As the saying goes, bringing up a baby takes a village, and although there’s only one pair of boobs that can feed baby, there are lots of ways others can chip in and help.
Dads, partners, friends, siblings, and other family members can all form a breastfeeding team. When mums feel supported and happy, they’re likely to breastfeed for longer.
What Partners Can Do to Help With Breastfeeding
Dads and partners are key members of any breastfeeding team. They’re the ones who are there with mum and baby in the middle of the night, when times get tough, and reassurance is needed most. With the right support, mums have the time, energy, and peace of mind to get breastfeeding off to the best possible start.
Begin to research breastfeeding before the baby arrives, and make sure you talk to mum about her feeding plans. Let her know that you understand the difficulties that may crop up, and that you’re there for her whatever happens.
Lactation consultants, the NHS and organisations like The National Breastfeeding Helpline, ABM, The Breastfeeding Network and La Leche League have loads of great information about breastfeeding and also run support groups to help parents find their feet.
Be a breastfeeding cheerleader and offer verbal encouragement and support throughout. This will let mum know that you see and appreciate what a great job she’s doing, and will spur her on to persevere if times get tough.
- Be sensitive to your partner’s needs
It’s important to understand the bond between mum and baby, and to be aware of the rollercoaster of emotions that post-pregnancy hormones can bring. Talk to each other honestly about how you’re both feeling, and encourage openness at every new stage that raising a baby brings.
To reduce stress and ease the load, make it your job to keep on top of the housework. Encourage mum to put her feet up and enjoy bonding with the little one while you pop to the shops, do the laundry, or rustle up something tasty in the kitchen.
Once the baby has finished feeding with mum, you can take on the task of winding them. Support their head and neck while making sure their tummy and back are straight, and pat their back gently to bring up any trapped air. Remember to have a muslin cloth close by – just in case!
- Create a calm environment
Dealing with a newborn can be chaotic, so try and keep your home as calm as possible. If you have older children, perhaps you take them out for the afternoon to the park or cinema?
Make sure your house isn’t always filled with visitors, and ask people to call or text to arrange a convenient visiting time. When people do come to visit, look for signs that mum – or baby – is ready for them to leave.
Breastfeeding can be a lonely time for some mums, so try asking if they’d like some time alone with the baby, or if they want you to stick around and chat.
- Care for the baby in other ways
Caring for your baby during the breastfeeding process teaches them that love comes from interacting with people, as well as from food. You can pitch in with walks, nappy changes and bath or bedtimes – all of which are great opportunities to build a lasting bond, and give mum some time off to enjoy a soak in the bath or a well-deserved snooze!
- Stand up for her right to breastfeed, whenever, wherever.
Now’s the time for you to become a breastfeeding advocate. Support every mum’s right to peacefully breastfeeding in public without criticism, and encourage others to do the same by sharing resources and using #normalisebreastfeeding.