When you think of breastfeeding, it typically focuses on the mom or mom to be. However, it is extremely important for Dad's to be there for your partner emotionally and support her decisions in order to have a successful breastfeeding journey. This is even more vital when there a issues with breastfeeding early on.
When our daughter was born I knew my wife wanted to breastfeed and my first thought was "sounds good". I figured it was natural and would be pretty simple. How wrong I was....
After a week in the NICU with her being formula fed, my wife and I quickly realized that it would be a difficult journey to get her to be EBF (exclusively breastfed). As this was my first child, I didn't really know anything about what to truly expect and I had to learn on the fly. My wife detailed our NICU story in a previous blog article if you'd like to learn more about our personal struggles.
Below are some tips I learned along the way for dads to be and new dads. Even if your wife has no issues breastfeeding, some of this could easily apply and make life much easier for your wife and baby!
How to support your breastfeeding partner:
1. Know and support her goals- The most important thing you can do is discuss with your partner what her breastfeeding goals are. Knowing this will make it easier for you to support her every day. The second part is even more important: SUPPORT HER GOALS! Doing this everyday will make it much easier to overcome any challenge she may encounter in her breastfeeding journey. If you know she wants to breastfeed exclusively for 3 months, 6 months, or even a few years, support her decision and continue to always encourage her through the tough times. Hopefully her breastfeeding experience goes smoothly but in the event it does not, there are many resources out there you can use to support your partner. She is probably exhausted and stressed out that things are not going the way she planned. Take the time to read some of the resources below and point her to them if she does not know where to go for help.
La Leche League - La Leche League's mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.
Kelly Mom - Kelly Mom consists of evidence-based informational articles (and links to further information) on breastfeeding and parenting topics.
Find a Local Lactation Consultant - To get some great one on one help, look up a lactation consultant in your area (they can commonly be covered by insurance as well). They can provide amazing one on one support and a plan of action for your issue.
2. Get her EVERYTHING- This pretty much applies across the board, especially the first few weeks home. Do not wait for her to ask.....Do not wait for her to ask!! Offer to get her water, food, a book, her phone, whatever she needs. She is probably still exhausted and likely will be for some time. Get her whatever you can- worst case is she doesn't eat or drink it but she will appreciate the thought and may not even realize she needed it but will use it when it is there.
3. Cook and Clean- Life will be pretty hectic for a while with your partner's attentions focused on the baby and being in survival mode as a new parent. The house may start to look like a tornado hit it. Don't wait until it looks like the next episode of Hoarders- clean it up. I know for a fact she will appreciate not having to look at a pigsty while she feeds the baby. It's much easier to relax in a clean environment.
4. Give your wife a break- She has been carrying your little one for 9 months and recently given birth (which could have felt like another 9 months depending on how her labor and delivery went). She is exhausted from having to feed the baby every few hours (sometimes it can be constant) and trying to take care of the baby, you and herself. She deserves some much needed recovery time. You may only be able to give her a short period of time to relax and regroup depending on your babies personality but there are a bunch of way to do this:
- Let your baby nap on your bare chest- Babies biologically need human contact and skin to skin is a great way to continue to bond with your baby. Even if the baby is not tired once your partner is done feeding, offer to take your baby and just walk around the house. Explore everything there is and watch your baby process things for the first time. As they grow older watching them process the world around them is amazing. At some point (hopefully) your baby will begin to drift to sleep. Once this occurs head to your spot on the couch or favorite chair and relax with your little one peacefully sleeping on your chest. Mom will truly appreciate the break and she will also love to see you and the baby together building a bond that will last a lifetime.
- Bath time- This one is my personal favorite. You will have to wait to start this until the umbilical cord falls off but once it does get ready to enjoy and watch your baby learn to love the bath, and probably a few short phases of hating it (don't worry it will pass!). This can be your special time with your baby that will help you build such an amazing bond. Have a few toys to play with in the bath and watch them learn, laugh and have fun over the coming months. Mom will get a nice break and will love listening to the sounds of your baby's giggles when you are making them laugh their head off in the bath. I look forward to this every time it is bath night. The look on my daughter's face when I start filling up the tub and see her gummy smile gets me every time.
- Read the baby a story- This can be an activity that you can do every day for years to come. Children who are strong readers typically were read to as a baby often. Doing this will not only be a fun activity for you but it will benefit your baby in the long run. Incorporate this into your daily routine if you can. Even if it is just a story before bedtime. My wife and I each read our daughter a short story every night before bed and here and there throughout the day. It's fun for both of us to watch her get excited at the turn of each page, and eventually when she can truly understand the words, it will only get better!
At the end of the day as long as you support your partner through the good times and the bad, you can't go wrong. There are many other websites with great information out there that can help. Additionally, please feel free to reach out to us for any help or assistance and we would be more than happy to answer any questions or point you in the right direction to get the help you need because at the end of the day we are not here only to sell nursing clothes we also want to provide assistance to families in need of support with breastfeeding and their new babies!
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime!