How to Be a Breastfeeding Ally
Breastfeeding is immensely beneficial for breastfeeding parents and for their babies. It provides optimal nutrition and immunity for the baby, decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers for the parent, and bonding for both, all at a rock-bottom price that is undisturbed by changes in the global supply chain. At the same time, breastfeeding can be challenging. Breastfeeding families need allies. For World Breastfeeding Week, I am sharing a few things you can do to help support breastfeeding in your community.
Feeding your baby is a family effort. Even if you don’t anticipate breastfeeding yourself, attend breastfeeding classes with your partner. Learn everything you can, so you can be a helpful support. Breastfeeding is a worthwhile investment in time. Help out around the house in ways that make it easier for your partner to take the time necessary to breastfeed. If breastfeeding becomes challenging, remind your partner of the resources available, including lactation consultants, their OB/GYN or certified nurse midwife, the baby’s pediatric provider, Women’s and Children’s Services nurses, and many online and in-person support groups.
While breastfeeding is a very personal choice, it is employers’ responsibility to make it as easy and comfortable as possible. Provide time and space to pump human milk or leave work to feed their babies mid-day, if feasible. A basic space to pump human milk would include an electrical outlet, a door that locks from the inside, comfortable chair and chair-side table, a and lamp for soft lighting. An ideal spot would also include a sink and a small refrigerator for storing human milk.
Family members and friends
Once a parent sits down to breastfeed, they are staying there until the feeding is over. So offer to bring the things they might need, like a glass of water, a snack, or a book. Look for ways to help and ask what would be most useful. Would she like a hand with the dishes or folding laundry, for instance?
Even if you don’t know any breastfeeding families personally, you can be open to and supportive of breastfeeding in your community. Support breastfeeding-friendly businesses. If you see someone breastfeeding in public, offer privacy or encouragement to the degree it seems it would be welcome. Even just a friendly smile is a welcome support to breastfeeding families.
If allies can gather around breastfeeding families with acceptance and support, we can improve the likelihood new parents will try to continue breastfeeding, if they are able. That means better health and resilience for everyone.
Bridget Bromirski, MS, RN C-PNP, IBCLC, is a pediatric nurse practitioner and lactation consultant who works in the Women’s and Children’s Services department of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.