Congratulations! Your daughter or daughter-in-law has chosen to breastfeed your grandbaby, providing the very best start in life! Maybe she is following the example that you set when you breastfed. Or perhaps you didn't breastfeed and are wondering why she has made this decision. Either way, here is what you need to know!
There are many reasons that mothers decide to breastfeed. Here are just a few:
- Breastfeeding is convenient and inexpensive. Your grandbaby's mother has made an economically sound decision by breastfeeding him. She is saving an average of $200 a month in formula costs. Even is she buys a state-of-the-art breast pump and has a lactation consultant come to her home, she will still save at least $1500 during the first year of her baby's life! Furthermore, she can nurse anywhere, any time. She doesn't have to stop to mix formula and make sure it's the right temperature. Breastmilk is always available and always the right temperature!
- Breastfeeding is good for the mother. When she nurses her baby, hormonal cues help her uterus clamp down quickly to avoid excessive bleeding. She will regain her pre-pregnancy figure more quickly, even though she continues eating for two. Furthermore, women who breastfeed for at least a year have a reduced incidence of pre-menopausal breast cancer. It also offers protection against ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. Finally, the hormones oxytocin and prolactin which make breastfeeding work also help mothers to be more relaxed and to feel more motherly.
- Breastfeeding provides wonderful bonding opportunities. When your daughter or daughter-in-law nurses your grandbaby, she is creating a deep bond with him that only exists between a nursing mother and her child. That doesn't mean that a mother who formula feeds isn't bonded to her child. However, the breastfeeding mother has a hormonal bond that is unlike any other.
What You Need to Know About Breastfeeding (but didn't know to ask...)
- Breastmilk is supplied on a "demand/supply" basis -- the more a baby demands, the more his mother will supply.
- Breastmilk is designed to be absorbed quickly by an infant's intestine. Therefore breastfed babies need to nurse every 2 - 3 hours. A newborn will nurse 8 - 12 times in 24 hours. This is normal. It doesn't mean that he's starving. It means that he is doing what he's supposed to do!
- In order to make enough milk, Mom needs to get sufficient rest.
- A breastfed baby shouldn't have an artificial nipple or a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. Some babies may become confused and not nurse correctly when they have something artificial introduced too early.
- Stress or fatigue will affect the mother's ability to produce milk. The hormones involved in breastfeeding are affected by adrenaline which is produced by stress. So it is important to help the new mother remain as stress-free as possible.
- Babies go through growth spurts when it seems like all they want to do is nurse. That doesn't mean that Mom doesn't have enough milk. She just needs to nurse him as often as he needs to nurse. Typical growth spurt times are 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. However, any time a healthy baby starts nursing more frequently, he may be in a growth spurt. Mom needs to rest as much as possible and nurse frequently. A growth spurt may last from 3 to 7 days.
- Breastfed babies don't need any other food until they are 6 months old. When they show signs of readiness for solids, then they can begin. Dr. William Sears has some great advice on this topic.
When a grandmother realizes how wonderful breastfeeding is for both her grandbaby and his mother, she will be eager to do all she can to support them both.
Remember, that ayou can help make or break the breastfeeding relationship. When you encourage your daughter or daughter-in-law in the following ways, you will contribute to her success!
- Protect her privacy. Try to ensure that she gets the rest she needs, especially while she's still in the hospital. If well-meaning friends or relatives want to visit before she's ready, help her husband run interference. In fact, you might suggest to extended family members that they wait until the new family gets home to visit. Make sure you understand the boundaries that she wants enforced ahead of time.
- Please don't get your feelings hurt if Mom and Dad just want to bond with baby alone during the first hours in the hospital. This is a critical time for getting breastfeeding established. If they ask for it, give them their space.
- Go to bat for her. If others make negative comments about her breastfeeding, stand up for her. Tell them how proud of her you are. Never indulge in negativity about breastfeeding yourself.
- If you breastfed successfully, tactfully offer your help, but understand if she doesn't want it. Remember that this is all about her and the baby, not about you.
- Offer to help with meals or the house. A great gift would be several months' worth of maid service.
- If she has other children, keep them occupied. This can be their special time with Grandma. Their mother will be eternally grateful to you for making them feel important and freeing her up to focus on the baby.
- If you think she might be having breastfeeding problems, help her find a lactation consultant.
If both sets of in-laws live close to the new parents, both grandmothers can take turns helping. Don't allow your feelings to get hurt if the new mother calls on the other grandmother instead of you for something. However, if in-laws live out of town, then it might be a good idea to plan for the new mother's parents to come first; then the new father's parents can come a little later.
Having a grandbaby is truly a blessing, so make the most of this opportunity! Enjoy every moment with him, but remember that your job now is to support and encourage the new family in every way possible!