Like every other aspect of motherhood, the breastfeeding journey is different for everyone. Some moms may find that nursing is easy right away, some may face discomfort and soreness in the initial weeks, and some may struggle for months to figure out the perfect latch. An easy routine may come quickly…or it may not.
Regardless of the situation, there are things that can benefit all breastfeeding mamas. If your partner is breastfeeding or planning to, here are some practical ways you can support her:
1. Attend a breastfeeding class together.
Many expectant moms find that taking a breastfeeding class helps prepare them for this uncharted territory. During these classes, which are also offered postpartum, parents learn how to achieve a proper latch and are taught different nursing positions, among other things. Attend with your partner so you know what to expect and can remind her of important information when it’s time to put practice into action. The real thing’s a lot different from what she’ll learn in class, and in those sleep-deprived first weeks, nursing moms may appreciate all the reminders they can get.
2. Pay close attention in the hospital.
A new mom may get visits from one or more lactation consultants while recovering. Pay attention to their instructions: how they adjust your baby into certain positions, where pillows can be placed to add support, and what a good latch looks like. If your partner would like, use your phone to take pictures or video record the information so it’s available as a refresher when you get home.
3. Help her get comfortable.
Your partner may spend a lot of time on the couch during the first few months. While she’s nursing your little one, it will be nearly impossible for her to get anything that’s out of reach. Arrange pillows to help her get into a good nursing position and make sure there’s a burp cloth close by. Ask what else she would like—the remote, a book, her phone, etc.—to ensure she is as comfortable as possible while tending to the baby.
4. Keep her fed and hydrated.
Since so much of a breastfeeding mom’s time is spent nourishing her baby, it can be easy for her to overlook her own nutritional needs. A nursing mom requires additional caloric intake to make up for the calories her body burns while making milk. Supply her with some healthy snacks while she’s feeding the baby, and make sure she always has plenty of water on hand. Proper nutrition and hydration can go a long way.
5. Change the diapers.
Taking the lead when it comes to diaper changes will not go unappreciated, especially early on when diaper changes are nonstop. Although a change only takes a minute or two, it reduces the amount of work for your partner, allowing her to focus on breastfeeding. Do the middle-of-the-night changes too so those sleepy nursing sessions are as simple as possible for your partner.
6. Burp the baby.
Although only your partner can breastfeed, anybody can take care of the post-feeding burping. Once your partner’s finished nursing, offer to take the baby off her hands. Doing this will give her a few minutes to herself, a rare experience for a mother of an infant!
7. Get up in the night to help.
When your baby wakes to eat in the middle of the night, do what you can to streamline the breastfeeding process for your partner. Tend to your little one initially by picking them up, soothing them, putting on a fresh diaper, and bringing them to your partner to be fed. If she prefers, keep her company while she nurses and put the baby back to bed afterward.
8. Bottle feed to give her a break.
Many breastfeeding moms pump and use bottles at some point, which allows others to help out with feedings. Take advantage of this opportunity. You’ll get some snuggles with your sweet baby and give your partner a little break. When it’s time for your partner to pump, assist by plugging in her pump and getting bottles and flanges ready to pair with her pumping bra.
9. Wash bottles and pump parts.
Although bottle feeding allows you (and others) to feed your baby, it also involves some extra responsibilities. Bottles and pump parts need to be thoroughly washed on a daily basis. After feeding your baby from the bottle, take a minute to wash it for the next use. If your family regularly uses a sterilizer for these items, disassemble each bottle and place the parts on the rack (or use sterilizing bags). Sterilize all the bottles and pump parts at the end of the day. Your partner dedicates an enormous amount of time throughout the day to provide breast milk for your child; taking care of the cleaning is a great way for you to support her in the process.
10. Encourage her efforts.
Whether breastfeeding proves to be effortless or difficult for your partner, words of affirmation will go a long way. Let her know that you are grateful for the time and effort she’s putting into providing nourishment for your baby. Tell her she’s doing a great job and that you’re there to help out in any way you can.
11. Give her some personal attention.
Ask your partner how she’s doing. Showing that you care about her feelings when a lot of the focus has probably shifted toward the baby will remind her that she matters to you—not only as the mother of your child, but also as an individual. Offer suggestions if they’re requested, but simply listening or keeping her company will be appreciated.
12. Tend to other household responsibilities.
Early on in a baby’s life, breastfeeding moms spend several hours a day nursing. This, along with sleep deprivation, can lead to one very exhausted mama. Household tasks that were easy to keep up with pre-baby are no longer so. Help your partner out by taking care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry whenever possible. Let her have some time to rest when the opportunity presents itself instead of having to complete some form of “work” around the clock. If you have other children in the home, do your best to take care of their needs so your partner can focus on meeting your baby’s.
Remember, you’re in this together.
You play a vital role in facilitating a successful breastfeeding journey for your partner and baby. The continuous support you offer—both emotional and physical—will make a world of difference to your partner and may be just what she needs to feel confident in her role as a breastfeeding mom.