You want your partner to help, don’t you? You just wish he would step in and take charge without you having to ask. But the truth is, he’s clueless, and he can’t read your mind. So moms, spare yourselves the trouble, and share this list with him. He will be grateful for it. You’ll be relieved and happy too.
Dads, here’s the deal. Unfortunately, in this case, you don’t have what it takes, so breastfeeding is best left to the mom. However, before you step away and declare that there’s nothing for you to do, remember that your role as the supportive partner is critical to her success. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, but it is hard. There will be many moments of frustration and exhaustion, and she needs you to help her through it.
Here are some easy, practical ways that you can help.
1. Bring her a glass of water.
She’s probably thirsty. Breastfeeding mothers need to stay hydrated. In producing milk for the baby, they lose a lot of fluids. With a baby in her arms, getting up to get herself something to drink can feel like the hardest thing in the world. Very often, she’ll choose to ignore her dry lips and her parched throat so that the baby can feed or sleep peacefully just a little while longer.
2. Bring her snacks
She may be hungry. Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy, and burns calories. The recommendation is that she eats an extra 300-500 calories to keep up her strength, stamina and health. Choose nutritious snacks, preferably something that she can easily eat with one hand. Here are some great ideas.
3. Create baby-friendly zones
Set up several spaces throughout the house for feeding the baby. Ensure that these areas are comfortable, adequately lit, and convenient. Keep books, blankets, and burp cloths nearby.
4. Offer emotional support.
Breastfeeding requires a bit of adjustment for both mom and baby, and is never easy. Share heartfelt words of encouragement, and let her know that you appreciate what she is doing for the baby. Give her a hug when she needs it, a shoulder to cry on when she’s in pain, and lend a listening ear whenever she wants to talk.
5. Ask her what she needs, and bring it to her.
Does she want you to hand her the baby once she’s settled comfortably in the feeding chair? Does she need the light on or off? A shoulder massage, perhaps? Maybe she’d like you to entertain the older child while she feeds the baby, or needs some help in washing and sterilising the bottles…
Attend to these little things for her and you will see her relax and smile a bit more.
Bond with your baby
6. Take care of the baby while she sleeps.
If she’s pumping, you can do the last feed before bedtime or the early morning feed. Take over night-time diaper changes so she can get some rest. Encourage her to take naps between daytime feeds while you watch the baby.
7. Take on diaper duty, burping, or bath time.
The more time you spend with baby, the more comfortable and confident you will feel in your new role as a father. Moreover, nothing pleases mom more than to see dad enjoying the little one. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.
Participate in the process
8. Educate yourself
Learn the the benefits of breastfeeding. Understand the why so that you can support the how. Read parenting articles, refer to baby books. Figure out how to use the pump, and sterilise bottles and pump parts. Once you empower yourself with knowledge, you will be able to support her and the baby better in their breastfeeding journey.
9. Communicate non-verbally.
Don’t feel bad if she doesn’t seem to want to talk while breastfeeding. She’s trying to stay quiet, so as to not disturb the sleeping baby. You should too, but don’t let that stop you from having your conversation. Take in your stride, and play along: use gestures, sign language or talk in whispers. Alternatively, you could download and use a white noise app or put some baby ear muffs on your little one.
10. Be present.
Laugh with her when funny things happen. Reassure her when things get tough. The more time you spend around her and the baby, the sooner you will learn to read baby’s cues as well. Breastfeeding may be a mother’s job, but she cannot do it alone. She needs you to stand by her, and be her rock.
Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to feel left out. Embrace this time, and treasure those precious moments.
Welcome to fatherhood.