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Be a Bosom Buddy

What to say, and what not to say to someone about breastfeeding.

For this section, we have put together some of our suggestions and selections around the ‘net that we thought were great.   Do you have a link to share?   Or a suggestion?   Let us know!

How do I support a friend to breastfeed?

Here are some suggestions excerpted and expounded upon from our Fit Pregnancy:  Update on Facebook vs. Breastfeeding:

1)  Be gentle.   Come from a place of acceptance and compassion; most mothers are far more open to hearing your experience than they are interested in being lectured to or told what to do.   Your best bet is to share your experience in a non-judgemental, humble way.    Always put your friendship first, and try to put yourself in her shoes.

This doesn't work.

This does not work.

2) Listen, Listen, Listen. Ask your friend what she knows about or has heard about breastfeeding.    Help her think about any underlying feelings or misconceptions she may have,  share yours.   Only if you listen to what is really going on with her will you know how to best support her, and be able to direct her to the appropriate resources.   Hammering her with the benefits of breastfeeding will do no good if her mother disapproves, or if she secretly fears that she won’t make enough milk but is afraid to tell you (a common fear that is usually, but not always, unfounded).

3) Think personal coach.  Cheer her on, motivate and inspire her, and give her lots of positive reinforcement.  Any breastfeeding is better than none, and some women need to take it a day (or even a minute) at a time, especially if they’ve gotten off to a rough start because of the “booby traps.”  Help her achieve HER personal breastfeeding goals, not yours.  Once she’s reached her goal, even if it’s just to get through the first two weeks, she may be willing to go for longer.   Some moms thrive on keeping their sights on the breastfeeding marathon, others need to start out with the nursing equivalent of a 3K run/walk. 

4) Manage expectations.   Let your friend know that breastfeeding is challenging, much like working out or learning to ride a bike.  There may be some bumps in the road but she can get through it, and you will help her!   Be flexible; some moms simply face too many social and cultural booby traps to succeed with breastfeeding, or in the rare case, may have physiological difficulties.   These moms need extra TLC and unconditional support, there is simply no room or excuse for judgment.   (See recommended reading list below if you struggle with this one.) 

5)  If you see a mom nursing in public, give her a “thumbs up”!   We usually just say “Good for you!” or “Great job!” as we pass by.   Many new moms are very nervous about nursing in public and your encouragement gives them a confidence boost and sets a good example for others.

6) Never judge another mother for not breastfeeding (or for breastfeeding, or at all for that matter!).   You can not possibly know what it is like to be in her shoes, and those who judge mothers make it much harder for the rest of us to support moms and help them achieve their personal breastfeeding goals.  

Our MUST-READ recommendations:

Her Bad Mother:  Shame and the Mom:  A Boob Story

Sorta Crunchy:  An Open Letter to My Fellow Breastfeeding Advocates

Lactivist Leanings:  They Should Feel Guilty for Not Breastfeeding  (especially good for knowing what NOT to say)

Phdinparenting: It’s Not About Picking on Moms, It’s About Breaking Down Societal Barriers

A fabulous post on supporting moms to make decisions right for them:    Breastfeeding, Bottle-feeding, and Somewhere in Between:  Why the Guilt?

What if a breastfeeding mom makes me uncomfortable?  

We understand because we used to be uncomfortable with it too! After all, breastfeeding in public died out for a while as bottle-feeding has been aggressively marketed for the last 60 years.  If nursing in public makes you squeamish, it might help to view it like other cultural changes: it took a while to get used to the bikini, or seeing people in their workout clothes.  Breastfeeding in public is normal and is what humans have done for millenia–we’ve just forgotten that over the past few decades, but think we can re-learn to appreciate it!  Americans are very flexible culturally–consider that Hummers used to be cool, now they are not, because we are more aware of environmental damage (it’s hip to go green and breastfeeding dovetails perfectly with the environmental movement, it’s the original organic!) We hope that with a little effort, soon breastfeeding will not only be tolerated as normal, but will be celebrated, admired and supported.  In the meantime, simply look away if you are just not there yet, and try to keep an open mind.    And for you breastfeeding advocates who are passionate about the right to nurse in public, respect that it may take some people time to adjust.   We don’t think in-your-face confrontation is as effective as educating and inspiring people to see breastfeeding as beautiful. 

More resources:

From Elita, one of our favorite, hip & hilarious bloggers, at Blactating Blog:  How do I act around a breastfeeding mom?

What else can I do?

Join us to help bring about mainstream change.  Send this link to a friend, sign up for our blog,  donate so we can help educate more people on how best to support moms.   Part of the backlash against breastfeeding has come about because there are too many people are beating women over the head about breastfeeding but not using the same coaching skills and encouragement they would to support someone to exercise or quit smoking.      Best for Babes has a group and cause on Facebook, you can help spread the word and raise funds to educate more mothers about how to avoid the “booby traps” and help fight the barriers that are tripping them up.   Breastfeeding protects against dozens of diseases, yet most of these diseases have millions more supporters and dollars than any breastfeeding organization.   It’s time we all stood up for the “mother of all prevention,” right under our nose!     

We welcome more suggestions, posts, and comments for this section.   Please contact us!