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.
Tip #5: Surprise someone with a breast milk keepsake.
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.
Thank you for writing such a wonderful article! It seems like every day I read a story online about another mother being shamed for breastfeeding! It is just ridiculous that such a natural thing has become such a controversy!
I breastfed both of my kids until they were 2 years old. It was a special time that I would never give up even though it was horribly difficult at the beginning.
I breastfed in public a few times but felt like all eyes were on me that I often ended up finding a restroom or making sure I was home at feeding times.
It is nice to have some tips on how to support Mothers. Sometimes a simple smile will do 🙂
Thanks Amber! It’s really time to put a stop to all the shaming and spread more love. If we can only encourage and support breastfeeding mothers, this can make such a huge difference. Here are some more tips in case you are interested to read more about breastfeeding in public.
Hi Raquel, what a wonderful article! I adore your idea of giving a little card, keepsake or shoulder rub. I have a friend who is tandem nursing her baby boy and her daughter who’s nearly 3, and she is exhausted. I think it’s high time I offered her a back or foot massage. Thanks so much for planting the seed (excuse the pun!)
I’ve been breastfeeding my son for over 2 and a half years, and I can certainly say that no-one (other than other extended nursing Moms I’ve met a La Leche League) is commending me for it. In fact, the sad thing is, the longer you nurse, the less support you have from friends and family. People start out encouraging, but after a year, most people just deem nursing to be weird and unnecessary. Fortunately, I’m so convinced of the health and bonding benefits for both my son and myself that any criticism falls like water off a duck’s back. 🙂
Thanks Lauren! I think your friend will adore you if you manage to offer a back of foot massage. Let’s continue to support breastfeeding mothers. You are spot on when you said that you tend to get less support with extended breastfeeding. It’s sad, really..
Please continue to do what you think is best. Well done for being able to breastfeed this long, while turning a deaf ear to all those criticisms!