Breastfeeding is the best way to nourish a baby. The “Gold Standard” for infant nutrition, it’s free of contaminates, always the right temperature and gives baby exactly what his body needs to grow and thrive. Most people are aware of the health benefits of breast milk, yet only about a quarter of babies are still breastfed at six months.

Like the rest of us, moms are influenced by what they see and hear everyday. If their friends and family encourage breastfeeding, they will likely breastfeed. If infant formula is acceptable in their family and peer group, they will likely breastfeed for a very short time, if at all. Many people support breastfeeding but may feel uncomfortable discussing it because breasts are so sexualized in our culture.

Research shows that a pregnant mom’s and her partner’s level of commitment to breastfeeding are the best indicators of her success at breastfeeding for her baby’s first year of life. This may seem like an obvious connection, but the important message is: When a family commits to breastfeeding, challenges are speed bumps; not stop signs. (“Families” refers to any group of people with close and constant contact; not necessarily related.)

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • A breastfed baby is good for the family budget. Breast milk is always free and acts as baby’s first immunization, making him more likely to fight off illnesses that come his way. A healthier baby accumulates fewer doctor bills and prescriptions and requires parents to take less time off from work to care for a sick child. Breastfeeding requires no equipment to purchase and carry around.
  • Breastfeeding moms are happier and report fewer incidents of post-partum depression. They also lose their baby weight quickly, and keep it off due to a higher metabolic rate.
  • SAT’s may be a long way off, but you are helping your baby build a higher IQ and better eyesight with components only found in breast milk.

Support for breastfeeding moms

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to breastfeed lies with mom. But she has many factors influencing her choice, her family and friends have the power to support or sabotage her breastfeeding experience. (If you are an expectant mom reading this- I hope this information strengthens your resolve to breastfeed. Print this article and give it to the important people in your life so they realize their role in your success as a breastfeeding mom.)

Do you qualify as an “Influence on Breastfeeding Success”? If you spend any time in the same room as new or expecting mom, you can influence her decision to breastfeed. This includes co-workers, family members and friends. We all benefit when a baby is breastfed. We should all take the responsibility to support and encourage moms to breastfeed for the first 12 months (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics). Breast milk is a dynamic fluid that actually changes to meet the nutritional needs of a growing baby. It’s the perfect food for baby’s first year.

Here are a few simple strategies to support the breastfeeding mom in your life:

  • Learn about breastfeeding together. Talk with other moms who have breastfed. Find and share positive stories about breastfeeding. Take a class together. Help mom commit to breastfeeding before the baby is born, as this increases her chances of sticking with it through any challenges that may occur.
  • Be understanding and supportive, encourage her to keep at it and that you are proud of her commitment. If you work with a breastfeeding mom, allow her take time to express breast milk whenever she needs it. Breasts don’t stop making milk because she is at work. She needs to pump approximately every 2-4 hours. Tell your co-worker you understand and support her decision to breastfeed.
  • Help mom ignore negative comments she might hear about breastfeeding.
  • Take baby for a walk. Use a sling or baby carrier to wear your baby, close contact is comforting for the baby and helps you bond.
  • Bring mom the baby at night so she doesn’t have to get out of bed. You will be her hero!
  • Take the other children out to play. It will make them feel special while giving mom time alone with the baby.
  • Encouraging words are important. Tell her: “I’m so glad you are breastfeeding our baby.” or “You’re such a good mom!”

The wonderful benefits of breastfeeding travel out like ripples on a pond. The baby is in the center, then the family, then to the edges of the globe. Don’t underestimate your power to make the world a better place through kind words and encouragement to the new and expectant mothers in your life.