When I breastfed my son, we experienced a variety of phases. There was the first month or so of struggles, the following months of exclusive breastfeeding, the introduction of solid foods in conjunction with nursing, followed by the long, long period of slow weaning. However, when I think back on it, those early months when we were just breastfeeding were pretty unique in their challenges. If there is currently a mom in your life who’s in the midst of early breastfeeding life, I humbly offer some of the best things you can do for someone exclusively breastfeeding.
It’s been a couple years for me, but I can still clearly remember being a slave to the feeding schedule, always keeping my nursing pillow close, being constantly hungry and thirsty, and requiring my phone to help me remember which breast I last nursed with. OK, technically I also relied on my phone to entertain me and help me stay awake during night feedings, too. (Watching Australian teen dance dramas on Netflix at one in the morning? Yes. I did that thing and I will not apologize for that thing.) I also used that handy device to text friends and stay connected to the outside world.
In other words, exclusively breastfeeding is a complicated time and, as a result, it’s very easy to stay completely and totally entrenched in your baby’s schedule. At least, it sure was for me. Here’s how you might be able to help someone currently in the thick of it, because support is the name of the game, my friends.
Hold Off On Invitations That Would Require A Departure From Her Baby...
While every mom is different, there was as window of time when even the most tempting of invitations would have gotten a solid "no" from me. Despite all the options we have with pumping and formula and every other avenue there is to feed a baby in mom’s absence, it simply wasn’t worth the trouble (for me).
Unless we’re talking about a major life event (a wedding, a graduation, tickets to the Backstreet Boys show in Vegas), see if you can delay a few months.
...Or Make Sure She Knows That Her Baby Is Welcome
There’s always this option, too. It doesn’t necessarily work for, say, happy hours and bachelorette parties, but there’s a lot of situations that I could have (and did) bring my baby.
There are bonus points to be had if you mention her bringing her baby first, so she doesn’t even have to ask.
Be Flexible When You Schedule With Her
She may be trying to squeeze you in between feedings, or trying to pick a time in the day when it’s simply easiest to leave the house with baby and gear. Any extra flexibility and leeway you can provide will be much appreciated.
Offer Her A Glass Of Water
In fact, a jug of water will do. Actually, scratch that, if you have barrels, just offer her an entire barrel of water. She’s probably in the habit of keeping a water bottle extremely close at all times, but just in case she forgot it, or ran out, or had to use it to rinse spit-up out of her hair, it’s good to be prepared.
Offer Her All The Coffee
While she may be cautious about caffeine, she may also still be waking up multiple times a night for feedings. Not sure about everyone else, but I was doing a lot of complicated calculus to figure out how much coffee I could have, and which parts of the day I could have it, in order to keep myself awake and safely feed my baby. Or, she just may ask for decaf. Either way, I never get mad when someone offers me coffee, just saying.
If You're Sharing Food, Just Plan On Eating Less Than Half
Shout-out to my former supervisor, with whom I once shared an order of cheese bread. By “shared,” of course, I mean she ate like one and a half pieces and I ate the rest of it. She was even like, “You have it. You’re breastfeeding,” and I was all, “No, no, I don’t need this much.” Guess who was right?
If You’re Bringing Food, Bring More Than Usual
On a similar note, if you’re visiting her, just pretend like you’re actually visiting two people. I mean, you are, assuming that the baby will be with her, but I mean two fully-grown people with football player-esque appetites.
Don’t Assume The Worst If She’s Drinking
Similar to consuming caffeine, there are ways to drink alcohol safely while breastfeeding. By all means, if you have the impression she’s not being safe, then of course do what’s best for her and the baby. However, if she’s clearly watching the clock and not over-indulging, she’s probably done her homework.
Compliment Her Efforts
She’s working hard. Like, super hard. I’ve heard many new moms claim that breastfeeding was the most challenging part of becoming a parent, and in those early weeks, the same was definitely true for me. I didn’t do it for the accolades, but it did mean something to me when someone close to me acknowledged the hard work I was putting in.
Suggest Reading Material Or Shows To Stream
During my first pregnancy, I had the best of intentions. No, seriously. I really did. I swore I wasn’t going to use my phone when I was breastfeeding, and that I would use the time to just stare lovingly at my child and read aloud to him. Yeah, no.
Once I realized that breastfeeding (or, attempting to breastfeed while actually struggling and crying) was taking like eight hours a day, I had to call in reinforcements in the form of my phone. I needed the distraction, the entertainment, and the connection to the outside world. Shout-out to one of my BFFs, who’d been there before and included an iTunes gift card with my baby shower gift.
Ask Her How It’s Going
She may be dying to talk about it, especially if she’s spending most of her days solo with her kiddo. Or, she may be tired of talking about it. Either way, I think it’s worth checking in and giving her the option.
Don’t Mind Her Pumping Needs
When I was using the shared office fridge to store breast milk, I made certain that it was discretely packed away inside multiple layers of bottles and bags. I know some of my colleagues were a bit, um, curious about the whole thing, which I understood, but I was definitely glad that they never made a big deal out of it.
Don’t Be Weird If She Breastfeeds In Front Of You
This will be totally easy for you, because you are a grown-ass person who understands that there's actually nothing weird about breastfeeding, right? And that it's totally normal and sure, while you might not be used to someone doing it in your presence, that it's totally no big deal, right? Right. Good talk.