Breastfeeding is a personal choice and responsibility which can be quite overwhelming especially for new mothers. They already have so much on their hands and are too exhausted (its close to impossible to get a good night’s rest) that they do not need additional stress or pressure from anyone. Unfortunately, to be seen breastfeeding in public at times leads to scrutiny, criticism, rolling eyes, and humiliation – to which even celebrities are not immune to. That’s seriously the last thing anyone needs – celebrity or not.
Seriously, a simple thing as a smile, thumbs up, or positive words of support to encourage breastfeeding moms go a long, long way to boost confidence, prolong breastfeeding, and even increase breastfeeding rates. It’s time to cut moms some slack and here are some helpful and practical tips to help encourage breastfeeding moms:
Tip #1: It does not help to ask when they will stop breastfeeding or say that the child is too old to breastfeed.
The sad thing here is that sometimes, you even hear this from family members or close friends. Look, this mother is determined to breastfeed for the numerous benefits it offers. It is so nutritious, provides antibodies to protect against disease, and even reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and obesity.
Besides, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.” The World Health Organization (WHO) even recommends continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years or as long as possible.
Tip #2: Tell them that they are doing a fantastic job!
It is wonderful to be acknowledged that they are breastfeeding – especially if they are experiencing some struggles in their breastfeeding journey. It is like music to hear that they are doing great and that you’re proud of her as a mom. You’ll never know if they are already starting to feel disheartened with people who disapprove of breastfeeding. So, this truly provides so much assurance.
If they are experiencing issues such as sore nipples, latching, or even poor supply, tell them to hang in there. This happens and more often than not, there is a way. You can even ask how often they feed and encourage them to breastfeed often. Tell them how awesome it is that they are not giving up!
You can even go the extra mile and offer to help them find local support groups or connect them to a breastfeeding helpline (if any).
Tip #3: Offer a comfortable seat, water, or ask if you can get them anything.
Water helps since they might be thirsty, and if they don’t have one by their side, it helps to offer a helping hand. Try as much as you can to make them comfortable and relaxed. Depending on where you are, a comfortable chair and some cushions help. When we’re guests in a good friends’ home, they even offer me their room so I can breastfeed with privacy.
Tip #4: Hand out a breastfeeding support card or a note.
While it may seem awkward to hand out a card or a note, this will surely come as an unexpected, pleasant surprise. Send some love their way and you’re sure to make someone’s day.
You can even print this note on a card and feel free to give it to a mother who breast feeds in public. We say thank you because they serve as an inspiration to other mothers who feel afraid or have lost the confidence to breastfeed in public. It is such an amazing feeling to breastfeed. There is no shame in caring for your baby and feeding them. Mothers need to realise that they do not need to feed in the restroom.
If you are keen to give someone dear to you a gift, a breast milk pendant necklace is such a lovely idea. It will help them cherish their breastfeeding journey even more, and keep it as a precious reminder. This can even be something they can pass on to their baby when they come of age.
There are special DIY breastmilk keepsake kits that even allow them to include their baby’s umbilical cord or hair. A DIY kit will even be more meaningful since they will be doing it themselves.
Tip #7: Offer a shoulder rub.
Okay, so it does not feel weird, only offer this if you are THAT close. Shoulders may hurt from frequent breastfeeding, so a shoulder rub should be very relaxing and soothing.
Tip #8: Allow them to feed in front of you and continue on with what you are doing.
You see, sometimes doing nothing pays off. Breastfeeding is a normal and natural thing, so make them feel relaxed and tell them you don’t mind. There’s really no need to fuss about it.
As they say, if it bothers you, you must probably be staring too much.
Nowadays, there are more and more business establishments such as cafes or restaurants that are breastfeeding friendly and even go to lengths to put up signs. This greatly helps breastfeeding mothers know that they are welcome.
If you want to read more, you can also check out the CDC Guide to Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies.
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Strategies to Prevent Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases: The CDC Guide to Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.)
To wrap it up, simple acts of kindness make a huge difference in these mothers’ lives. Breastfeeding is such a natural, beautiful experience between a mother and her child. She’s feeding a hungry baby naturally and raising them to grow in this world. Let’s help by making it a happy place. Encourage and support mothers who have decided to breastfeed and they will definitely thank you for it as they continue on with their breastfeeding journey.
I hope this has been helpful to you. How do you react when you see a woman breastfeeding in public? I would love to hear if you know other ways to show encouragement and support to a breastfeeding mom. Leave your comment below.