Breastfeeding can be a lonely challenge in the beginning. You will probably spend a lot of hours in a quiet room away from other people, alone with your nursing infant.
Many late nights will be spent with just your baby in your rocking chair, or even worse: just you with the rhythmic whirl of the breast pump. It seems a little unfair that such an important part of parenting the new baby can’t always be split perfectly 50/50. But it’s simply reality that the majority of feeding duty will fall on the milk maid’s shoulders when only one parent has those magic milk producers.
Some husbands feel a bit of relief in that freedom and some feel a helplessness that frustrates them, but almost all men are clueless about how they can possibly help their partners through something like this.
Until this point in their lives, most men thought of breasts as being merely decorative. It’s not really fair of us to expect them to do their fair share if we haven’t bothered explaining what we expect of them.
Let’s give our men a better understanding of what their new relationship with breasts will be about: choosing to breastfeed doesn’t mean your partner is totally off the hook. There are many ways they can help the nursing process that don’t require milk ducts. Here is a clear list of breastfeeding duties for dad that you can print out and hand to your partner before the baby comes.
1. Learn about breastfeeding. The first step to helping in any situation is understanding what you’re dealing with. Read a breastfeeding book or better yet, go with your wife to a breastfeeding class. Not only will this help you understand the basic terms that are now the center of your wife’s universe (like colostrum, latch, foremilk, and let-down) but it will show your wife how much you care about her efforts and how eager you are to be a solid parenting partner.
2. Keep water bottles full and within arm’s reach at all nursing stations. Breastfeeding makes a new mom very thirsty as her body needs extra fluids to produce milk. When let-down would happen for me, it felt like someone suddenly stuffed my mouth full of cotton. She can’t exactly pull off that newborn she just spent 30 minutes trying to get latched on just to grab a glass of water. This is a simple, yet incredibly helpful service you can provide. Along these same lines, breastfeeding also burns so many extra calories that it can leave a mama ravenous in the middle of the night. Set her up with some snacks she can easily eat with one hand, like granola bars.
3. Know where each of her breastfeeding tools are and be ready to bring them to her at a moment’s notice. This includes items such as nursing pillows, nipple cream, gel packs from the freezer, burp cloths, etc. You should just plan on making it so she doesn’t need to get up out of her seat for any reason. Extra credit if you bring them before she asks. If you hear her say she’s going to feed the baby then go get her nursing pillow right away. If you know she likes to put on a little nipple cream after each feeding, unscrew the cap and have it ready if you see her burping the baby— she will appreciate it more than you know.
4. Prepare the breast pump. Pumping milk is probably the least desirable aspect of breastfeeding. It plain sucks, no pun intended. Share this burdensome chore by cleaning and assembling her pump parts so it’s one less thing for her to deal with. I know at first, it looks complicated and scary, but if a man can put together a carburetor he can assemble a breast pump. Read the manual and practice.
5. Provide some entertainment to keep her sane. No, we don’t expect you to put on a puppet show. Just make sure she has access to something to keep her mind occupied during the endless hours she will be sitting with the baby. Give her the remote control, her phone, a book, an iPad, etc. Keep all electronics fully charged for her when you can. That’s the kind of thing that will easily slip her sleep-deprived mind and drive her insane as her iPad cuts out on her at the eighth middle-of-the-night-feeding.
6. Step up in doing household chores. It will be hard for her to relax and focus on feeding the baby if the laundry is piling up and sink is overflowing with dirty dishes. You might not be able to step in and take over a feeding for her, but you can most definitely clean the house. Just keep thinking of anything you can take off her plate right now and do it.
7. As often as you can without being disingenuous, say things like “thank you for doing this for our baby,” “you’re doing a great job,” or “I’m proud of you.” And maybe even throw in an occasional compliment about how pretty she looks with wet circles on the front of her shirt and spit up dribbling down her shoulder. She will be emotional and exhausted right now and she is working very hard. She needs to hear these things from her partner. It doesn’t take much for you to say these things but it will mean a whole lot in how much it helps her.
8. Freely and frequently give back and foot rubs without expecting the favor to be returned. Sometimes it’s hard finding the right position in the beginning, sometimes she will be stiff and achy from sitting in the one position the baby will nurse in. Rub her tired muscles for her. The more relaxed she is the better the milk will flow, so doing this will definitely help get your baby fed. The affectionate touch will also make her feel supported at a time when she really needs it.
9. Keep any other children or pets happily occupied while mom focuses on the job at hand. It’s not a good feeling when a baby who is latched onto her nipple suddenly yanks their head away because a toddler banged a toy next to him. A wonderful way you can help a nursing mother is to create a calm environment for her. This means making sure she is left alone from everyone, even the cat. Breastfeeding moms can often experience a sense of being “touched out” and might not want to deal with needy pets. You are her body guard, or more specifically her “boobie guard.”
10. Ask her what she needs. This sounds simple yet can be easy to forget. Ask her often what you can do to help her. Sometimes just you asking is all she really needs.
Think of yourself as her boxing coach. You can’t go in the ring to take the hits with her, but you can be in her corner waiting with a cool drink of water, a towel to wipe her brow and some motivational cheering to keep her spirits in fighting form.
What are some ways your partner helped you achieve success breastfeeding? Share below!