It’s a word that rings loud in the depths of every breastfeeding mother’s consciousness. Whether we have been blessed with it or not, each and every one of us refuses to take it for granted. We know the significance of breastfeeding support.
And, hardly surprisingly, a group of researchers have come to the same conclusion: breastfeeding support in any form is beneficial to women and their babies.
In a research review of 73 studies, analysing over 75,000 women and their babies, it has been shown that women who received breastfeeding support were 8% less likely to stop breastfeeding before their babies reached six months of age. Moreover, the data points to all forms of support as being significant in increasing in the length of time that women continue to breastfeed.
Alison McFadden, the lead author of this research review, said:
"Good support will help mothers to breastfeed longer and breastfeed exclusively, which of course is good for mothers and babies.”
And the World Health Organization agrees, as shown in its official Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding, which states:
"Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."
But what exactly constitutes ‘support’?
This, for me, is the most important point of note from the research: support doesn’t come with parameters. In fact, the researchers pinpoint several different types of breastfeeding support, making this concept of togetherness, guidance and encouragement all the more inclusive:
- Emotional and esteem-building support (including reassurance and praise.)
- Practical help.
- Informational support (including the opportunity to discuss and respond to women’s questions.)
- Social support (including signposting women to support groups and networks.)
Notably, the data shows that valuable support isn’t only a professional offering:
"Support can be offered in a range of ways, by health professionals or lay people, trained or untrained, in hospital and community settings. It can be offered to groups of women or one-to-one, it can involve mother-to-mother support, and it can include family members (typically fathers or grandmothers) and wider communities."
How many of us have found the drive to continue simply by talking to other moms? We are many, fellow boob warriors. We’re the kind and knowing smile across a busy cafe. We’re the encouraging words that pop up on illuminated phone screens at 3am, during an all-night boobathon. We’re the cups of tea and slices of cake. We’re the laughter and the tears; the words of strength and solidarity in the face of shaming.
We’re the normal moms, doing the normal mom-thing and normalising the normal with every latch.
Nurse on, mamas. You're doing great.
Related article: Why UNICEF wants all Babies to Breastfeed within an Hour of Birth
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