Breastfeeding is a great way to ensure your little one starts off life with all the right nutrition. It's often a force of bonding and connection, and many moms come to love breastfeeding their babies as they grow. It can also be really, really hard. Though breastfeeding is a natural behavior, it's also something you (and your baby) have to learn how to do.
The early days, weeks, and sometimes months of breastfeeding often come with pain, confusion, and tears (both yours and baby's). Though you're the one actually feeding the baby, there are many ways your partner can support you if you choose to breastfeed.
They can learn the lingo
Before most people start breastfeeding they usually don't know a whole lot about it. Even if you take a breastfeeding class, the early weeks when you're learning how it works and how to do it all, the terminology and techniques can be a little confusing. Ask your partner to take the time to learn about breastfeeding so you can talk about it and share concerns without having to explain everything. Before your baby arrives, have your partner read a few articles about early breastfeeding so they know what everything, from colostrum to nipple shields, means.
Before you start breastfeeding, it's important to establish a goal. Your goal can be anything from taking it a day or week at a time to making it to 2+ years. It's important that your partner know your goal so they can help you stick to it.
If your partner doesn't know you want to breastfeed for a year (and why), they might offer formula as a solution when things are tough in the early weeks and may become frustrated when they don't understand why you won't use formula. On the flip-side, if your goal is to breastfeed for just a few months, there won't be any confusion on their part when you make the switch to formula.
They can take care of you while you nurse
Most partners really want to support you as you breastfeed, especially since it means their baby is getting a great start, but often they don't know quite how to help. Think about what would make breastfeeding easier for you: Is it having a full water bottle always within reach? Putting on some relaxing music to help you get into the groove? A favorite boppy or nursing pillow? Let your partner know what would make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and ask them to help you gather your supplies before you nurse.
They can choose another baby-care task as “just theirs”
If you breastfeed, you're going to spend a lot of time nursing and, more often than not, it's really hard to get anything else done while you nurse. Ask your partner to take on another baby-care task as “just theirs” so you can focus on feeding and not feel frazzled trying to do everything else.
Some partners really enjoy giving the baby a bath, putting them to sleep, burping them, or simply holding and rocking them after you're done nursing. You can also ask them to take on some of the less fun chores, like washing pump parts if you're pumping, or making sure the diaper bag is stocked and ready to go every time you leave the house.
Make sure they don't leave all the nighttime parenting to you
While it's true that you're going to have to be the one to wake up and nurse when the baby is hungry, there are lots of other reasons a baby might wake up that have nothing to do with hunger. If your little one is tossing and turning, or just needs a little extra love, a diaper, an outfit change, or someone to hold them as they fall back asleep, your partner can get up and meet these needs while you rest.
How does your partner support you while you breastfeed?
Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. She is writing a memoir on pregnancy, motherhood, and sisterhood and lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. ... More
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