By Nicole Fuge, MD® Managing Editor
Tara Pavlovic is hungry (and ain’t nobody hungrier than a breastfeeding mama), so she tucks into a burger. Her three-month-old son, Paddy, is also hungry. Can’t blame the little guy, it is lunch time after all. So Tara starts to nurse – feeding her baby, while also feeding herself. She’s nailed the multitasking element of motherhood already!
“Mums were created with boobs to feed their babies. That is why we have breasts. It’s a completely natural thing for us to feed our babies, and everyone needs to know this. We shouldn’t have to hide breastfeeding, we should be celebrating it!,” she says, explaining that over half of mums still don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. “I think there are so many expectations that have been placed on mothers in terms of what they are and what they aren’t supposed to do. These expectations have been around for decades but are slowly changing thankfully.”
Tara, a Philips Avent ambassador, says her breastfeeding journey got off to a challenging start. She struggled to get Paddy to latch and then came the nipple pain (right?!), but she persevered and now loves nursing a lot more than she thought she would.
“I actually thought I would hate it. The idea seemed so foreign to me and I had a lot of friends who had struggled so I presumed I would too. Fortunately, I have since realised that breastfeeding is such a beautiful experience and it has brought me so close to Paddy. I am so grateful that I have been able to breastfeed my son and I will be really sad when our breastfeeding journey ends,” she says.
And she has advice for other new mums who might be having a tough time with their breastfeeding journey.
“Be patient! Breastfeeding can be a difficult and daunting experience in so many ways. It’s an entirely new experience for both you and your baby and it will take some time to get used to it while you both learn. I also want to acknowledge that not everyone has the same experience. Some women find out that they can’t breastfeed or that it really is too challenging for them, and that is okay too. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“And there is no shame in asking for help or letting people know you’re struggling. Whether it’s calling your midwife or getting a good breast pump so you can express during the day and get someone else to take a night feeding shift, you don’t have to go through it alone!”
It is World Breastfeeding Week, and this year’s theme is a shared responsibility, which aims to highlight how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health and wellbeing of all. Midwife Edwina Sharrock says at a public health level, supporting breastfeeding mums is not only really important for the health of mums and babies but also society as a whole.
“While there are many health benefits of breastfeeding, it can be a really challenging experience for mums,” she says. “Ensuring that breastfeeding mums feel supported by healthcare professionals, loved ones, partners, the public and employers exponentially increases the chances that they will have a better breastfeeding experience, no matter the outcome.
“Throughout my many years of working with mums, I have definitely seen a positive push towards the normalisation of breastfeeding in society. I believe that social media has had such a positive impact on breaking down breastfeeding stigmas. Whether it’s mums posting photos of themselves breastfeeding, as Tara did, or mums publicly sharing messages of support to other mums, social media really does have the power to positively influence breastfeeding-related attitudes at a large scale.
“In Australia, I actually think there is big room for growth to support breastfeeding mothers in workplaces. Although some employers are taking action to improve this, women really do need a designated place in all workplaces to privately breast pump comfortably when they return to work. There is legislation that holds employers accountable for this, however, employers need to be more proactive in creating these spaces before mums have to ask for them.”
How to support breastfeeding mothers
1 // Be patient
Friends and family, it’s great if you can be patient with the new mums in your life. She is adjusting to life as a mother and may not be as responsive over the phone or social media during this time.
2 // Don’t make assumptions
Taking the time to ask breastfeeding mums what they really need means you can support them in the ways they truly need it. For some mums, they might want you to take the baby for a walk, others might just want some company while they breastfeed and some might just want a home-cooked meal dropped to the door.
Everyone is different!
3 // Listen
From the sleep deprivation to the sore nipples, often it’s underestimated how difficult breastfeeding actually is. Taking the time to truly listen and understand what she is experiencing without judgement or providing unsolicited advice is the best way to make new mums feel seen and heard.
4 // Acknowledge
No matter how small the wins are, acknowledge and celebrate what an amazing job they are doing.
5 // Respect
Whether you agree or not, it’s important to genuinely support and respect a mother’s choices without judgment.
6 // Surprise
Whether it’s a new mum or just someone going through a tough time, I always say a surprise delivery of baked goods or flowers never goes unnoticed.