Breastfeeding Family Friendly Places of Worship invite families to feel welcome and accepted in their parenting choices. Families that feel supported to breastfeed in their faith community are better able to meet their breastfeeding goals. By creating a breastfeeding family friendly environment with respect and sensitivity for all breastfeeding families and staff, you can create a healthier community for all
You are encouraged to write breastfeeding friendly guidelines or policies. Here are suggested steps to adopt a breastfeeding friendly policy:
- Decide to adopt a breastfeeding family friendly policy and seek support within your faith community.
- Identify breastfeeding advocates and families who are currently breastfeeding or breastfed in the past to assist and support other nursing families.
- Encourage faith leaders to talk about the policy during services.
- Provide a time for breastfeeding advocates to do a presentation.
- Create a breastfeeding family friendly workgroup to discuss breastfeeding policy.
- Gather breastfeeding information and resources for staff and families that includes information about the benefits of breastfeeding, breastfeeding basics, and local community breastfeeding resources, such as WIC, peer-to-peer support groups, and hospital support groups.
- Welcome breastfeeding in all the areas of your place of worship where a parent can go.
- Create a private place, as space allows and that is not a bathroom, for staff to express their milk and to accommodate staff and other parents who may wish to nurse their infants in private while in the facilities, while welcoming breastfeeding in the public spaces.
- Educate all family members in your faith community (e.g., grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings) about breastfeeding through workshops, campaigns, and educational initiatives.
- Learn where/how to access information on the local lactation support and other resources in the community to provide to families.
- Welcome local breastfeeding organizations to offer peer-to-peer support classes/groups on breastfeeding and pregnancy in your facility.
- Ensure that all staff, volunteers, and others working with community members, especially those who have contact with visitors, receive copies of the policy.
- Prepare an insert for the bulletin and/or the website to announce and explain the breastfeeding friendly policy.
- Continue to provide education to staff and families and share resources to support breastfeeding.
Email us for more support; we will help connect you with resources. We have compiled some articles about breastfeeding related to different faiths worldwide and look forward to learning about additional resources regarding faith-based support for breastfeeding globally.
Supporting families in your faith community
You may find that there is a lot of new information about breastfeeding a baby. Research shows us that:
- Breastfeeding is vital for the health and development of the baby, and the benefits continue even after the child has weaned.
- The parent also receives health benefits from breastfeeding!
- Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months gives the baby the best start.
- Exclusive breastfeeding is feeding infants only breast milk, no other foods, no teas or other drinks.
- What about water? No need to give water; infants receive all the water they need from the breast milk.
- Vitamins, mineral supplements, and medicine in drops/syrups are okay.
- Feeding the baby in response to the baby’s hunger cues, not on a schedule, works best to establish and maintain milk supply. This is sometimes called feeding “on demand”, although the baby is not demanding, just saying “I’m hungry.”
- Especially in the early weeks, baby’s eat frequently, both day and night, and a baby cannot be breastfed too often. Those early frequent feedings are important for establishing milk supply.
- Most healthy, full-term babies do not show signs of readiness to start complementary foods, often referred to as “starting solids”, until around six months of age.
- Signs that babies are ready to start solids:
- Can sit up unsupported.
- Have lost the tongue-thrust reflex — a survival reflex that helps babies to latch on to the breast and protects them from choking on food or foreign objects, like spoons of food before the baby is ready.
- Can pick up things between their fingers and thumb.
- Complementary foods are any foods or liquids that are not breast milk.
- The baby continues to breastfeed to meet nutritional needs the first year and beyond.
- Signs that babies are ready to start solids:
- Breastfeeding is good for the environment.
WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life–meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand–that is as often as the child wants, day and night. No bottles, teats (nipples) or pacifiers should be used. From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond.The World Health Organization and UNICEF Breastfeeding Recommendation
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusively breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, and then gradually adding solid foods while continuing breastfeeding until at least the baby’s first birthday. Thereafter, breastfeeding can be continued for as long as both mother and baby desire it.”Where We Stand: Breastfeeding
Help from Family and Friends
Remember that the birthing parent breastfeeds, and you feed the breastfeeding parent—NOT the baby. When a baby is frazzled, you may be just the difference that the parent needs. Some things family and friends can do to support the family:
- Bring the breastfeeding parent some water and/or food.
- Let the breastfeeding parent rest while you hold or rock the baby.
- Wear baby in a sling or other carrier and go for a walk.
- Read to baby—babies love hearing your voice.
- Change the baby’s diaper—even if the baby hates diaper changes now, they will love them very soon.
- Talk to the baby about things around the house.
- Give the baby a bath.
- Take the baby to the breastfeeding parent whenever the baby needs the parent.
- Sway. Babies tend to like side-to-side motion.
- Is baby still fussy?
- Put a little “bump” in your walk.
- Dance and sing together, especially once you find baby’s favorite music.
- Create white noise—running water, radio static, or a vacuum or washing machine.
- Change the scenery—a different room, outdoors.
- Bounce on an exercise ball or birthing ball while you hold the baby.
- Walk outside again.
- Dim lights and provide soothing motions, if the baby isn’t totally wound up.
- Prepare a bath (with dimmed lights) for the parent and baby.
What about the pain of sore nipples? Family members or friends may have experienced sore nipples, and the new parent may be hesitant to try breastfeeding for fear that it will hurt.
- Sore nipples are not inevitable.
- Sore nipples are a sign that something is not right, and the parent should seek breastfeeding support to help relieve the problem.
Other ways that family and friends can help!
Life is very busy for parents with a new baby, and it would mean a lot if you could choose one item from this list to help the family.
- Buy groceries.
- Prepare meals.
- Do the laundry.
- Run errands.
- Complete household chores.
- Ask what parents would like or need.
- Watch and enjoy the baby (see ideas above) as the parent(s) gets some rest.
It’s important to support breastfeeding, not compete with it. Family members or friends may be concerned that they will not have a chance to bond with the baby. A “relief bottle” may seem helpful, but it’s more likely to cause breastfeeding problems. Be assured that bonding does not require feeding the baby on your part. See “Help from Family and Friends” for ideas to get to know the baby and support the family!.