How can my partner help with breastfeeding?
It’s quite well known that men see themselves as providers, protectors, and fixers. That’s their biological programming. So it was natural for me when I saw my partner waking up for the fifth time that night to feed our son, exhausted and struggling to keeping her eyes open due to breastfeeding as something that I needed to fix. This is bad because I can't fix it.
As dramatic as this sounds when a man can’t fix something this makes him feel like a failure and will inevitably impact you partner breastfeeding. Support for the mother can come in a number of different ways, it’s not just feeding that needs to be taken care of.
Just because you cannot feed, this doesn’t mean there isn’t other ways you can score points with your partner and ease the pressure off yourself and make the breastfeeding process easier for everyone, so here’s my dad’s and breastfeeding guide:
Be her number one fan and cheerleader
When Louise told us in our ‘Let’s Talk birth and baby’ antenatal class that the single most important factor in a new mum’s success with breastfeeding is the support she receives from her partner I was shocked. I knew that breastfeeding was not an easy process and takes time to perfect but I wasn’t sure of how much I was going to be needed. The first week is especially difficult when the baby is establishing its latch; this requires dads to provide vital emotional support throughout this process until they both really get the hang of it together. Towards the middle of the week after calling in Louise for a home visit who provided vital support within those first few days, we started to celebrate and cheer when he latched on! Bit sad really, it’s amazing how sleep deprivation affects your behaviour! Even this brought us close together and I soon began to realise that my role was chief cheerleader … words I never thought I’d write.
Over zealous but well-meaning friends and relatives will be swarming at your door as soon as you new-born touches down on home turf. Scheduling these visits, we found is vital. We only saw close family in the first two weeks only and even then we had a curfew, we tried to stick with one hour ‘opening times’ to start with and then it gradually got longer as my partner got more sleep and started to feel fresher. Setting expectations on a timescale beforehand with the visitor is a great idea. Also, being vigilant and keeping a close eye on tired mum during the visit and knowing when to call it a day is crucial. She’ll give you all the signs, but only if you’re looking for them!
Take care of the chores
During the longer feeds when mum is occupied, I often stayed busy with keeping the house tidy. A nursing mum is usually creating a mental list of all the things she can see around the house that need doing, doing all the usual chores and keeping on top of everything takes a huge weight off her mind. This will also take the stress away when it comes to visiting times. Taking ownership of an area like bath time or settling baby when they are crying is also a great idea to keep things ticking over whilst giving mum more time to rest.
Letting mum sleep.
It’s pretty normal to have to have the baby in a cot in your room for the first part of its life, and with limited space in our spare we opted for a Next2Me, although these are an absolute godsend, the downside is, is that you can hear every “coo” and “ahh” the baby makes while sleeping. I couldn’t help but to think this must be affecting my partners sleep. Sometimes I woke up early on a week day, and certainly most weekends I would take the baby out his cot and make him cosy downstairs where he could babble in his sleep until his heart was content – or his stomach was empty! I discovered this was pretty handy when after the first time; I walked back upstairs 15 minutes later and heard a soft little angel snore coming from my partner meaning she must be in a deep sleep. (Yes she did make me write that) I was initially disturbed from the TV thinking there was a clap of thunder.
Give her company
During the week days I had ear plugs and an eye mask and I slept through the night in order to be fresh for work the next day, I know a few dads who stayed in the spare room. But on the odd occasion during the week and frequently on the weekends I left my ear plugs on the side table and got up with mum, making sure she had everything she needed just sitting with her and talking I felt really helped. Night feeds lasted 45 minutes max and it wasn’t really that hard to stay awake with her.
In conclusion lads, there are loads of ways we can help during this breastfeeding process we just can’t feed! It surprised me in the first 6 weeks just how demanding breastfeeding is, but doing the things above and knowing that my partner is happy while she is breastfeeding really has an impact on the initial 6 week struggle, after that it becomes much easier! It’s safe to say that we simply wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support from Louise at ‘Let’s talk birth and baby’ preparing us for the challenge and supporting us in those first few weeks. There’s nothing quite like seeing your partner breastfeed your happy baby and watching in awe as he grows purely as a result of her efforts - and knowing you supported her through it really does remind you of how involved you were.