Here are ten important ways partners can help make breastfeeding a good experience for the whole family:
Learn about breastfeeding. During pregnancy, attending a breastfeeding class with the mom-to-be helps partners understand what’s involved and how to prepare. Or if a class isn’t available, partners can read a breastfeeding book to get the basics down.
Help to develop a breastfeeding-friendly birth and newborn care plan. There are many decisions to be made regarding both labor and birth and also the newborn care period, and these decisions can have a big impact on breastfeeding. Partners can read up on breastfeeding-friendly birth and newborn care plans, and work with the mom to develop one that sets her up for success.
Help prepare for a lower intervention labor and birth. Research has shown that lower intervention birth makes breastfeeding easier. So a partner can learn ways of helping a mom cope with the discomfort of labor, including learning non-drug means of pain relief such as partner massage, hiring a doula, and choosing a practice and hospital with a record of lower intervention births.
Help her find breastfeeding help. Many nursing moms need help getting breastfeeding going well in the early days and weeks, but it’s hard to seek out help while caring for a new baby and recovering from birth. Partners can take off some of the burden of finding help by identifying sources of support such as lactation consultants, WIC, La Leche League, and Breastfeeding USA, making appointments if necessary, and getting everyone out of the house.
Take over other responsibilities. Breastfeeding and recovering from birth are big jobs, leaving little energy or time for much else. So partners can take over other responsibilities – diapering, cooking, shopping, caring for older children, even returning well wishers’ phone calls.
Help her get comfortable while feeding. Since moms clock many hours sitting or lying down to breastfeed, partners can make them comfortable by arranging pillows, stocking snacks and drinks – even finding the remote control!
Cheer her on. For nursing moms, there’s nothing like hearing “great job!” and encouragement like this is priceless. Pointing out how a baby is growing on her milk helps a mom step back from the daily routine and appreciate the big picture.
Listen. There are a lot of emotions swirling around birth and breastfeeding, and simply stopping to listen to a mom talk about her feelings can be very powerful. If her emotional state has you concerned, help her find help from a health care provider or other postpartum resource.
If planning to introduce bottle, take over those feedings. If your family is planning to have your baby fed by bottle – as part of a return to work, for example – a partner is probably best positioned to introduce a bottle and regularly do bottle feedings.
If feeling left out, do skin-to-skin and wear your baby. Finally, if a partner is feeling left out of the feeding equation and is craving the closeness that breastfeeding provides, regular skin-t0-skin can do wonders! Babywearing can also be a great source of connection.
And one extra: Document! Nursing moms often treasure pictures of the experience, but it’s hard to be both nursing and behind the camera. So take pictures and video to help preserve the memories.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons