Breastfeeding support

Where can I find support?

Breastfeeding mothers benefit greatly from the support of partners and family, friends, community, employers, and society. Mothers with support are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for longer. Mothers can also receive help from health-care professionals and breastfeeding experts.

A) The importance of support

Breastfeeding is not a one-person job. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. This is especially true of breastfeeding mothers, who benefit greatly from the support of family, community, employers, and health-care providers (ACOG 2021; Balogun 2016). Mothers who have support are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for longer than those who do not (Patnode 2016).

Breastfeeding counselling and specialists can further increase breastfeeding success (Cordell 2020; Wong 2021).

B) Where to find support

There may be a variety of people in a mother’s support network and they have unique roles in supporting the mother and her breastfeeding.

1) Family

All family members can support and help mothers care for their new babies. It can be useful to remember that once a baby arrives, everyone’s role within the family changes: daughters become mothers, mothers become grandmothers, partners are now parents and so forth. These changes can be challenging for everyone and can take a bit of time to work through. Cultural differences within families can cause additional stress.

If breastfeeding, the baby’s mother is the ideal immediate care-giver because of her unique, time-specific responsibility to provide breast milk (Flaherman 2016).

The partner can be as important as the mother in the life of the child, but for now at least the role is a little different from that of the mother. Effective support from a partner is extremely important for breastfeeding success. 

Family support can be especially helpful for supporting younger mothers.

2) Friends and peers

Friends and peers can provide additional support and helpful information. For mothers who feel isolated, online groups are another way to connect.

3) Professionals and specialist helpers

For mothers who need reassurance or who have breastfeeding challenges, a variety of professionals can help:

4) Society

Ideally societies provide:

  • Safe breastfeeding spaces
  • Economic support
  • Supportive communities
  • Breastfeeding-friendly work spaces
  • National policies that support breastfeeding

Currently, societies vary in the number of mothers who breastfeed and in acceptance of public breastfeeding.

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Barriers to Breastfeeding: Supporting Initiation and Continuation of Breastfeeding: ACOG Committee Opinion, Number 821. Obstet Gynecol. 2021 Feb 1;137(2):e54-e62

Balogun OO, O'Sullivan EJ, McFadden A, et al. Interventions for promoting the initiation of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Nov 9;11(11):CD001688

Cordell A, Elverson C. Interventions to Improve Breastfeeding Outcomes from Six Weeks to Six Months: A Systematic Review. West J Nurs Res. 2020 Sep 27:193945920962118 

Flaherman V, Von Kohorn I. Interventions Intended to Support Breastfeeding: Updated Assessment of Benefits and Harms. JAMA. 2016;316(16):1685-1687

Patnode CD, Henninger ML, Senger CA, et al. Primary Care Interventions to Support Breastfeeding: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2016;316(16):1694-1705

Wong MS, Mou H, Chien WT. Effectiveness of educational and supportive intervention for primiparous women on breastfeeding related outcomes and breastfeeding self-efficacy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Nurs Stud. 2021 Jan 15;117:103874