If your family has chosen to breastfeed, you’ll quickly learn that the process takes time, patience, and support. Breastfeeding is physically and emotionally demanding, so understanding how best to support mum’s breastfeeding journey is a great way to be an involved parent and partner.

Solidarity

Sometimes the non-breastfeeding parent feels they are ‘missing out on bonding with the baby. Not being able to feed your little one can lead to feelings of ‘uselessness’, but this doesn’t need to be the case! There are lots of ways to be an active part of breastfeeding besides the physical.

Be there

Night feeds can be exhausting for mum. Getting up with her or shortly after her to sit together as a family from time to time may be a nice bonding opportunity. Sometimes it’s best to have at least one well-rested parent, so discuss how to manage night feeds. Even if you’re both tired, sometimes sharing these experiences could help you feel connected.

Mum may appreciate it if after feeding, she can go straight back to bed, and you can burp the baby and get them back to sleep. Bringing a baby to mum in bed can also make it easier for her. Feeds can last for an hour or so. Offer to bring mum water and easy-to-eat snacks – breastfeeding is thirsty work!

Talk to her

Open a dialogue about how mum’s feeling physically. Breastfeeding can cause discomfort and sometimes, pain. Nipples can become sore, inflamed, and dry. Breasts can become engorged and tender. Talk to your breastfeeding partner about their physical experience and ask how you can help. Perhaps you can run to the pharmacy and buy a nipple cream, or offer a massage.

Sometimes when mothers struggle with breastfeeding, it has a negative emotional impact. Remind them breastfeeding hurdles are natural and aren’t a poor reflection on her as a parent. Offer to contact a lactation consultant or reach out for support.

Educate yourself

There is a lot to learn about breastfeeding, and it shouldn’t all fall on mum. Make time to watch videos or read literature about breastfeeding so you can pass on the tips to mum; she most likely won’t feel up for studying between difficult feeds!

If breastfeeding proves difficult, encourage and support your partner to seek more information and advice. Should she be considering formula feeding, support her decision and make an effort to learn as much as you can together?

Take responsibility in other ways

Breastfeeding is far from the only part of caring for newborns. Consider using feed time to take care of other household or family tasks. You are entirely entitled to ‘me-time as well, though be considerate of the timing.

If you’re feeling ‘left out, talk to your partner about establishing your own special bonding time with your little one. Maybe you can agree on another task which is just for, or mainly for, you (such as bath time or tummy-time supervision).

When/if your partner is ready to express milk into bottles, you can begin to share feeds. Should the opportunity to bottle feed your little one mean a lot to you, communicate this so your partner can take it into consideration. Be mindful that it is her body and not every woman feels up for expressing it all the time.

Most babies are introduced to solid foods around six months of age. You might like to be the main spoon-feeder, to begin with, so you can experience the bonding of nourishing your child. Suggest this to your partner ahead of time so you can match expectations as a team.

Holding your baby to your chest is a lovely way to bond. Your little one will feel safe, particularly during skin-to-skin contact. Sometimes the smell of breastmilk can get a baby ‘worked up’ and restless to feed, so snuggling the non-breastfeeding parent may even be more relaxing at times.

Communicate

Parenting involves teamwork. Make your partner feel safe to express herself, and expect the same in return. Just because mum is breastfeeding, your needs don’t go out the window. Make sure to tend to her needs and make her feel loved and supported, and remember you should receive the same care and love in return.

Intimacy changes postpartum. A drop in physical intimacy can be challenging but remember it is not permanent. Focus on connecting on other levels. Mum’s body has been under a lot of stress in the last nine months, and she is still far from back to normal. A lot of mums feel ‘touched out’ from frequent breastfeeding, and their body is still recovering from birth. Be respectful and understanding without placing any pressure on her to be physical.

Recommended Articles:

https://www.babybunting.com.au/baby-talk-blog/nurturing-your-health-and-wellbeing-when-pregnancy-fatigue-strikes/

https://www.babybunting.com.au/baby-talk-blog/the-fourth-trimester-navigating-the-postpartum-period/