While mom may be the one with the goods, dads and partners can be an integral part in supporting breastfeeding. Research shows that the support of her partner is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not a mom starts breastfeeding and keeps going with it as baby grows.
The early days and weeks of initiating breastfeeding can be the hardest for a new mom. But, as far as long term milk supply, those first experiences are essential. Babies need to feed early and often, and they need to learn to latch and transfer milk well. And moms need to learn to get baby positioned and latched for the most productive feeding. As her partner, you may feel out of the loop. The mother-baby dance is happening without you.
So, how can you help? If you can’t feed the baby what can you do?
- You don’t need to feed your baby to bond with him: Find ways to care for your baby that don’t involve feeding. Take care of diaper changes and bathing, burping and comforting. Your baby will love to cuddle to sleep on your chest, too.
- Take on other tasks: Do the shopping, cooking and cleaning so mom can focus on the feeding. Freeing her from these responsibilities allows her to focus on the physically demanding aspects of feeding a newborn often.
- Learn about breastfeeding: If you know the basics about how a woman’s body makes milk and how to tell if the baby is getting enough, you’re less likely to suggest formula as the first solution. You’re much more likely to find ways to fix breastfeeding. But keep in mind you don’t need to know everything – there are trained lactation professionals who can help mom with any breastfeeding concerns.
- Take care of mom: Bring her a snack or a glass of water when she’s nursing. Care for your baby while mom takes a break to shower or nap, especially in those early days at home with a new baby. Bring the baby to her when he wakes to feed at night.
- Find ways to support her emotionally: Tell her she’s doing a great job – be specific in your praise – “Look how the baby is growing on your milk alone,” “You are really learning our baby’s cues,” etc.
- Turn away the naysayers: Be an advocate for breastfeeding and a gatekeeper for commenters. When someone raises doubts about your partner’s ability to breastfeed, kindly tell them “this is what our doctor has recommended” or “this is what works for our family.”
- Help her find the help she needs: If she is having breastfeeding problems, find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor she can call. If she seems to have symptoms of postpartum depression, help her reach out to healthcare providers for treatment. If she just needs a shoulder to cry on, be her rock.
If you’re a mom reading this, be sure to share it with your partner. If you’re an experienced parent – mom or partner – let us know what you found most valuable in the early weeks of learning to breastfeed.
Written by Michelle, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.