Breastfeeding support can look different from family to family and from child to child. Ideally, breastfeeding support should go beyond just the family unit to wider family and friends and even the broader community and employers.
WHAT CAN A SUPPORT PERSON DO?
Often support people are unsure of what to do to help a nursing pair. While your role in the early days is to feed the baby, what about your partner’s role? These ideas can really make a difference:
- Keep food on hand, especially no-fix, easy-to-eat, one-handed food, and foods high in fiber.
- Set up a sleeping arrangement that works for everyone. Don’t be afraid to try a few different ones to see what works best, and it may involve separate sleeping spaces for a while. Be flexible!
- Monitor visitors and discourage guests from overstaying their welcome.
- Run errands including getting groceries.
- Adjust the positioning of the pillow or help with a latch.
- Adjust the lighting in the room.
- Refill a water bottle or grab a phone charger.
- Change the babies diaper.
- Clean and cook.
- Massage baby or the nursing parent
- Encourage with love. Often, words of encouragement can be the best help for a new parent full of self-doubt.
TIPS FOR VISITING NEW PARENTS
Are you unsure of what to do when visiting parents with a newborn? How long should you stay? What is helpful, and what isn’t? Here are some tips to help you navigate this exciting time:
- Don’t assume they are available. Being at home doesn’t mean that they are free. Call or text to make sure your visit isn’t a burden.
- Don’t come empty-handed. Food doesn’t have to be homemade but should be nutritious and easy to eat with one hand.
- Wash your hands when you arrive.
- Don’t visit if you are sick, recovering, or “coming down with something.”
- Instead of asking to hold the baby, help around the house including doing the dishes, switching the laundry, refilling a water bottle, or bringing food to a couch-bound parent.
- Don’t stay too long. Take your cues from the parents who may be tired and ready for a nap themselves. Try not to stay longer than 15 minutes unless they request otherwise.
FOODS FOR THE NURSING PARENT
ARE THERE ANY FOODS I SHOULD AVOID WHILE BREASTFEEDING?
One of the concepts La Leche League is founded on is “Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.”
You don’t need to eat anything special while you’re breastfeeding. But it’s a good idea for you, just like everyone else, to eat a varied and healthy diet. The food any family chooses will depend on personal preference, climate, culture, and finances.
There are no foods you need to avoid while breastfeeding (unless you’re allergic to them of course!). Some strongly-flavored foods may change the taste of your milk, and many babies seem to enjoy a variety of breast milk flavors! Often the dominant flavors of your diet – whether soy sauce, chili, garlic or something else – were in your amniotic fluid during pregnancy. Before birth babies swallow amniotic fluid and are accustomed to these flavors before tasting them in your milk.
Many mothers find they can eat whatever they like, and occasionally a baby will be fussy at the breast, or may be gassy, after you eat a particular food. If you notice that your baby reacts badly after you have eaten something, it may be best to leave that food out of your diet for a while. To test whether that food really was the cause, reintroduce it once and see if your baby reacts in the same way again.
If you are thinking of eliminating a whole food group (e.g. dairy) you can look at options with your healthcare provider, and check you are not at risk of any nutritional deficiency.
If you have a family medical history of allergy, discuss with your healthcare provider about avoiding or introducing known allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods containing peanuts, such as peanut butter, while breastfeeding, you can do so as part of a healthy, balanced diet (unless, of course, you are allergic to them). There’s no clear evidence that eating peanuts while breastfeeding affects your baby’s chances of developing a peanut allergy. If you have any questions or concerns, you can talk to your healthcare provider about this.
Every culture has lists of foods that are “good” and “bad” for nursing parents. It happens very often that foods believed to be beneficial in one culture are considered to upset babies in others! For example, In Italy, mothers are often told not to eat garlic, cauliflower, lentils and red peppers. In India, most mothers eat all these things and breastfeed very happily. Actually, in parts of India they believe that garlic helps a mother to breastfeed successfully!
POSTPARTUM MOOD DISORDERS
Many parents experience a roller coaster of emotions after having a baby, from joy and elation to worry and sadness. Mix big feelings with limited sleep and meeting the needs of a new baby, and new parenthood can feel overwhelming at times.
Having a baby is a life-changing experience, and around 85% of women experience some kind of mood disturbance postpartum. Despite being so common, postpartum mood disturbances are not always talked about, leaving some people to feel alone and wondering if they are good enough parents. Talking openly about your postpartum experiences with others going through the same thing can combat feelings of isolation and shame. Going to a La Leche League meeting is a great place to find other new parents to share experiences with.
Sometimes the emotional changes that come after a new baby become postpartum mood disorders. Baby blues are generally short lived and go away on their own. For some people, however, these mood changes do not go away on their own. Postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum psychosis are treatable conditions and help is available. You do not need to deal with them on your own. If you are worried about your mood, speak to your healthcare provider.
There are organizations including Postpartum Support International which provide support for, and information on, postpartum mental health. Your city, county, and state likely have additional resources which can be found through an online search. If you are feeling suicidal or feel that you may harm your child, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Read more about The Role of Breastfeeding in Protecting Mothers’ Mental Health by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA.
What Can A Support Person Do? (PDF), LLL USA
Supporting Nursing Moms at Work, US Dept of Health and Human Services
Breastfeeding and the law– including break time for lactating parents and state laws to protect breastfeeding and pumping
Feeding the New Mother, LLLI
My Story of Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression, LLL USA blog
Why is Mothering Lonely When We are Never Alone?, LLL USA blog
How Men in My Family Support Breastfeeding, LLL USA blog
My Partner’s Unwavering Support, LLL USA blog
The Dad of a Breastfed Toddler, LLLI blog
La Leche League: My Safe Space, LLL USA blog
“I’m Failing at This!”, LLL USA blog
La Leche League Love and Support Across the Generations, LLL USA blog
Continuing Support through La Leche League, LLL USA blog
I Finally Feel Like Her Mother, LLL USA blog
Breastfeeding Camaraderie, LLL USA blog
Single Parenthood: Finding My Community, LLL USA blog
Finding Your People, LLLI blog
IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?
Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.
Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.