As a new dad, maybe you are wondering how you can support your nursing partner. After all, it’s not your breasts your tiny baby is sucking on constantly. You don’t have to deal with engorgement or sore nipples. What kind of support could you possibly be to her?
You will have an opportunity to learn together the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as techniques and positioning. It will help you both be on the same page. There were many times I felt overwhelmed and my husband was able to point out the tips and tricks we learned in class. He was my extra set of eyes and ears, and I was so grateful for that.
I needed my husband there, not necessarily for conversation, but for emotional support.
2. Learn to recognize baby hunger cues.
This will be taught in breastfeeding classes and is so helpful when you are the one holding the baby. “She keeps trying to suck on my arm,” my husband would remark to me, “Do you think she’s hungry?” Observing for signs of hunger such as rooting or hands in the mouth can help get your baby to her breast sooner so both of you don’t wait until your baby is wailing from hunger.
3. Bring the baby to her.
It may not seem like that big a deal, but trust me, she will appreciate it. Especially at night. In the beginning, nursing sessions can take 45 minutes so anytime she doesn’t have to get out of bed for the baby will help maximize her sleep.
4. Cater to her.
Bring her the remote so she has something to watch during those marathon nursing sessions. Refill her water bottle and bring her healthy snacks that she can eat one-handed. Nursing is exhausting and burns a ton of calories.
5. Wash bottle or pump parts.
It’s the littlest things that are so helpful. My husband was incredible in the early days home with me when I had to pump four times a day. He made sure the parts were always washed and dried and would help bring them to me all set up, so all I had to do was hand him the baby and hook myself up.
6. Keep her company.
In the beginning when our daughter would cluster feed from 5 to 10 p.m, I did nothing but sit on the couch with the Boppy and baby and nurse. And occasionally cry. I needed my husband there, not necessarily for conversation, but for emotional support. Even if it was the two of us watching a movie together, it was so important for him to be present with me.
7. Help out around the house.
While she is nursing, help do the dishes, cook dinner or fold laundry. Breastfeeding is tiring, both physically and mentally, and any bit of housework she doesn’t have to do can help her sanity.
8. Change and burp the baby.
My husband and I had a system going in the early days: I nursed, he took the baby and burped her and changed her diaper. Wash, rinse repeat. We shared the work, and he felt like he was an equal partner in this raising-a-baby thing.
9. Help do skin-to-skin with your baby.
You may already know the benefits to skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care. It doesn’t matter if you baby is being held by you or Mom; this act helps regulate body temperature and is a wonderful way to bond with you baby. Plus, it may keep your baby happy so Mom can grab a quick nap.
10. Be her knight in shining armor.
Eventually guests will come visit. You will have to leave the house at some point. Breastfeeding in public can be a tricky thing for new moms. The first few times I nursed in public, my husband was there to help shield me while I fumbled to get our daughter latched. Defend her right to breastfeed, whether it’s in a crowded restaurant or to critical family members. Nursing is hard enough without enduring uncomfortable comments, and it’s so relieving having a partner who will look out for her as she is focusing on the baby.
11. Offer to give the baby a bottle, but support her if she doesn’t want you to.
After four to six weeks of exclusively nursing, your baby should be ready take bottles. Put the offer out there that you can give a bottle to give her a break, but don’t push it if she declines. Some moms are more than willing to let Dad bottle-feed. But some aren’t.
Tell her she’s doing a good job. Trust me, very few people will tell her this, and she needs to hear it. Remind her of information you learned together in class. And at the end of the day, if she wants to give the baby a bottle of formula, support her in that, too.