As a breastfeeding “partner” you may be wondering what your role will be since she is the one with the breasts, but supporting your partner while breastfeeding means more than being a cheerleader on the sidelines. She will need an informed advocate to protect her space and time with the new baby.
Consider these tips to make yourself an invaluable partner in the breastfeeding relationship.
Know Your Stuff
Chances are that your partner has been researching every parenting choice as if a degree depends on it while passing just the key points on to you. Be sure that you learn the essentials of breastfeeding and normal sleep behaviors too, as well as who to ask for help (Hint: Your pediatrician is unlikely to be skilled in breastfeeding support while lactation professionals are worth their weight in liquid gold).
Your knowledge frees mom from managing and disseminating facts when she’s busy healing from birth and caring for the new baby. And, if something seems off, you can help her take action sooner.
Help Baby by Helping Mom
The baby demands a lot of attention. But are the parents’ needs being met? A committed (and tired!) new parent often overlooks their own basic care as they attend to the baby’s every need.
Make it your responsibility to ensure that both of you are eating well, making time for personal care and rest, and accepting help. Delegate out meals and chores when you can. The more you can remove from mom’s responsibility list, the more she can focus on breastfeeding, which can be time-consuming in the early weeks.
Protect the Bond
Breastfeeding a newborn is time-consuming by design — the near-constant contact helps establish a healthy milk supply, heal and shrink mom’s uterus, and regulate a baby’s vitals. Well-meaning visitors can challenge this important bond by coming too often, staying too long, and holding the baby when the seemingly happy newborn expresses non-vocal hunger cues like clenched fists or a rooting mouth.
Be the voice many new moms struggle to find by setting boundaries for friends and family. Consider limited visiting hours, tasking visitors with chores instead of snuggles, and speaking up for mom when she’s afraid to disrupt the peace.
Develop Your Relationship
There are many ways for the non-lactating parent to bond with baby but most partners think of bottle-feeding first. However, it can be hard on a new mom to express breastmilk instead of feeding directly. Pumping takes time and can be uncomfortable at first. It can raise unnecessary concerns about milk volume and consumption. Bottle feeding a breastfed baby requires specific steps to ensure the baby can still eat well at the breast after using an artificial nipple.
Eliminate these issues by bonding with the baby in other ways. Everything that happens between feedings — baths, diapers, skin-to-skin naps, snuggles — are all excellent ways for you to connect with the baby while preserving the breastfeeding bond.
Celebrate the New Mom
Studies show that pregnancy actually changes a mother’s brain. Huge hormone shifts drive instinctive behaviors between her and the baby. And you’re both undergoing major shifts in body image, roles, and world views. Challenge the idea that parents should be working to restore pre-pregnancy norms.
Embrace the changes by working together with mom to make new habits and routines that include the baby, and avoid comparing the new family life to a past version of yourselves. No matter the circumstances that led to this birth, a baby’s life and its impact on yours is worth celebrating!
My Baby Experts ©