Breastfeeding a newborn is time consuming! New moms are learning to breastfeed at the same time as they are healing from birth. As a partner, you are probably willing to help but may be unsure of how you can help with breastfeeding.
While you cannot physically breastfeed, there are many ways you can help to make it easier. In fact, research shows that your support as a partner is key to breastfeeding success!
How partners can help with breastfeeding:
1. Change baby’s diaper before and/or after feeds.
On average, new parents, spend about 1 – 1 ½ hours a day (!) simply changing diapers. Consider taking over this task for the first week or two. This will give mom a few valuable minutes to take a shower, grab a bite to eat or catch a few more minutes of sleep. If you’d like more information on how to change diapers, see this post.
2. Bring baby to her so she can breastfeed lying down.
Not having to get out of bed to feed at 1:00 am can feel amazing! Consider getting up and bringing your baby to your partner for feeds. Help her to position herself in the side-lying or laid back position for breastfeeding (see a description and photo of these positions here). As a loving extra, make sure her water bottle is within arms reach.
3. Take charge of burping after feeds.
Burping after feeds will give you a chance to snuggle your content little newborn. Try burping baby skin to skin against your chest. Your warmth and heartbeat will soothe your baby back to sleep.
For tips on how to burp a baby, see this post.
4. Look after the household duties.
Breastfeeding is a full time job in the early weeks, consuming at least 8 – 10 hours a day. Nothing says “I love you” like taking charge of the cooking, the clean-up, and the laundry. Taking charge, however, does not mean that you need to do it all yourself. Recruit friends or family members to help you with specific tasks such as getting groceries, cooking a meal or doing a load of laundry. This will give both of you some valuable time to rest.
5. Help to control the flow of visitors
Everyone is excited to see a newborn! A steady stream of visitors will be tiring, as preparing for and cleaning up after company takes a lot of energy. Tell visitors you are not up to company just yet. This will allow you and your partner to focus on rest and learning to care for your newborn.
6. Learn about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed a baby, but it isn’t always easy at the beginning. Parents tell us the most stressful part of being a new parent is all the ‘unknowns’.
Learn all you can about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Attend a breastfeeding class with your partner or start learning together with our online class, Simply Breastfeeding from Day One. Your subscription never expires. You can re-watch any of the 12 videos or look back to the lesson notes any time you have a question.
7. Encourage her; tell her she is doing a great job!
When new moms are sleep deprived, they may question if they really want to breastfeed. Be your partner’s #1 fan. Point out what she is doing well. Encourage her to calm baby skin to skin.
Please try to avoid telling her she is doing something wrong; a new mother’s heart is very tender. If she is getting criticism or discouraging comments from those around her, step in and support her.
What about giving a bottle to let your partner sleep?
While it can seem like a good way to help, we don’t advise giving a bottle in the early weeks if at all possible. A bottle could interfere with breastfeeding in a few ways.
When a bottle replaces a breastfeed:
- Mom’s breasts miss the message to continue to make milk. This can interfere with long term milk supply.
- Mom’s breasts may get engorged (overly full). She will not only be uncomfortable, but it may be more difficult for your baby to latch at the next feed.
- Your baby may begin to prefer the bottle, getting hooked on the fast easy flow. (We have seen cases where this has happened after just one bottle!) Learn more about nipple confusion here.
Although you cannot physically do the feeding, you play an integral role in breastfeeding. Your help and support are invaluable for both your partner and your baby.