Even though you can’t breastfeed, you play an important role in ensuring the success of your baby’s breastfeeding and the success of your partners attempts to provide breast milk for her NICU baby.
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 term baby to get used to breastfeeding. NICU babies (especially premature babes) are a totally different ball game. The 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/providing milk for baby: 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 the benefits of breast milk. 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 and to pumping. 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 or pumping her milk to give to 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 of 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. You can also go to online resources such as La Leche League.
How can I help my partner breastfeed/pump?
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. Offer to go get the pumping supplies and/or clean them properly when she is done. Rest will help her recover from birth.
- Run errands for her so that she can focus on baby and pumping.
- Spend time with older children to help her rest and relax.
- 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 of each other’s feelings.
It’s important to remember:
- Sometimes the feeding can be the most frustrating part of the NICU stay. Remind mom that she is giving her baby the best medicine by providing breast milk!
- Maintaining a good milk supply depends on milk being removed regularly either by breastfeeding or expressing/pumping. Long periods between expressing and feeds may lower milk supply.
- Remind mom that skin-to-skin is a great way to boost milk supply!
You may find it difficult to bond with baby, Here are some things you can do to help build that bond:
- 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 (this may need to be something you develop once your baby is home from the hospital).
- 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 breast milk, 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 both of you.
Here is a Breastfeeding 101 module you can view