Breastfeeding is hard work. It may look like a simple case of latch and sit there on your phone until the baby is done, but it is so much more than that.
Breastfeeding can be demanding, draining and is not hugely rewarding at first. But please don’t ever underestimate your wonderful abilities. You’re keeping a full human being alive, with only your boobs! Its bloody amazing if you ask me.
It can be lonely work, breastfeeding. You may feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and it can feel like a lot of responsibility to cope with. So, of course there are so many things your partner can do to take some of the strain away and make life a lot easier.
So, partners, for some major brownie points try to help your hard working loved one, and at the same time bond with your little bundle by taking some ideas from this list:
- Pass her the things she asks for, without rolling your eyes
When she flops down onto the sofa, and flops out a breast to feed, she is going to pretty much be stuck there under her feeding babe for up to an hour. She will be extremely grateful if you’d grab the things she needs, (phone, water, magazine) without you making a fuss or huffing and puffing about it. It’s a small gesture and uses all of one minute of your time and energy, minuscule in comparison to the time and energy she is putting into keeping your cherub alive.
- Play with her hair/massage her shoulders
Don’t scoff at this. Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable in the early stages (but not overly painful, if it is SEEK HELP) and cause a strain on the back. Not only that but it also causes contraction type pains in the early weeks and so your beautiful partner, having just carried for 9 months, is still devoting her body to her child. It can be relaxing and help melt away her troubles if you can play with her hair or give her a massage as she feeds. Not only that, but the immense joy and relaxation she receives from this can make breastfeeding more successful, can encourage her milk to let down effectively so the baby can feed well and can help her body make more milk for next time. So doing this simple act is helping with breastfeeding more that you realise.
- Tell her how amazing she is (and how beautiful she looks)
I’ve been there, and I remember it well. She will smell of milk, her clothes will be stained, she will have no time to put makeup on, her boobs will be three times bigger than usual, she will still have a baby bump, she will have no sleep and she will think she looks monstrous in your eyes. There is also a possibility she won’t care. But, just in case, tell her what a beautiful woman she is. I can’t stress enough how good this will make her feel. Tell her how proud you are of what she is doing for your baby, tell her she looks more beautiful than ever when she is breastfeeding and keeping your child alive, tell her what a beautiful thing breastfeeding is, tell her she looks amazing. Thank her, for the thankless job she is doing.
- Have skin to skin with the baby after a feed
It is common knowledge (and if it isn’t it, should be) that babies don’t like being put down in a cot, it makes them feel lonely and vulnerable, and so after a mammoth feed putting a sleeping baby down in her bed is the worst thing you can do. She is likely to immediately wake and seek comfort from the breast. If you genuinely want to get some rest, keep that baby on you, near you or against your skin. When you partner has finished a big feeding session, and she’s crying out for sleep, take the baby off her and put him on your chest against your skin. He will sleep like a, well…baby. Babies sleep so much better in skin to skin. Or even better stick him in a sling and go do some housework, baby will sleep happily, loving the fact he is against your body and enjoying the swaying motions, and you’ll give your wonderful partner some much needed rest.
- Bath, sing to, dress and undress and do the nappies
Feeding isn’t the only way you can bond with your new arrival. Feeding is mum’s job, but there is so much more you can get involved with. For example, mum is in control of what goes into baby, so why don’t you take charge of what comes out?! Breastfed babies have sweet smelling poo, its far from offensive and so this shouldn’t be a problem area for you. Along with nappies, there is always bath time, dressing and undressing and all the other cool little things like singing to baby, skin to skin, rocking her and reading stories. She will love listening to your voice and will be fascinated by your face, so get to know her by communicating with her and getting involved with her daily activities. Mum will appreciate the break and will love to sit back and watch you bond.
- Don’t harass her about, or even mention, the ‘s’ word until she is ready
Giving birth can leave her downstairs area a little sore, and so bedroom antics may be out of the window for a while anyway. However, breastfeeding can also have an effect on her desire to get jiggy, and so she will appreciate your respect in this area when you hold off and leave her to come round when she feels ready. But keep the lines of communication open, talk to one another about how you’re feeling, just no moods and tantrums when you’re given the old headache excuse.
- Feed her
Breastfeeding is thirsty work, and hungry work. It is no secret a breastfeeding mum can demolish and banquet as a snack as her body is in constant overdrive, creating that liquid gold. Ply her with a variety of snacks and meals throughout the day to help keep her energy levels up. And as much as she may insist she can survive on a diet of Mars bars and Mc Donald’s, try to give her a mix of healthy energy filled foods along with some treats. Her body will thank her, and her energy levels will be higher. It never feels great when you’re bogged down by groggy exhaustion because your body is fuelled by sugar and junk food. Diet has little impact on baby, so this bit is all about keeping mum happy. On top of this, the hormones involved in breastfeeding can make you feel very thirsty, so bring her water as she begins a feed, she will need it.
- Do some household errands, cook the meals, run her a bath
Keeping some sort of order in the house will be one of your partner’s concerns, and may play on her mind consistently, causing stress and therefore a reduction in milk production. Doing some housework, cleaning up, running around with the hoover and cooking some healthy meals for the family will lift a huge weight of responsibility from mum’s shoulders, especially if these were her areas of expertise prior to the baby coming along. Also, if there are siblings, keep them entertained, fed and clothed whilst mum concentrates on the new little one. Running her an evening bath is the cherry on the cake with this one.
- Manage guests and visitors
When a new baby enters the world the family may go mad with excitement, and begin turning up at all hours and without warning. Any mum may find this difficult to deal with and a breastfeeding mum may struggle with this in particular. I for one definitely didn’t want to whip out a boob in front of some of my uncles or family members, and so your partner may not want to do this either. Schedule visitors in advance, don’t be afraid of saying no and speak with your partner. Babies don’t like being handed around too much anyway, a close attachment with the main caregivers in the early days is more important than visitors having a squeeze, so make visitors aware of this from the beginning.
- Do your research
When the baby arrives and you come out with “here darling, to ensure an adequate latch encourage her mouth to be nice and wide” and “its BREASTfeeding, not NIPPLEfeeding so make sure she has a mouthful of breast” and “colostrum acts as a laxative, so I’ll be ready and waiting for that first nappy”, your partner will probably pass out. And when she comes round she will undoubtedly gaze into your eyes wondering who on earth replaced her husband with this wonderfully knowledgeable and supportive human. Knowing the basics about breastfeeding, the pros and benefits, how milk is made, supply and demand and how to spot and deal with issues, along with normal infant behaviour (in my opinion the most important part!) her breastfeeding journey is MUCH more likely to be successful. Having a supportive and knowledgeable partner makes a world of difference and will create a happy baby and happy mum. The less supportive a partner is the less chance there is of breastfeeding being successful. So get reading, attend a class, and listen to your wife when she blurts out facts along the way, this step will make more of a difference that you will ever fully appreciate. I promise.
So basically, we’re not asking for much. Really. Your partner is giving her own blood to keep your baby alive, having carried him for 9 months, so these steps are really the least you can do. And I can promise you wholeheartedly, that following a few of these steps every day will transform your partner, and in turn baby, and your family unit will stand strong.
Are there any other tips you mummas would add, what did your partner do that made your life a lot easier, or what did you do for your partner that changed when she was breastfeeding? Or what did your partner not do, that would have made all the difference?! I would love to know!