What does a partner have to do with breastfeeding, anyways?! As a breastfeeding person, you might be feeling exhausted, emotional, and stinky. On top of that, you are responsible for feeding a growing human. It is an amazing gift our bodies are given, but it takes hard work and dedication.
For you non-lactating partners, you may be wondering how to be your best cheerleader in this journey. Maybe you see how hard your partners are working and want to do your best to support you. Maybe (if you are anything like my partner), you are feeling a little left out in the feeding game. After all, this might be the first time you get to feel really active in the parent role.
So this one is for YOU, Partners!
Here are some great ways to support your lactating love through the journey that is breastfeeding.
1 – Water
It is so important to stay hydrated when breastfeeding. Ounces of liquid are literally being produced and drained out of a human at a wild rate. It can leave a life giver with some serious dry mouth. Like stuck in the dessert, panic is setting in, seeing mirages kind of dry mouth. When your partner sits down to nurse, make sure that you bring some ice-cold water in a no-spill container. If it’s empty, refill. Even at night. No. ESPECIALLY at night. I personally remember going through a 32oz cup of water every nursing session, every 2hrs, ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Yup, please do the math on that. Then call my husband to confirm.
2 – Food
A mama’s gotta eat! Amidst the diaper changes and naps, it’s hard to get a healthy meal in. The only downtime in the first couple of months is while nursing. So put together a plate of a delicious snack of healthy fats, proteins, and greens. Preferable one that can be eaten with one hand. If you are having a hard time putting together a healthy meal for your partner because you spent 9 months on midnight runs for cravings, just remember: What goes in to her, goes into your babe. They need healthy nutrients to support their immune systems and growing bodies. It’s also a great way to feel a part of the feeding process as you diversify your baby’s palate. Maybe Salmon is on the menu for baby’s nursing meal?
3 – Make Them Comfortable
Not enough support? Grab a pillow. See her going to sit down? Grab that My Brest Friend or Boppy. A little chilly? A light blanket goes a long way. Turn on that Netflix show your partner wants to binge watch. MAKE. THEM. COMFORTABLE. Breastfeeding is reliant on how relaxed a body is so that it can produce a letdown to feed baby. Not to mention in the beginning a breastfeeding session can last 45min-1hr, sometimes longer if they are cluster feeding. Nobody wants a stiff neck, arms, and back from nurturing their human. Make ‘Comfort Master’ your new title.
4 – Support Safe Co-sleeping
This one comes with a lot of disagreements and confusion if you are hesitant about co-sleeping or bed-sharing. I am not a medical professional and every family situation is different. Are you a heavy sleeper, smoker, drinker, or have pets that sleep in the bed? Maybe bed-sharing is not for you. But for many breastfeeding families, this is one of the best ways to get rest AND feed baby on-demand. If you have assessed your home situation and have decided co-sleeping is not for you, then make it your priority to go get baby from their room when they wake and bring them to and from your partner for nursing. Yes, with a diaper change in there, too.
5 – Keep Baby Awake
One of the hardest things in the beginning with breastfeeding is how long a baby should nurse for. Many times, baby gets ‘milk drunk’ and falls asleep faster than they can get a full nursing session in. This can lead to baby not gaining enough weight and milk supply not keeping up with baby’s demand due to a breast that hasn’t been fully emptied. Take an active role in your baby’s nursing session by keeping your sweet babe awake. It can be tickling feet or smiling at baby over your partner’s shoulder. If you have a heavy sleeper that is harder to keep awake you can hold on to baby’s arm and pump it back and forth or take a wet rag (room temp) and wipe their back to keep them awake. In dire times I have even taken my glass of water and held it to my baby’s feet just to keep those eyeballs open. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Of course, it is important to remember that communication with your partner is key. Maybe they don’t need help with one thing but they might need support in another area. These are some basic ways to help make that nursing experience even better so that your partner can do it for even longer. You are making a big change in your baby’s growth by supporting the amazing person who is feeding them.