Giving Effective Breastfeeding Help

Giving Effective Breastfeeding Help

Giving Information and Suggestions

information and suggestions
Giving information is different than giving advice. Giving information is sharing facts. Giving advice, on the other hand, is telling the mother what to do. Advice conveys the unspoken message that the listener cannot be trusted to act responsibly. Advice begins with phrases such as:

You should…
You ought to…
Why don’t you… ?
You should have…
Why didn ‘tyou… ?
You shouldn’t have…

This approach is almost guaranteed to raise resistance. Even if the mother asks openly for advice, the outcome is rarely positive. If the advice proves to be helpful, the mother may solve her problem but feel incompetent. If the advice is not helpful, she may reject the person giving it.

Giving information, on the other hand, implies trust and faith in the person who is making the decision. By giving information, making suggestions, and presenting options, you are expressing confidence in the mother’s ability to decide what is best for her and her family. This conveys trust, which is the basis of successful counseling.

Fear is not the best learning tool. Rather than presenting information by saying, “Don’t do that, because if you do an awful thing will happen.” It is far better to present a fact positively by highlighting the good that will result. For example:

NOT: “If you give solids before the baby is about six months old, he has a good chance of developing allergies.”
     INSTEAD: “Babies who have only mother’s milk until about the middle of the first year after birth develop fewer allergies.”

The cardinal rules of making suggestions are: never say “You must…” and never say “Never.” The following phrases are positive ways to offer suggestions:

Would you like to hear what other mothers have done in a similar situation?
How would you feel about… ?
Many mothers have found…

These tactful ways of presenting suggestions leave room for the inevitable exceptions that arise. Some feel awkward at first about consciously wording their suggestions this way but find that with practice it soon comes naturally.

When presenting options, encourage the mother to respond honestly by saying:

Do you think these alternatives might work for you?
Could one of these options be modified to fit your family?

Sometimes a mother will reject an option. In that case, show respect for the mother’s feelings by acknowledging them. In this example, it has already been suggested that the mother breastfeed her slow-gaining baby more often.

MOTHER: “So, you’re suggesting not only to nurse more frequently—whenever the baby wants—but to use both breasts. I believe I can manage that, at least during the day. But what will I do about the nighttime? I really do need some sleep.”
     COUNSELOR: “You feel good about nursing more often during the daytime, but are still concerned about the nighttime. Have you thought about taking the baby to bed with you?”
MOTHER: “You’ve got to be kidding! I don’t think it’s good to have a baby in bed with us. Surely you don’t think so, do you?” (The mother’s tone of voice reveals her strong rejection of the suggestion.)
     COUNSELOR: “While this works well for some families, you are not comfortable with it. Have you thought of using an adult bed in the baby’s room and going to him the first time he wakes? If you fall asleep while nursing, at least you would be getting some rest.”
MOTHER: “That sounds like it would work, and I certainly would welcome the sleep.”

When a mother is having many difficulties or is not handling her situation well, it may be necessary to start with some very simple, specific suggestions that are easy for her to carry out. It may be clear that there are some deep, complicated causes for this mother’s problems and that it is unlikely she will be able to resolve them all at once, but sometimes small improvements lead to greater ones. For instance, if the mother is totally exhausted, the simple suggestion of napping with the baby may give the mother renewed strength to face other difficulties.

If a mother raises a number of concerns at once, go slowly, so as not to overload the mother with too much information. Going slowly and offering a little information at a time also allows the mother to absorb it more fully. By giving the mother time to talk and clarify her needs, she will have the opportunity to give more information about the situation that is causing her concern.

Summary In Points

  1. Giving information implies trust; giving advice implies a lack of trust.
  2. Present information in a positive way.
  3. Wording suggestions tactfully may be easier if certain phrases are used.
  4. When presenting options, encourage the mother to give her honest opinion and respect her acceptance or rejection of any suggestion.
  5. In a complicated or stressful situation, it may be most helpful to start with simple suggestions, go slowly, and offer a little information at a time.
Table Of Content
Introduction – Using Active Listening
Asking Questions
Giving Information and Suggestions
Respecting Differences Among Mothers
Helping the Mother Working with Her Doctor
When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out
References