she’s sure to have lots of questions when she’s starting out. For a high-impact gift, package all these items with a nursing pillow, some cellophane wrap and a big bow.
2. Lend a Helping Hand
We all know that new moms need a lot of help. Breastfeeding moms, especially, can become stressed if they feel that their newborn’s frequent nursing is keeping them from finishing household chores. Offer to help out by washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking a meal or just keeping a new mom company while she nurses her baby. Don’t limit your assistance to just the first few days, either—later growth spurts (often at 2 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months) result in very frequent nursing and an increased need for a helping hand.
3. Get Husbands on Board
Study after study shows that the support of a woman’s husband or partner is one of the most important factors for breastfeeding success. If your husband is supportive of your breastfeeding relationship, he can help convince other dads that breastfeeding is the best choice. How? Remind your husband that breastfeeding for the first year of life results in savings of $700 to $2,800. Chances are, when he realizes that he can buy a new computer or a resort vacation instead of cases of formula, your husband will be singing the praises of breastfeeding to all the other new dads he knows.
4. Get out There
How can you help new moms—even those you don’t know—feel positive about breastfeeding? By making breastfeeding a totally acceptable, normal part of life.
One of the best ways to do this is by nursing your own baby wherever you happen to be. Stylish new nursingwear options by Motherwear, Japanese Weekend, Anna Cris and others can help you feel more comfortable when you’re just starting out. By confidently nursing your baby in the mall, at the airport or on the playground, you’re giving new nursing moms the knowledge that breastfeeding is portable and convenient.
5. Give a Thumbs Up
One of my first public nursing experiences happened at church. It was Christmas Eve, and my 3-week-old made it abundantly clear that he wanted milk and he wanted it now. I nervously hiked up my sweater, latched him on and went on listening to the sermon as if nothing else were happening. After the service, a woman came up to me to admire my son and to congratulate me on breastfeeding at church. “I was one of the first women to nurse here back when he was a baby,” she said, gesturing to her preteen son. “I just wanted you to know that I think it’s great when I see moms nursing during the service.”
At first, I was mortified that she had even been able to tell what my son was doing under my sweater. Months later, though, I still think about her words and the positive reinforcement they gave me when I was just starting out with breastfeeding.
When you’re walking through the mall and you see a mom tentatively and discreetly nursing a tiny baby, try giving her a nod, a smile or a word of encouragement. Better yet, if you have your baby along, sit down and nurse nearby. There’s safety and comfort in numbers, and your experience may give a new mom a dose of self-confidence. Who knows, maybe both of you will even make a new friend!
6. Accentuate the Positive
We’ve probably all been to gatherings where mothers of all ages talk about negative breastfeeding experiences. Along with labor horror stories, breastfeeding tales of woe are popular “entertainment” at baby showers and moms’ group meetings. As a successful nursing mom, you have a real opportunity to change these kinds of negative discussions for the better.
Erin Domras of St. Peter, Minn., who is nursing 6-month-old twins, suggests letting new moms know that breastfeeding does get easier with time. Lori Lane of Brooklyn Park, Minn., says that when she talks to new moms, she focuses on the health benefits of nursing for both Mom and Baby. Dwelling on breastfeeding challenges only discourages new moms. Instead of discussing sore nipples and sleepless nights, mention, for example, your baby’s excellent health and your own enjoyment of the bonding that breastfeeding encourages.
It’s not hard to make a difference in a new nursing mom’s life. Your success with breastfeeding gives you a level of experience and confidence that can benefit other new moms in many ways. Let your expecting friends and family members know that you’re available to answer questions. Reach out to other new moms, even if you don’t know them yet. And most important, enjoy nursing your own baby. Your good example may be more of an inspiration than you know.