Breastfeeding is tiring, messy, and (sometimes) extremely challenging. If your experience is anything like mine, you'll need all the help you can get to make it through and to continue functioning like an adult human. In fact, if you're inclined to help a breastfeeding mom achieve that oh-so-ambitious goal, you may want to consider helping with a few of her needs outside of breastfeeding, like those on this list of things a breastfeeding woman shouldn't have to ask for.
I don't mean to imply that every breastfeeding mother's loved ones need to be mind-readers or have some super secret intuition that allows them to predict someone else's needs. Of course that's not the case at all, and communication is key in all relationships. However, if you're able to offer up the following without her so much as looking up from the top of her baby's head, it's safe to say you're way, way ahead of the game when it comes to supporting a breastfeeding woman.
My own son is almost 3, so our breastfeeding days are over. However, I can still recall, and rather clearly, how much my partner took it upon himself to participate in a process that, on the surface, seems like a one person job. (Spoiler alert: breastfeeding is most definitely not a "one person" job.) So, with that in mind, here's just a few things you can do to ensure the breastfeeding woman in your life feels supported:
To be fair, women shouldn’t have to ask to be respected when they’re doing damn near anything. Still, it never hurts to share a reminder, right? I can see how, to anyone who’s never been around breastfeeding, it could seem a little weird or unusual, but that’s no excuse to gawk or stare or dismiss someone who’s literally just feeding a baby.
Privacy (If She Wants)
Or, if she’s not inclined to go somewhere private to breastfeed, at least make it a point to look her in the eye. That’s the bare minimum.
A Burp Cloth
It’s not really even for her benefit so much as the baby’s, and for the protection of their jammies and the couch (or wherever else she’s opted to feed).
A Glass Of Water
Sit back, I have a story: I brought my son to one of my husband's work events when he was just a few weeks old. When we got there, I breastfed him in the car before we went inside. Once we finally made it inside, one of his colleagues (who had a little one of her own) didn’t ask, she simply brought me a glass of water because he’d mentioned what I’d been doing. It was such a small gesture, but I felt so supported in that moment, it was awesome. It’s been almost three years and I’m still talking about it.
If there is a TV in view of a breastfeeding mom in your life, at least give her the option to choose a show. She may decline, or she may totally appreciate not being at the whim of your (or anyone else's) entertainment choices.
...Or Her Phone
Guys, I tried to avoid using my phone when breastfeeding. I really did. However, when you’re forced to sit still for upwards of six to eight hours a day, at all hours of the night, your options for entertainment are kinda limited. It's not that entertaining oneself is the highest priority, but it should at least be considered (since falling asleep isn’t exactly ideal or safe).
A Quick, Enthusiastic Reply To Any Texts She Sends
I mean, she’s literally trapped. She’s literally trapped, and her phone is probably the one connection she has to the outside world. If you’re the lucky recipient of a text from a breastfeeding mom, know that she considers you a lifeline. I suggest you respond accordingly.
Assuming the breastfeeding mom in question has a relationship to you beyond “distant acquaintances” or “complete strangers,” it’s nice to check in on her and see how she’s doing. At times, I felt like the process of breastfeeding was more grueling than my pregnancy had been, so encouragement from my loved ones was actually a big deal and a help for my mental health.
Help With Other "Mom Duties" Or Household Responsibilities
By definition, she and the baby are both occupied when she breastfeeds. In other words, nursing time is a great time to pitch in and help in other areas (if you’re willing and able). I’ve never visited a new mom and not noticed obvious chores that could be done in a manner of minutes. If you’re able to load the dishwasher, or start some laundry, or fill the dog bowl, she will thank you and she may even, someday, sing your praises on the internet (if you need a little extra motivation).