When it comes to breastfeeding, I might not be able to do the actual feeding. I’m a man. So I know my role is limited. But there are still things I can, and should do, to help my partner in order to support her to be able to breastfeed. After all, stress plays a huge part in a woman’s ability to actually breastfeed, so giving them all the support you can will help reduce it. Not only that, but breastfeeding itself releases Oxytocin, so the mere act of breastfeeding can help the mother reduce her stress levels. Just don’t tell your partner that at 1am when the baby won’t latch. If you’re looking to help your partner, then here are my tips for what you can do to help out.
Tips on How to Support a Breastfeeding Mom
1. If Your Partner is Breastfeeding – You’re Now a Butler
Once she starts a feed that’s it. She can no longer get up and grab something that she’s just forgotten.
When a breastfeeding session begins, I essentially turn into the house butler. Which of course, I have no problem with. After all, my wife is feeding my baby, it’s not exactly hard to go make a drink, or grab the remote. And the job doesn’t always stop there. Sitting down to breastfeed a baby can become quite debilitating. Not only are you restricted to where you’ve now sat, but sometimes things that are literally right next you are virtually out of reach. This will lead to a lot of micro movements. Simply moving a drink from one side of the table to the other, hand feeding your partner or even grabbing the remote that you threw over to her that seemed perfectly in reach.
2. Try Not to Take Things Personally
I’ll be honest, you will get some abuse for absolutely no reason. I’ve had a right roasting on several occasions merely for turning outwards instead of inwards in bed. “It’s alright for you, you can just sleep.” And I take it. Of course I take it. My job in the night is relatively easy. Go to sleep, and if Isabelle gets too distressed I have to step up. I even used to lay in bed on my phone, aimlessly doing nothing. It seemed to please my wife that I wasn’t getting any sleep either. I guess it seemed only fair.
I’ll admit, I haven’t always handled it well. I’ve thrown insults back once or twice due to the fact that Rachel has handed me Isabelle because she’s crying and it’s stressing her out. I’ve told her that she panics and hands her off when she cries. But maybe it’s just that her job is so much more difficult than mine. Maybe it’s fair that we even it out.
But still, I have the easy job here, and it’s often a reason behind why mothers choose the bottle – just so their partner can help out with the feeds. I personally don’t feel that’s a good enough reason to not breastfeed, but if that’s why you want to do it then that’s entirely up to you.
3. Appreciate How She Feels
Having an on-demand, breastfed baby can be tough. And it’s also quite natural for your partner to be slightly self conscious about it. This is usually more the case in the beginning. She might not want to go out too much and risk having the baby need a feed. She might not want to go to a proper sit down restaurant, we very rarely ever do. I guess it all depends on your partner.
Some may be happy to whip a breast out and sit there with it on show. Others may want to use a cover (like my wife does used to in the early days), and others may get anxious about even using a cover. I know Rachel once did, but she got used to using it, and once breastfeeding was more established, she stopped using it altogether. My point being, it’s your partners choice, and it’s your job to help with how she feels.
4. Just Be Supportive
This is a nice easy one, and it extends to the whole family too. But it’s one that people can easily mess up. If this is your partner’s first baby the chances are it’s all pretty new to her. She might not really know what she’s doing, and whether she’s doing it right. But saying things like “she can’t need feeding again” or “all she does is feed” can be highly detrimental. It might be sarcastic, or meant in a friendly way, but it might make her question everything she’s doing.
If she comes from a family of people who primarily bottle fed, then the pull to switch to the bottle might be even greater. Sometimes bottle-feeding seems like the easier option, and in the early days it probably is, but getting through those difficult first few months can make your life easier in the long run. But your partner is going to need all the support she can get during that time.
You may also want to suggest attending a breastfeeding support group. Rachel went to one after a few months of having Isabelle, and the advice and peer support she got from it was invaluable.
5. Find Something Else to Do Around the House
You don’t have to feed the baby to help out with the parenting. There are plenty more things to do around the house whilst your partner is breastfeeding. I dare say there are dishes to do, food to be cooked or something else you could do whilst your partner is out of action for a while.
6. Use the Time to Bond Together
Everything’s done around the house and you have nothing else to do? Well just use this breastfeeding time as a time to bond collectively. This is something that I very rarely ever did. But just taking the time to sit together as the three of you (or however many) could really help your bond and can even give you a better appreciation of what goes on.
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I also made a video version of this list. This was back in the day when I didn’t edit my videos, so excuse the fact that this one sucks. You can still watch it if you really want to though.