Getting Breastfeeding Support from Mom

New mothers need breastfeeding support. But how much impact does your mother, or mother in law, have on your breastfeeding success? Moms who were breastfed get the most benefits from mother-daughter breastfeeding support, says a Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council (BBIC) survey of 2,089 new mothers from across the US.

But even if you're a First Generation Breastfeeder and your mother didn’t breastfeed, there are ways you and your partner can help your mother, or mother in law, provide you with the support you need.

Hang in there and Keep Breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding isn’t Easy but Support is Available

Moms who were breastfed were four times more likely to say their mothers had a positive influence on their breastfeeding success, versus First Generation Breastfeeders. In fact, 77% of respondents whose own mothers breastfed, characterized their mother’s support as “amazing.”

Among First Generation Breastfeeders, 40% characterized their mother's support as “amazing,” while 57% felt support was lacking.

If your mother didn’t nurse and you're a First Generation Breastfeeder – US breastfeeding rates were as low as 47.5% 30 years ago – try to remember she wants the best for you and her grandchildren. However, it may be that she feels residual guilt about her own decisions, and/or simply lacks the breastfeeding experience to offer you tangible support.

“When the breastfeeding got tough, I truly wished I could have asked my mom about her experiences and gotten ideas for making things better. She meant well, but she just didn’t have the tools that I needed,” said one BBIC survey respondent.

“My mother tried to be supportive, but she really didn’t have a clue. I found myself having to educate her and defend breastfeeding,” said another.

Take comfort in knowing you, and your partner agree breastfeeding is the best choice. Hang in there, and keep breastfeeding: breastfeeding isn’t easy, but the support you need is out there.

Find other Breastfeeding Supporters

If your mother isn’t able to provide the breastfeeding advice and support you need, look elsewhere for assistance. Your partner is an obvious choice for support and encouragement. And trusted female friends and relatives (especially other nursing moms), lactation consultants, and even… your mother in law, may be able to fill a mentoring role when it comes to nursing expertise (see: Breastfeeding: Where to Find Support for a complete list).

Among First Generation Breastfeeders whose mothers in law had breastfed, 50% reported positive support from their mothers in law.

“It was nice that my mother in law was supportive of my breastfeeding, since my own mother was very against it,” said one respondent, who appreciated the additional support “when things were tough.”

Tell Loved Ones How They can Support Your Breastfeeding Success

One of the points the BBIC report stresses is that breastfeeding attitudes and expertise are developed over generations and decades, not years or months. The good news: today’s breastfeeding women will be able to provide the support and expertise our daughters and daughters-in-law will one day seek.

In the meantime, remember that women who’ve never nursed probably don’t know what sort of concrete support you need. That’s why delegating is essential.

7 Ways Mothers and Mothers in Law (MIL) can Provide Breastfeeding Support

Here are 7 ways mothers and MILs can provide you with breastfeeding support. Take the opportunity to coach your mother and MIL, and your breastfeeding experience may reap immediate rewards.

1) Offer Encouragement
Every new mom wants to hear she’s doing a good job – and that sleepless nights and haggard days will one day pass. These are universal experiences, whether formula- or breastfeeding, and sharing is a great way of bonding.

2 ) Never Stealth-Feed Formula
“My mother in law was constantly trying to give my daughter formula, but my husband knew how important it was to me to breastfeed and conveyed that to his mom,” said a BBIC survey respondent.

3) Take Privacy Cues
One respondent reported her curious MIL sat beside her and wanted to hold her breast to help get the baby to latch on. “My husband had to have a talk with his mother,” said the respondent. If your relative gives new meaning to the phrase “public breastfeeding,” gently redirect her efforts towards bringing you a glass of water or finding clean burp cloths.

4) Bottle-feed with Expressed Milk
If you’ve stored extra breast milk, grandma can feed baby a bottle while you nap or run errands. This experience may work wonders in making her feel included – and invested in your breastfeeding experience.

5) Take on “Burping Duty”
This is another great, hands-on way for grandma to bond with baby – and to take a load off you, especially if you’re recovering from a C-section.

6) Look up Breastfeeding-Related Questions/Issues
As we all know, moms love dispensing advice! Having grandma read out answers to your questions saves you time while you’re nursing, and gives her a coaching role.

7) Bring her Prize-Winning Lasagna
You need an extra 500-600 calories per day while breastfeeding, so ask grandma to whip up a nutritious and delicious meal. Want to really hook her? Say: “I’m sure this is going to be Jack’s favorite dish as soon as he can eat solids!”

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Heather Kelly
Heather is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
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