The Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, has earned my love yesterday when her first official Call to Action was all about improving the country's rates of breastfeeding by eliminating obstacles.
Amongst many, many things (which I will be writing more about), family members were some of the obstacles mentioned -- especially fathers and grandmas (the mother's mother).
Above all else, these two people hold special sway over a mom's confidence in herself, confidence in her support system, and even are the most likely to sabotage her breastfeeding efforts or education.
So, we need to educate Dad and Grandma on breastfeeding too.
It's common knowledge that women with family members who've successfully breastfed are much more likely to breastfeed themselves, and the longer their friends breastfed, the more likely the woman is to breastfeed longer herself. The same holds true for a woman's partner, her mother, and her other family members.
In the Call to Action information, this point is highlighted (emphasis mine):
Partners are particularly important because their approval means so much to a mother, and her partner is often a mother’s primary source of support. Although fathers want the best for their family, they may become jealous or resentful or get the feeling that they will not be able to bond with their child if their partner chooses to breastfeed. The baby’s grandmothers are also very influential because mothers who have recently given birth rely on them for support and advice. To make breastfeeding successful, mothers need the support and encouragement of all of these people.
See? Grandma and Dad are huge factors in a mom's success, education, support, and decisions, whether she admits it or not.
Many a woman has said how her mom couldn't breastfeed so she can't, how her mother breastfed three kids so she KNOWS what's she's talking about when she says her daughter's body doesn't work, or that Dad wants to be included so he's giving bottles, or he doesn't like her breastfeeding. People talk about the influence from these two people a TON. So focusing on them is a really, really important step, one I'm glad the Surgeon General addressed.
The proposal for getting these family members on board includes educating them the same as educating moms. They should attend breastfeeding education classes and watch videos with you. The importance of breastfeeding needs to be emphasized to them as well so that they can help advocate for you and know where to turn if and when you need help. Yes, Dads should know how to get ahold of the La Leche League Leader in your area, but first he has to know they even exist.
A special place for Dad needs to be explained often as well, so they don't feel left out. Many women think their husband needs to feed the baby to bond, and we need to show that he doesn't -- there are many, many special Daddy things he can do, and ways he can support mom and baby, and even unique jobs ONLY he can do that help him feel that he is a part of the breastfeeding team.
As one dad put it, "The mother is the quarterback of team baby, you are the waterboy."
Well, we want them to feel a little more important than the waterboy, but they do need to know their place on the team is needed, special, and important -- and never needs to include him being the one to actually feed the baby. He needs to know how some phrases are detrimental, how some are amazingly helpful.
Grandma does too. No more, "He'd sleep longer if you'd give him a bottle," or "At this age, YOU were sleeping through the night, you know." All of that is damaging.
Here on The Stir, Jeanne talked before about how fathers can end up being the deciding factor in a breastfeeding relationship, depending on how they choose to support or not support their wives, and she's totally right. If the people closest to you, who you rely on the most, aren't there for you or are constantly undermining you or giving you bad information, you'd be incredibly lucky to succeed.
So, yay for the Call to Action's focus on getting families on board too! Moms certainly need the help!
Did you feel supported or sabotaged by your mother or partner in your breastfeeding efforts?
Image via kkbutterfly01/Flickr