Being supportive of breastfeeding is more than just smiling and nodding when the mother of your child says she wants to breastfeed your baby.
Even though it may seem like breastfeeding is “her job” because, well, she’s the one who is lactating, YOU also have a stake in the breastfeeding relationship. As her partner and the co-parent of this baby, it should matter to you how well your baby is nourished during his early stages of growth and development. You may not be able to make the milk, but there are plenty of practical ways to support the woman who is breastfeeding your child.
Here are six practical ways partners can support a breastfeeding mom:
- Make sure mom is hydrated.
It seems simple, but when a new mom is dealing with the constant demands of a newborn (and possibly older children as well), it’s easy for her to forget to pour herself a glass of water and take the time to drink it. But hydration is essential for the breastfeeding mom and it’s easy to understand why. Her body is trying to make milk (a fluid, of course) so it needs stores of fluid to draw from. Instead of simply reminding her to get something to drink, why don’t you pour her an ice cold glass of her favorite beverage and set it near her while she’s nursing. Liquid in, liquid out.
- Make sure she has something to eat.
A lot of moms get incredibly hungry as soon as they sit down to breastfeed their babies. Just like with hydration, it’s easy to understand--those calories in her breastmilk need to come from somewhere! Offer to bring her a snack or even a meal that she can eat while she nurses. Make it something that’s easy to eat with one hand so that she’s not staring at her plate until baby is done eating.
- Keep her nursing space clean.
Usually moms have a particular place in the house that is their favorite place to sit and nurse their babies. It may be a favorite recliner, the glider in the nursery, or a comfy corner of the couch. Sit in that spot and look around: what do you see? Does the room feel peaceful or is she staring at a pile of laundry, a dirty carpet, and minefield of toys? You should be chipping in on many the chores around the house, but even if you JUST make sure this one room is clean so she’s not staring down a mess at every feeding, you will be doing her a big favor by contributing to her calm. For BONUS POINTS, make sure her “nursing station” is always stocked with things she might need at hand while nursing the baby, like snacks, reading material, the remote control, and more. (Check out this handy armchair organizer storage solution.) Extra bonus points if you leave a sweet love note there for her.
- Ask her how you can help at night.
Every family’s night situation is different, so I can’t offer concrete advice here, but know that it’s important to have an honest and open discussion with her about how night feeds could be easier. And you’ll need to be flexible as needs change over time. Make sure to check in with her periodically. Realize that even if she’s staying home with baby during the day, she’s working too. Her body needs sleep to recover from the physical work of nourishing and caring for your baby, which means you may have to get less sleep than you’d like.
- Give her space.
Mothering is intensely physical in the first year, especially for nursing moms. It’s easy for moms to feel “touched out” and want some time and space to themselves. Don’t take it personally. Support her need to have calm alone time and trust that if she gets the self-care she needs, she’ll be a better mother and partner.
- Learn about breastfeeding and be proactive.
Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. There is a lot to learn if you’ve never done it before, and there can be new challenges with each baby. A new mom has a lot to take care of and a lot of new information to deal with in the first few weeks with a new baby. If breastfeeding is a challenge, help her find a lactation consultant or schedule the visit and be there with her at the appointment. Be a supportive and attentive listener so you can help her remember all the breastfeeding information coming at her. You’ll also get a greater understanding of the unique challenges she may be facing, and could get more practical tips for how to help her.
I hope this list shows you just how important your role is in supporting the new mother you love. She is doing incredible work helping your growing baby to thrive, so anything you can do to support her will have a direct effect on your precious baby and a positive effect on your relationship as a couple.