It has been our experience that 99% of books and resources associated with breastfeeding are for the mom. Either it’s a book on what mom should be eating, or a guide on how mom should be positioned, or even what mom should be thinking about. (That’s what guided meditations are, right?)
But how many books go into detail on what the spouse or partner can do to assist with things along the breastfeeding journey? Very few.
Naturally, when anyone thinks about breastfeeding, the thoughts immediately go towards mom & baby. Although, they do manage to carry out most of the process together – I want to fix that.
One of the first things a partner or spouse can do is to make themselves available. What is that? When a mom is breastfeeding, being available means you also are involved to a certain extent in the process. Of course, there are always other things to do around the house. You might be tackling a mountain of laundry or washing some dishes, and those tasks are important, but so is breastfeeding. Those other tasks can wait a few minutes.
Being encouraging of her choice to breastfeed helps to build confidence and ensure that mom is doing great. It makes her feel valued; likewise will promote positive vibes and a greater yield. It also builds up the confidence to encourage her to become comfortable feeding in a variety of settings… not just in the nursery or living room.
So what can the partner DO? For starters, when it’s time the best approach is having all the needed items in one spot. If that spot happens to be across the house, then the simple task of retrieving those objects helps mom a ton. Those might include a blanket, a burp cloth, nipple shield, music box, etc. Mom is focused on the baby so it’s no trouble to get those items and set them up wherever they happen to tackle the feeding.
If mom is tasked with fetching all these items it can cause greater stress and end up frustrating all people involved. Stress is the 400lb gorilla you want to keep out of the breastfeeding process to the greatest extent possible. If your spouse or partner is breastfeeding in a public space then you might even be tasked with giving the ooglers awkward glances. Luckily, 99% will get the drift and move along. The other 1%? Time to polish off those jiu-jitsu skills from middle school to defend your lady!
(just kidding…a kind word or two can normally diffuse that awkwardness)
Anyway, when mom starts feeding the baby, it’s important to remain present for the experience. That’s not necessarily involving sitting down and watching the process, but rather, this isn’t the best moment to step outside and start mowing the backyard or washing the car. Being present means you can keep focusing on various chores around the vicinity of mom/baby, but see to it that mom has EVERYTHING she needs in order to make breastfeeding as carefree as possible. Somethings that might be a relaxing neck rub or foot rub. At other moments that might include fetching a warm cup of tea or adjusting the lighting in the room to promote a more relaxed environment. It’s all up to mom. I found that preparing the bassinet or crib for a nap was the best use of my time during breastfeeding. Folding laundry was also beneficial to the household. It was quiet, so it didn’t involve much disturbance on mom/baby but also ensured that while the baby was napping we weren’t disturbing her area with putting away onesies. Everything else could wait.
During overnight feedings, getting up with mom proved to be a very thoughtful approach to the breastfeeding journey. It promoted a more harmonious environment with the “we’re all in this together” mentality. This might no be a constant activity…especially if you have a work schedule that prevents you from doing this, but the action is greatly appreciated by mom. Something worth considering: if mom is pumping, perhaps it would be helpful to wake up in the middle of the night for the early morning feeding while mom rests? It provides an excellent opportunity for the partner/spouse to bond with the child. Don’t worry, the baby will love the milk from the bottle just as much as they will from mom.
Speaking of pumping, one of the advantages of pumping isn’t just being able to share the actual feeding of the child, but rather, it also helps with scheduling life. If a partner can help feed the baby, mom can be taking care of something else at that current moment in time. She doesn’t feel shackled to the need of feeding her child all the time. Bonus item that also can be done by a partner/spouse for mom while she pumps: compression. I won’t go into detail about that activity, but it does help in getting all the milk out and extra ounces for the baby. Who would ever object to that?
Finally, a spouse/partner might also consider ordering & baking a batch of our wonderful Oat Chocolate or Almond Oat lactation support cookies. They are nutritious and have made a difference in thousands of moms’ (& babies’) lives. It’s a small action that yields massive dividends…and who doesn’t love cookies?
However a spouse or partner goes about assisting mom along with her breastfeeding experience, it’s important to know that you are in this together. There will be challenging moments. And at some points, they might feel completely discouraged. Don’t ever feel like abandoning hope! Plenty of professionals are available in helping new moms understand the science of breastfeeding and guide parents along the journey to success.