5 Things to Say to a Breastfeeding Mom

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What do you say to breastfeeding moms to support them?

Side-lying Breastfeeding Mother
Photo © Maxim Tupikov - Fotolia.com

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the hows and whys of breastfeeding that it can be easy to forget the emotional and social components of breastfeeding. I remember when I sought to breastfeed my first child many years ago and, as the first of my friends to have a baby, didn’t know anyone who had breastfed. My mother actually made the assertion that I was only choosing to breastfeed because she had elected not to breastfeed. I couldn’t explain why I wanted to nurse, just that it felt like the right thing to do for my baby. What I really needed was the support of others, a kind word, if you will. So here are some things I would have liked to have heard while I was breastfeeding that might help other moms out there who are breastfeeding:

  1. Don’t panic.
    Don’t laugh but panic is normally what I felt, with few books and people to go to, and a nearly non-existent internet, there weren’t chat rooms and forums to talk to other mothers. I did find a local breastfeeding group but they were far away and it was hard to get there with my husband’s work schedule. I wanted to be able to ask questions and when I couldn’t I’d panic. This panic at times would really consume me. Was she getting enough? How much poop was too much? Not enough? Was the poop the right color?
  2. It’s okay.
    This goes along with not panicking. If even one person had occasionally told me it would all be okay, I might have relaxed and enjoyed the experience a bit more. I was surely a high needs mom, and everything was going fine. Thankfully my baby knew what she was doing and I didn’t need any help.
  3. You’re doing fine.
    My instincts carried me through those months of breastfeeding. So, in some respects, it was probably blissful ignorance not to be told how long to nurse on each side or even how long to nurse. I had no idea of what the societal norms were beyond the fact that my friends weren’t having kids yet. But it would have been nice to know then what I knew later – I was on the right track.
  4. Your baby is great.
    Looking to my baby and watching her growth and thrive was what I had. I didn’t realize at the time that she was showing me that everything was fine. I wish I had paid more attention to her in the first place in terms of looking for clues deliberately instead of passively. A quick reminder that my strong, healthy baby was the best pointer to breastfeeding’s success would have gone a long way. One mom exclaimed to me, “Wow, I can’t believe that MY BODY is feeding her and helping her grow – isn’t it amazing?” Yes, it is…
  5. Thanks.
    And while it may sound self-serving to want to hear thanks, I want this more for those who are out there nursing now. It’s a hard parenting task. And while parenting is tough in general, it’s also difficult to do it while under a microscope. I can’t imagine trying to nurse my first child now with all of the studies going back and forth and the public scrutiny. I’m glad that when my last child was born, I was nearly a breastfeeding curmudgeon, stuck in my ways and not ready to take crap from anyone.

So, the next time you see a momma breastfeeding, tell her something positive. Thank her, tell her she’s doing a good job. Smile at her. It will go a long way for most moms.

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