partners’ support is powerful for breastfeeding moms
Ten tips for dads, co-parents, and more
Breastfeeding is obviously an exclusive relationship between a mom and a baby. But this amazing, exhausting, and sometimes tricky relationship deserves all of the support it can get. Teaching partners how to manage typical breastfeeding issues has been shown to result in higher rates of nursing. If you’re not the one breastfeeding, here’s how you can help.
- Feed mom.
Bring her water. Make her meals. Stash snacks next to the chair where she typically nurses. Make sure she doesn’t get so busy she neglects to eat.
- Don’t leave mom stranded.
It’s so frustrating when you sit down to feed a small baby without all of the things you may want right next to you—be it a book, a magazine, a glass of water, a handful of nuts, a cellphone, or a remote control. Yes, moms know what they need before they sit down. Yet something is always forgotten. Try to be understanding when asked for yet another banana. Just bring mom what she wants. This phase won’t last forever.
- Get up in the middle of the night.
Even if you’re not feeding the baby a pumped bottle of breastmilk, the extra 3 minutes letting mom lie in bed as you retrieve and deliver the hungry baby are so restorative. Getting out of bed is incredibly hard. Share the pain.
- Let mom sleep whenever possible.
Can you get up in the morning, facilitate a feeding, and then take baby away even for 15 minutes so mommy can sleep all alone? This is beyond beneficial. Strap baby in the carrier and make breakfast while mom dozes even briefly.
Become the family researcher for any/all breastfeeding-related issues. Chapped nipples? You know the right cream! Plugged duct? There you are with a glass of water and a warm compress, plus the phone number of the best lactation consultant in town programmed into your
cellphone. When/if the time comes for setting up a work pumping plan
, do the research to find the best pump. Suggest schedules for pumping at work and breastmilk storage based on what you know of your baby’s schedule. Mom will feel much less alone.
- Express your gratitude.
Kind words go a long way. You mutually made the decision that breast is best
. While you cannot manufacture milk yourself, you can absolutely pat mom on the back for making it happen. Instead of feeling left out of breastfeeding, choose to actively be a part of it. Consider yourself the support staff. Part of that is thanking mom and letting her know how awesome she is.
- Be hands on.
Literally. Rub shoulders and arms and feet. Breastfeeding can wreak havoc on mom’s body, especially her arms, shoulders, and neck. Knead those knots! Draw baths. Plug in the heating pad. Take baby while mom goes to a yoga class. Book a massage appointment. Repeat.
- Do something else.
You can’t breastfeed, true. But you can bathe the baby, change the baby, sing to the baby, walk the baby, entertain the baby, read to the baby. You can wash bottles. You can wash pump parts. You can fold laundry. You can make sure you have enough diapers and wipes. You can cook dinner. You can wash dishes. You can make sure the ship is otherwise running. You can make sure the inevitable clutter is not directly in front of where mom is mainly nursing. It’s very stressful to see piles of paperwork and unfolded laundry just in reach as you sit still, nursing. Be as involved as you can in whatever way makes sense for your family.
- Be a public champion
You are now officially in charge of public relations. Let’s say you have friends and family who don’t breastfeed or support breastfeeding. It’s up to you to field any of their annoying questions. Make sure well meaning guests there to meet the baby do not overstay their welcome. Protect your nursing partner.
- Love those breasts.
This may not be a moment where anyone but the baby gets to actually touch mom’s breasts. That’s ok. Be truly ok with sharing, and let mom know you’re fine with it, too. Soon enough they’ll be back from captivity.