Partners in Breastfeeding
Congratulations, on your new baby! Even though you can’t breastfeed, you play an important role in ensuring the success of your baby’s breastfeeding!
How can I help after my baby is born?
While breastfeeding is natural it is also a learned skill. It usually takes at least a few weeks for mother and baby to get used to breastfeeding. If these first weeks are difficult it can be tempting for the mother to give up.
Your support is vital to helping your partner continue to breastfeed!
Here are a few things you can do:
- Learn about breastfeeding: It is easier to support the mother when you know the amazing benefits for the baby and mom. She will be thankful for you taking the time to be educated on breastfeeding. Explain to family and friends about the importance of breastfeeding and encourage their support.
- Encourage your partner: She will need your encouragement especially when she is very tired or finding things difficult.
- Protect her: Some people’s opinions about breastfeeding may be undermining and hurt her feelings.
- Arrange for help: During this time, mothers distance themselves from others because they are trying to bring all of their focus on the baby. To help, you can help make sure that all of the chores and errands around the house get done so that she doesn’t feel stressed and feel the need to take the time to do it. Preparing meals and doing the housework so your partner can concentrate on feeding your baby will help a lot. By doing this, postpartum depression is less likely to occur. The easier things are for mom, the better.
- Know that breastfeeding saves a lot money: During the baby’s first year, you save about $2,000 in formula and $300-400 in healthcare costs.
- Limit visitors: What your partner needs most now is rest, help, and time with your baby. If you allow some visitors, be sure they are there to help and support her choices. If not, delay their visit or keep it short. She may get upset easier now, so surround her with supportive people. Avoid visitors she wants to cook and clean for.
- Know who to call with breastfeeding questions: You can call the UAMS lactation line at 501-526-3558. UAMS also has a support group which can be a good place for her to ask questions and get additional support from other mothers. You can also go to online resources such as www.ilca.org and www. Lalecheleague.org.
How can I help my partner breastfeed?
Here are some of the many ways:
- Help her get comfortable. Be sure she has what she needs. Help her with pillows. Bring your partner a drink or a healthy snack to eat, such as a piece of fruit or a slice of toast.
- Help her get her sleep. Remind her to nap when baby sleeps during the day. Offer to do her chores so that she can rest. At night, give her any needed help in getting the baby latched on deeply so the feeds are successful and efficient. Rest will help her recover from birth.
- Run errands for her so that she can focus on baby.
- Spend time with older children to help her rest and relax with baby.
- Cook a meal and shop to make sure she has healthy foods to eat.
- Talk and listen. Share thoughts and feelings. While your roles are changing, it is vital to talk. Be honest about good and bad feelings. Remember to always be respectful to each other’s feelings.
After the first few weeks, when breastfeeding is going well, your partner might decide to express some of her milk so that you can help with feeds.
It’s important to remember:
- Breastfeeding must be well established before a bottle is introduced (3-4 weeks) as some babies can get confused or develop a preference for the bottle. This is because the sucking action required to feed from a bottle is different to that used to feed from the breast.
- Maintaining a good milk supply depends on milk being removed regularly either by breastfeeding or expressing. Long periods between expressing and feeds may lower milk supply.
If I don’t get bottle feed, what can I do with my newborn?
If you are new to being around babies, know that they don’t break easily and babies love to be touched. There are many ways for you to be able to get close to your baby other than feeding.
- Place your baby on your bare chest for skin-to-skin contact. There are many health benefits for the baby like temperature control, but skin to skin will also promote bonding between you two.
- Spend time with your baby. Find something to do every day with your baby that is special.
- Give your baby a bath. This can be a fun time for both of you.
- Bring your baby to your partner for feedings. Yes, even during the night!
- Cuddle and walk. This can help calm your baby when he/she is fussy.
- Change your baby’s diaper. The more practice you get, the easier it becomes. On the plus side, when your baby is only fed breastmilk, the diapers don’t smell as bad.
- Talk, read and sing to your baby. This is how babies learn to talk.
- Hold your baby. Moms and dads play in their own ways. This is how babies learn, and it can be fun for the both of you.
Will breastfeeding affect our sex life?
Breastfeeding is a time of intense closeness between mother and baby and includes lots of touching. So at first your partner may have less interest in sex. Do not take this personally. Give her time and space.
When she’s had her six-week check-up and you’re both ready to resume having sex, keep in mind the hormones of breastfeeding may cause vaginal dryness. Plan ahead and have lubricant on hand.
Also, keep in mind that her milk may “let down” during intercourse. This means that her breastmilk may leak.
How else can I help?
Listening, of course, is an especially important way you can help. Nursing may be natural, but it can also be quite frustrating and uncomfortable, especially at first. Mom’s nipples may crack and bleed. Her breasts can become uncomfortably engorged or even infected. You can help here, too, by bringing her ointment or preparing warm compresses. But at times it’s even more important that you just listen and offer sympathy. Your support may make the difference in helping mom overcome the challenges of breastfeeding.
Visit HealthyChildren.org for more information.