Family and Friends Key to Motivating Moms to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding can be the biggest blessing a mother gives her child, but to keep her motivated it is the support and care of the family that she needs the most. Many experts feel that family members can play a very important role in motivating as well as de- motivating a mom that is breastfeeding.

“Family members should not underestimate the influence that they have on a mother,” said Deborah Dee, an epidemiologist in the nutrition branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They can really make the difference for a mother … just being supportive of the mother when she says she wants to breastfeed.”

According to Chandra Smith, a lactation consultant, the comments made by a woman’s partner are sometimes the most important factor in determining whether the woman will keep breastfeeding her child or not. Comments like, “Oh, I think you’re starving the baby. Oh, why don’t you just give formula?’ will automatically detract her.

Another expert, Lisa Mascio-Thompson who is part of a mother-to mother support group feels that relatives are also a big influence as well.

“Many moms “come to our meetings and say, ‘But my husband wants to feed the baby’ or ‘Grandma wants to feed the baby,’” she said. “Well, there’s other things they can do (besides) feed the baby. Hold the baby, so they can digest their milk, and burp them and change them and give them their bath.”

Recently after the release of her report supporting breastfeeding, US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin called all health care providers, communities, employers and family members to back moms who wish to feed their babies. She says that their backing will encourage moms and help them stick with the practice.

She says, “Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed. They shouldn’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re a clinician, a family member, a friend or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.” But at the same time, “no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”

Apart from the local hospital assistance there is also National Breastfeeding Helpline, lactation consultants, doulas, community groups and programs such as WIC, a federal supplemental nutrition program for low-income people that can make women feel more encouraged to breastfeed.

Said Deborah Dee, “About three-quarters of mothers, we find, are initiating or starting breastfeeding, which is great. We’re happy about that, but we’d like to see them be able to continue breastfeeding for longer duration but then also exclusivity is very important to think about.”

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by breastfeeding and additional food supplements till one year of a baby’s life, in 2007 it was found that almost 75 percent new moms chose to breastfeed but only 43 percent were breastfeeding after 6 months and 22 percent after 12 months.

Dee cautions that even after one year it is not necessary to stop. “It’s you want to breastfeed at least one year and then as long thereafter as you and your baby would desire.”

It is difficult to continue to breastfeed, though according to Lisa Mascio-Thompson if people keep giving their opinions and have a negative influence.

“I had several people at 6 months old asking me when I was going to wean him, and I was really confused,” she said. “It really made me question my parenting; that’s really what made it difficult. I had this gut instinct that like, ‘No, I do not need to wean him.’ ”

She says it is at this time when she found support from the group called La Leche League which backed her decision. “La Leche League is a free resource that a lot of people do not either know about or do not take advantage of,” she said, “Our leaders offer free telephone help. We have free monthly meetings.”

Another mom at the group says it is important to come to these meetings even before your baby is born to learn from the experience of other mothers. She reveals that many moms who come to these meetings have no real support at home. “If a woman’s mother didn’t breastfeed, she (the baby’s grandmother) may not be helpful, or she may pass along myths”, said Smith, who’s a registered nurse in addition to being a lactation consultant.

Sometimes giving baby bottles seems to be a solution to problem of less milk. But according to Ryan, giving the baby a bottle or a pacifier instead of breastfeeding will not fix the problem. It is only through patience and practice that you can continue to breastfeed without the use of other sources.

Dee suggests some ways to make relatives more supportive. These are,

  • Making them attend classes on their own or with the mom-to-be
  • Reading books on the subject
  • Taking guidance from health care providers or other experts.

Relatives, friends and partners can also show their support indirectly by helping the moms with housechores and making them as comfortable as possible while they breastfeed the baby.

“Breastfeeding can be really frustrating, and it can feel like it takes a lot of work especially in the first few weeks,” said Jenny Claire Kragel, a Louisville mother in a La Leche group. “You’ve got a nursling who wants to nurse every two hours and can sometimes take an hour to nurse so it feels like all you’re doing is sitting and nursing, so to have a supportive partner who can bring you a glass of water and some peanut butter crackers and a book … and say, ‘I’m really proud of you for doing this for our baby,’ … is definitely important.”

There are LOTS of great online resources for breastfeeding moms some that we recommend are:

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About the author


Atula is a writer, traveler, and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites, and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called

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