Everyone has a role to play in helping mom and baby get off to a good start with breastfeeding. You are a part of the team!
How to Help
The first few months with a new baby are a time of adjustment. Friends and family can help mom by providing practical support and cheering her on. Here are some ways to be helpful:
Make sure it's a good time
Check in before you arrive to make sure it's a good time for visitors. It's good for new moms and dads to practice lots of skin-to-skin with baby, and some may want to make this a private time. Moms and dads also need to sleep when the baby does, day or night, so you may need to set your visit for another time.
Be conscious of germs
Wash your hands before you touch the baby, and don't visit if you are sick or were recently exposed to an illness. A sick baby can have a tough time breathing while trying to breastfeed. Also, babies get sick more easily than adults do because they are still building up their immune system.
Help with daily chores
Offer to help out by bringing a meal, doing household chores, running errands, or caring for other children in the home.
Ask if you can bring the baby to mom once she gets set up in her favorite breastfeeding position or chair.
Help during breastfeeding
Bring mom a glass of water and some snacks when she is breastfeeding. Many moms feel very thirsty as they nurse.
Offer to care for the baby after breastfeeding
Offer to hold the baby for 20 to 30 minutes after breastfeeding, until baby falls into a deep sleep and can be placed gently back into her crib for a nap. This gives mom a chance to rest, knowing that the baby is being cared for.
Many women feel depressed or anxious during and after pregnancy. It is not a sign of weakness or that she has done something wrong. It is a medical condition that can cause her to stop breastfeeding and can have long-term health effects. Here is some useful information from the National Institutes of Health on how to identify the signs of depression and what you can do to help.
Know the signs
You are in a unique position to help your loved one if you see signs of depression, such as:
Frequent sadness, irritability, or anger.
Foggy thinking or difficulty completing tasks.
"Robotic" actions, like she's going through the motions.
Anxiety around the baby.
Saying that she's a failure as a mother.
Lack of interest in activities she usually enjoys.
How you can help
Listen to her
Ask how she is feeling.
Be kind and understanding about her concerns.
Listen without offering advice.
Let her know that perinatal depression is common and can be treated.
Encourage her to seek help quickly.
Offer to watch the children to give her time to herself.
Provide meals or take care of household chores or shopping so she can get some rest.
Schedule time with her outside the house so she can get away from family responsibilities for a little while.