Some people underestimate the power of a supportive partner, but it can really MAKE OR BREAK a breastfeeding relationship. When a partner is not supportive of the breastfeeding process, it can have detrimental effects on mother’s mental stability, add extra stress, and increase her risk of Postpartum Depression. Women who have supportive partners are more likely to be successful and reach their breastfeeding goals, even when faced with breastfeeding challenges. Here are some ways that partners can really make a difference.
Photo by LaLa Photography
1. Get Educated
Breastfeeding support starts during pregnancy. Get educated together before baby is born, so that you know what to expect. Take a breastfeeding class, go to a prenatal lactation visit with an IBCLC, read books, watch videos, and attend a breastfeeding support group.
2. Be Proactive
Be prepared! Partners can help to make sure that the birthing environment will be as breastfeeding friendly as possible. Touring possible facilities or preparing the birth space for a home birth together is a great place to start. Writing a breastfeeding and birth plan with one another really helps get the thought process rolling. After baby is born, have a local Breastfeeding Resource list on hand to use, if needed. Breastfeeding is a natural process, but it is also a learned behavior that takes some practice and extra support along the way.
3. Get Busy
Mom and baby will be spending a lot of time breastfeeding in the beginning, and partners have the opportunity to make a big impact by helping during this sensitive time. Frequent stimulation to the breasts are needed in the early days, so if you see baby is having early feeding cues, then get baby ready for the feeding (diaper changed) before bringing him or her to mom. To make this process go smoothly, mom needs rest, so participate by changing diapers, logging feedings and diaper changes, making meals/snacks, keeping the house tidy, burping the baby after feeds, and practicing tummy time. The more involved you are, the more you’ll bond. And mom, don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for support!
4. Help Mom Relax
Having a baby is stressful and there are a lot of hormonal changes that occur during the immediate postpartum period. Breastfeeding can add to this already stressful environment—but that doesn’t mean she can’t do it. Stay calm, and promote a relaxing environment. Dim lights, limit disruptions, and keep things quiet around feeding time. Comfort measures can help keep mom’s stress low and it is one of the most important ways partners can help. Make sure your partner is getting enough to eat and drink, rub her feet or shoulders, ensure she has enough pillows and is comfortable during feeding time. You can also help by limiting visitors, put soothing essential oils in the diffuser, cuddle in bed together, and have an open ear available when it gets tough.
5. Be an Advocate
You have the education, and now you can be her biggest advocate. It’s important to know when it is medically necessary to supplement. If baby requires supplementation at any time, mom needs to be set up to pump. Our number-one rule is to feed the baby, but the number-two rule is to protect her milk supply. If there is a medical indication, you can suggest alternative feeding methods in the early days: small cups, spoons and even syringes instead of bottles. Moms can often hand express and give baby extra colostrum in a spoon instead of giving extra formula.
6. Don’t Stop
Moving forward into the breastfeeding journey, continued support is crucial. Make sure she is confident to feed in public and fill in the gaps and educate others, if needed. Rally for her and let her know you have her back in any situation. There is no breastfeeding challenge she can’t get through with you in her corner.
BY AUTUMN WAKE, RN, BSN, IBCLC &
LAURA COOPER, BA, CLEC
OF ADVANCED BREASTFEEDING
SUPPORT OF LAS VEGAS
ADVANCED BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT OF LAS VEGAS