Breastfeeding for Partners of Breastfeeding Moms

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

AUGUST 16, 2018

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It’s easy to understand why husbands or wives of breastfeeding moms, can sometimes feel left out when it comes to breastfeeding. There are days when it seems that the only time that baby is satisfied is when s/he is at the breast. In truth, there is a lot that partners can do to be involved in supporting breastfeeding and to enjoy the closeness of the breastfeeding experience.

Most moms new to breastfeeding are surprised by how it can be initially, an all-consuming experience. Newborns are not yet proficient feeders, so it takes them a long time to eat, and because their bellies are so tiny, they need small frequent feeds. This feels like all breastfeeding, all the time. For the non breastfeeding partner, there’s a lot you can do to help. To start,

  • Read about breastfeeding, or take a breastfeeding class with your partner. It will really help if you can reassure her, with some basis of authority, that what she is experiencing is normal, or if it’s not that you’ve already put a call in to a lactation consultant. You’re a team here. Just because she has the goods, doesn’t mean you’re not part of learning/knowing how to feed your baby. Stay informed/stay involved.
  • Keep track, whether it’s through a hard copy chart system or fancy phone app, of the wet/soiled diapers. For babies exclusively breastfeeding, it’s the only way to know if they are eating enough and this is important information to keep track of. Data collector is an important and necessary function, and after a few sleepless nights you’ll soon realize that no matter how good your memory before you became a parent, you just can’t remember what you did five minutes ago when you are in the midst of the newborn phase.
  • Go shopping and make sure there is healthy food in the house. If your back to work, prepare your partner lunch that she can easily pop in the microwave, or make her a sandwich that she just needs to unwrap.
  • When you get home from work, (try not to be late) offer to take the baby as soon as you walk in the door, so that she can lie down for an hour and just get some rest before you prepare or heat up the take out dinner you’ve brought home.
  • Hold your baby skin to skin. While you may not be able to provide the nourishment of food, skin to skin contact is wonderfully soothing to babies, and will feel awesome for you! It’s a really nice way for you to unwind from work, so sit down, take off your shirt and gently recline with baby on your chest. You will be amazed at how the stress of the workday can fade when you have the chance to be fully present with your baby in this way.

Breastfeeding a newborn can be an unexpected challenge, and made easier if there are two parents who can work together in this early phase.