There are all kinds of ways to help a mom, some are more helpful than others. Take a look at these two “helpful” suggestions that really aren’t that helpful at all. I’m here to help you though by pointing them out and providing some real life strategies to keep you (dear friends, family, and help care providers) from committing unintentional breastfeeding sabotage as part of my Unsupportive Support series.
How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 3.
Unsupportive support is…
Suggesting formula so others “can help” or take the baby overnight.
This suggestion actually just makes the support person look, well, incredibly stupid. Sorry. I don’t think they are actually stupid but they certainly are uneducated and just not thinking things through. Giving formula when it’s not required can greatly impact a breastfeeding relationship. In fact, it can completely sabotage it. But that aside, let’s face the facts of this suggestion: it’s selfish. People say that because THEY want to feed the baby, it’s not really about helping. They want to sit there and cuddle the sweet little one while the mom does the dishes or laundry. They want to have the baby looking adoringly up into their face while the mom vacuums and cleans the toilet. They want the baby to connect the satisfying feeling of feeding with their face while the mom cooks dinner for them and cleans the windows. If you’re really looking for ways to help, do all the things you want to free her up to do as you give the baby a bottle and instead let her breastfeed. It’s not helping to hold or feed the baby so she can clean the house. That’s getting in the way and she’d probably be better off if you just left if you’re not going to do anything really helpful. Because, seriously, do you think she’d rather do the dishes than to hold and feed her child? Of course not! It’s her baby, not yours, she’s the one that needs to sit and bond with this child over their meal, a meal that more than likely her body is fully equipped to provide. If she wants to go away overnight with the baby I bet she’s a big enough girl she can use her own words to ask for a sitter in that situation, if she hasn’t asked for it, she probably isn’t interested. No, maybe she actually doesn’t want to leave her baby with you overnight right now. So back off. When you feel the urge to snatch the baby and have the mom do the dishes so you can bond with her child whisper over and over “It’s not about me.” It will be a great rhythm to scrub the pots and pans to.
Suggesting the mom pumps so others can help by giving bottles of breast milk.
See above, most of it applies. Except, I have to ask, in what universe do you think it’s easier for a mom to anticipate her baby’s needs in time to get a bottle of milk pumped, be sure it’s enough (may take more than one pumping session since babies are better at getting milk from the breast than pumps are), do whatever household chore the supposed helper should be doing, clean the bottle later, and make sure she can do it all again in time for the baby’s next feeding? Let’s see here, lift my shirt and put my baby on my breast for 15-45 minutes or hook up to a machine that doesn’t empty the breast as well as a baby for 10-45 minutes while someone else cares for my baby, put milk in bottle, do housework while someone else feeds my milk to my baby, clean bottles, clean pump, get ready to do it all over again, hopefully before junior is actually hungry. Hmmmm, tough decision. Baring any complications and if breastfeeding is going well, the only time I can see it being easier to pump so someone else can feed when the mom is available is if there is some nagging friend or relative that just. won’t. shut. up. about wanting to feed the baby. No mom should ever feel like she has to give into bullying in how she cares for her baby and if she wants your help this way I bet she’s already figured out how to ask if someone would like to feed the baby a bottle. Sing it again with me “it’s not about MEEEEEE!”
We have to be honest with ourselves: are our offers of help more about us or are they truly trying to be helpful? And, if they are truly intended to help, am I offering the kind of help she needs, not just the kind of help I want to give? It really isn’t helpful if you can’t respect her parenting choices and your offers of support are simply attempts to get her to do things your way. It’s even more sad when it’s self-serving. Careful, she will choose not to have you around if you insist on “helping” this way. Don’t underestimate how quickly she’ll determine that dealing with your unsupportive help is more work than it’s worth and would rather no help at all. You get to be there, a part of this child’s life, don’t screw it up by trying to force self-serving offers of help.
What kind of help meant the most to you when you had a new baby?
Did you have to deal with people that only wanted to help their way and you found it less helpful and more stressful?