How to support a breastfeeding mom

By JoEllen Noble

Ohio Governor John Kasich has declared August to be Breastfeeding Awareness Month across the state of Ohio, and this year’s theme is “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.”

Any parent who has breastfed can tell you the one thing that made all the difference in whether they felt successful or not: the support of others. Many of us know the benefits of breastfeeding — decreased risk of certain illness for both infant and mother, for example — but do you know how to support a breastfeeding mom?

Imagine a new mother, sore and sleep-deprived in the early days after birth, unsure what to do about this new little person who cries lustily despite eating and having a diaper change. What would you suggest to help?

Or imagine a parent preparing to return to work around six weeks postpartum. She informs her employer of her need to pump milk for her infant a few times throughout the day. Where will she go for privacy?

According to the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 78 percent of infants born in Ohio are breastfed, but by six months of age, the number of breastfed infants drops to about 44 percent.

What happens during those early months of life, and how can we better support breastfeeding families in our community?

You don’t need to be an expert to help breastfeeding families. If you’re a friend or family member, acknowledge how hard those early days can be and offer practical help: bring over a meal with disposable utensils or offer to babysit older children.

If a mother expresses concern about her baby getting enough to eat or complains of pain, encourage her to schedule a visit with one of the board-certified lactation consultants at CMH, who are available Monday-Saturday, at 937-382-9415.

If you’re the employer of a parent who will need to pump at work, accommodating her needs doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Locate a clean, private space — that is not a bathroom — for her to use. It could be a small office or break room. Allow for schedule flexibility for a mother to pump regularly.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has great, comprehensive recommendations for supporting nursing moms at work: “Each milk expression session usually takes around 15 minutes plus time to get to and from the lactation room. Breastfeeding employees typically need no more than an hour per work day to express milk, which can easily be divided between usual paid breaks and the meal period. If milk expression takes longer than expected, a common solution is to allow employees the flexibility to come in early or stay late, or to use a portion of their lunch period, to make up time.”

Breastfeeding takes commitment, especially in the face of challenges and criticism. An easy way to show your support is to give a smile and a thumbs-up to a woman nursing in public.

Sometimes a simple “You’re doing a good job, Mom” can make a world of difference.

JoEllen Noble is a Lactation Consultant at Clinton Memorial Hospital.

By JoEllen Noble