According to the CDC, I am in the 25% of moms who are breastfeeding at a year, even though 75% of moms start breastfeeding. That means women aren’t receiving the right support to continue beyond the first couple days after birth. I know a huge reason I made it this far was because I have had women by my side, showing me how to latch and use a pump. I have had women online providing support. Each encouraging word and suggestion has helped me maintain my milk supply and give me confidence. Every mom deserves the best shot at breastfeeding if she wants one.
Let me get this out of the way first: supporting breastfeeding is not the same thing as being anti-formula. I know a lot of formula feeding moms who are all GREAT mamas, and used formula for a whole variety of reasons. I am not, and do not feel better than them because I breastfeed. Some women can’t nurse, some need to supplement, and others choose not to. Moms need to be supported, period, no matter how they feed their baby. Breastfeeding can often be difficult, so women need to talk about it and support each other. Sometimes it’s treated like a hush hush topic, but it shouldn’t be!
What does support look like? Support can come in all forms. You can share accurate information and dispel outdated myths. Spread breastfeeding facts: did you know that universal breastfeeding in the first hour of life could save 830,000 lives a year? (Save the Children). Through milk banks, donor breastmilk saves lives in the NICU everyday in a way that formula just can’t do. Currently, there is a breastmilk shortage even though it’s a free, and free-flowing, resource.
Research breastfeeding basics. Some people- even some doctors- might tell you to let a new baby sleep at night and schedule feedings. This is not good advice, and both of these things could affect your supply when it comes in. Learn about supply and demand and reach out to people to help you with other household things so you can nurse your new baby around the clock. It’s worth it.
Maybe you don’t know anyone who nursed a baby longer than a few months. Reach out to your local LLL chapter, join a moms group, or an online support group. There’s a great one on Facebook. I check in with other nursing moms to make sure things are going well for them. If they have an issue or a question that I can’t answer, I reach out to my own network of nursing moms and get back to them.
Get started on the right foot by seeing all different lactation consultants before you leave the hospital. I stayed less than 48 hours after giving birth and saw 3 different LC’s who all had different tricks. The first few weeks are hard, but don’t quit just yet! It gets much, much better!
Research your options. If you can’t nurse but want to give your baby breastmilk, consider a donor. Join Human Milk 4 Human Babies on Facebook. You may be surprised by how eager a close friend, relative, or complete stranger is to share their milk with you. This isn’t gross- think about the baby who is allergic to formula and whose mother can’t produce enough milk (I’ve seen a milk request for this situation more than once). And if you think about it- human milk is the perfect food for your human baby. If you have an over-supply or a freezer stash you won’t use, consider donating! I’m willing to bet you a lot of money there’s a mama nearby who would love to have it.
Be sensitive to moms nursing in public. Nursing moms are protected by law and have the right to nurse without a cover wherever they are legally allowed to be. When a mom (especially a new one) feels like she is awkward and hot with a cover on, and is struggling with a latch or supply and cracked nipples, one rude comment or look from a stranger or friend could be enough to make her quit. Don’t be the person who makes a mother quit breastfeeding. Be the person who helps her to keep going.