This week is World Breastfeeding Week. I loved breastfeeding my babies, and I love supporting women who are feeding their babies, no matter how they do. I recognize that not all mothers can breastfeed, but also know that, given the right support and guidance, almost any mother can do it.
I realize I am not the typical mom here in the United States, but I have nursed my boys for a combined total of almost 5 years. I weaned my first son when I got pregnant with my second--kudos to you who can nurse and be pregnant, you are rock-stars! I nursed my second until he weaned himself two weeks ago. I may have cried a little. I know moms who nursed their babies until 5+ years. And I know moms who tandem nursed twins, or different age babies. I've lived in cultures where this is the norm. That because of poverty, or culture, children up to age 7 are nursed. I think this is something we could do here in the US. Women's bodies are powerful and wonderful. But our culture lacks the support needed to make this a normal thing.
Breastfeeding is good for both mama and baby. Benefits for mama include better emotional health, because oxytocin, less risk of breast and other cancers, burning more calories (that can cause weight loss, but doesn't always) and free food for baby. Benefits for baby include less sickness, because of antibodies in the milk, lower risk of SIDS, and lower obesity rates, because you can't over breastfeed.
Even if you're not currently breastfeeding, or were unable to breastfeed your own children, There are many things you can do to support breastfeeding.
1. If you are near someone breastfeeding, don't make a fuss. Whether or not she's covered. Regardless of where you are. Just let her be. If it bothers you, turn away, choose another table, walk a different path. She's just trying to feed her baby.
2. If someone around you is offended by someone breastfeeding. try to distract them, or stand up for the woman breastfeeding. Breastfeeding benefits everyone, in the long run.
3. If someone close to you is just starting out breastfeeding (wife, sister, cousin, friend ) give her a hand. Bring her a meal or snacks or a drink. Clean her house, or do her laundry, or take her older kids, so she can snuggle that baby, or maybe even get a shower!
4. If you or someone else you know is getting discouraged or needs help, find a La Leche League meeting, or an IBCLC, someone trained to help with breastfeeding. Give her advice or just be there for her! A woman is more likely to continue breastfeeding if she has support from her friends and family.
You never know how much something you say or do can impact someone. Be a supporter.
What would you add to my list of support for breastfeeding mothers?