Breastfeeding Newborns: The Vital Role of Family and Friends

Health Minute     Winter 2019

Breastfeeding can be one of the healthiest things for a growing infant, but it can take time for mom and baby to establish a rhythm that feels natural. Establishing a routine and building confidence require patience. That’s why the support of loved ones and friends is extremely important. Encouraging her, providing the rest she needs to stay strong and healthy, and watching for signs that breastfeeding may becoming too overwhelming are all vital roles of those closest to mom.

Breastfeeding provides the best nutrition a baby can get. And it releases two very important hormones in a woman’s body: oxytocin, which fosters bonding, and prolactin, which provides a greater sense of calm. “Despite these benefits, there are times when a mom is going to feel overwhelmed by the process of breastfeeding,” said Katherine Bachman, MD, with Premier Women’s Center. “A breastfeeding mom rarely receives a break from night feedings and can feel frustrated when the process isn’t going according to plan.”

Close family and friends can help by encouraging breastfeeding moms to:

  • Be confident in their decision – Women may run the risk of feeling criticized about different aspects of their decision to breastfeed – whether it’s how long they do it or the location in which they feed their children. Don’t allow outside influences to weaken mom’s commitment. Encourage her to be confident in her decision; it’s physically and emotionally good for her and her child.
  • Trust the process – Unlike bottle feeding, through which every ounce is accounted for, breastfeeding can make it hard to visibly see and measure how much milk a baby is consuming. This can often cause anxiety in a mom who worries if her little one is being properly fed. Moms should trust nature and facts. Lactation consultants say that at least 95 percent of women who breastfeed produce enough milk for what their baby needs.
  • Never feel shame – There are times when women simply can’t breastfeed due to illness and medication use. Babies may need formula in these instances, whether it is full-time or as a supplement to breastmilk. Women should never feel as if they have failed, and instead, should consider ways that they can still incorporate important aspects of breastfeeding, such as personal touch and close holding while a baby is feeding out of a bottle.
  • Be aware of the blues – It’s important for new moms to guard their emotional health. Having a baby is a big change to a family’s life, and sometimes a struggle in breastfeeding can compound that. Encourage mom to seek the advice of her doctor if her feelings become too overwhelming.
  • Know they are not alone – Support doesn’t end when a woman leaves a hospital setting. Premier Health hospitals offer lactation consultants to moms the entire time they are breastfeeding. These consultants can be reached 24 hours a day, and often offer classes and one-on-one sessions for moms who are struggling.

Dr. Bachman, who practices with Premier Physician Network, says a strong support system is important. This can include family members, friends, online support groups and local lactation consultants. Moms should seek to build this support while pregnant, and learn to lean on it after baby comes. 

For more information on breastfeeding support, talk to your doctor or visit us online to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you.