Number One – intuit her needs! I know, it’s tall order. You’re like a cruise director now – be everywhere and everyone so that her needs are met before she even has to ask. She’s busy making milk! That’s her job, feeding a brand new human. Be thinking about what she might need, be struggling with, be feeling emotionally, need nutritionally, etc. Keep open to her changing needs each day, which are likely to include emotional struggles as well as physical ones.
Number Two – Hydration. Every time she picks the baby up to nurse, make sure there is something for her to drink within arms length. If there isn’t, GO GET IT! The rules on drinking for a nursing mother are the same that apply to everyone: Drink enough to quench your thirst. Many moms find that they are hungrier and thirstier while lactating. Add to that being tired, distracted, overwhelmed and just plain busy being a new mom, it’s easy for her to forget to drink. Water, herbal tea (most nursing mother brands are great – brew up a quart each night with some lemon and honey so she can sip it iced all the next day), juice, lemon water are all great choices.
Number Three – Pillows … and more pillows! Comfort and support are key. You don’t have to spend a fortune on expensive breastfeeding pillows. I’m sure your couch has just what you need already. When your lady sits down to breastfeed, scan the room and her position and ask her where she needs support. Check her shoulders, nape of the neck and lower back to make sure they are well bolstered. Too often we know to support and wedge up the arms holding the baby, but we forget to support the rest of her body. And while you’re there pillow fluffing, give her shoulders a gentle massage or rub her feet and calves.
Number Four – Breathe! As a doula I find subtle, non-verbal cues can trigger all kinds of great, positive shifts energy in laboring woman. For instance, if she’s holding tension in her jaw, I’ll simply take one loud, relaxing, in through the nose, out through the mouth cleansing breath …. Aaaaaaaaah …. and sure enough, mama will follow! Entrainment works – entrain with one another and exude relaxation unto her by your own deep cleansing breath. Remind her to open her jaw, relax her brow, roll her neck and head and just breathe.
Number Five -Eating with one hand! Many women find they’re extra hungry while breastfeeding. When she’s nursing and only has one hand free to reach for food – if you offer her a huge piece of uncut, sloppy lasagna, well, you’ll get the stink eye. Bringing her bite sized wholesome and nutritious snacks will make you a hero! Think hors d’oeuvre, toothpicks, finger food, dips, crudités, hummus, easy, quick, grabbable food. And of course, when she’s done nursing, take the baby for daddy time and bring her a plate of good eats that she can relax over and eat like a normal human being!
Number Six – The House Won’t Clean Itself! Mother and baby should be deeply committed to just breastfeeding and getting to know one another. Give them time to settle into their groove. Take over cooking, cleaning and organizing. If it’s in your budget or if Aunt Shirley asks what gift she can bring, a visit from a local house-keeping service is a great idea. Set up a neighbor-friend chain where friends offer to come over not to socialize, but to cook a meal and do a load of laundry.
Number Seven – Protect her New Mama Space. As new parents you’ll both want to show off your baby. Acting as her “bodyguard” and being the voice to say “no” to visitors, family, friends and neighbors will save her from having to stress about those boundaries. Keep visits short and sweet. No one enters the home without a wholesome meal or two to put in your fridge! Remember, the only place that baby needs to be is in her or your arms, skin to skin. If Grandma complains she’s not getting enough time with the baby, blame it on the lactation consultant!
Number Eight – Help her feel Connected! Number seven and eight go together. It is important that a new mother feel normal in her role as an exclusively breastfeeding mother. She needs to feel protected, but connected as the same time. Finding her “tribe” will help her prevent the feelings of isolation many mothers can experience in the first few months. For many new moms the internet offers very real connections with other moms going through the same thing she is. If it seems like she’s spending a crazy amount of time tweeting with others about what breastmilk poop looks like, support her in this. If she’s nursing the baby while tweeting … praise her for the Goddess she has become!
Number Nine – Say it loud, say it proud! Brag about breastfeeding. Become a lactivist! Don’t know what that is? It’s someone who believes so strongly in breastfeeding being normal, human behavior that it shouldn’t ever be an issue of nursing in public, how to feed your baby, where, when, etc. And they’ll say so any time, any place, anywhere! Rock on! Here are a few good lactivist blogs to start reading… Blacktating, Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, Best For Babes, Motherwear’s BFing Blog. Remember that breastfeeding in public, especially those first few times, can make some women feel self-conscious. Continued support and confidence that you’re both doing the best thing for your baby will help ease the first time jitters.
Number Ten- Be awake together and nap together. Baby time is a 24 hour clock. Wake up with mom & baby for those 3am feedings. You can help by being on diaper duty, pillow and water duty and by swaddling and bringing baby to mom. If she’s awake nursing, try to be awake as well. And in the same regard, help her to remember to nap during the day. In the evening remember how important sleep is for both of you. Go to bed early! Turn off the TV, computer, electronics and try, for now anyway, to shake those “pre-kids” habits of staying up really late.
Bonus Number Ten – Bring in help if necessary! Yes, the blogger is an IBCLC, but putting that aside, if mom is struggling with breastfeeding in any way, get help. Hiring a lactation consultant can help turn a difficult experience into a transformative one. No new mother should feel alone in motherhood. If she’s struggling, get help! Reach out to local breastfeeding support and new mother groups, La Leche League, online community and resources, and of course hiring a private lactation consultant if necessary. Breastfeeding is not just about known health and immunological benefits. It is about a long lasting enjoyable and beloved time for both mother and baby!