Breastfeeding is an excellent way to bond with your new-born and breast milk offers the best nutritional value that you can give your baby. Nursing a baby is not always easy. Some moms struggle to get the hang of it at first.
Your body is still recovering from birth, you are dealing with becoming a new parent, and you feel tired and emotionally not yourself. During those first few weeks of parenthood, life can be incredibly tough, and it takes time to adjust.
When you are nursing your new-born, your partner can help and support you, not just morally, but also productively and by making things a little easier on you. In this post we will be sharing how dads can help breastfeeding moms to cope better during this special time.
Mom’s breast milk is formidable stuff – benefits of breastfeeding
Your partner needs to know how powerful your breast milk is. Breast milk is beneficial for both mom and baby and the benefits can last a lifetime.
- Both mom and baby must feel calm and relaxed during nursing.
- A mom’s milk contains hundreds more ingredients than shop bought formula, it boosts baby’s immunity and helps him stay healthier.
- Babies who are breastfed has a decreased risk of contracting stomach issues or infections, obesity, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), diabetes, childhood leukaemia, and heart disease
- You can save money by nursing your baby, since baby formula is not cheap.
- Moms who breastfeed have a lower risk of getting ovarian cancer, diabetes, breast cancer, and heart disease.
The longer you can breastfeed your baby, the better for you and your baby. The recommendation by The American academy of paediatrics, is to nurse your baby for at least one year, or longer and only feed him breast milk for his first six months.
Nursing takes teamwork- here’s how dads can help breastfeeding moms
Moms whose partners are supporting their nursing journey, often nurse longer. Here are some ways how dads can be helpful:
- Encourage your partner to set breastfeeding goals and re-assure her that you will be there every step of the way to offer support.
- Support your partner during pregnancy by planning the delivery as a team. This entails choosing a gynaecologist and hospital that supports nursing, attending doctor’s appointments, and accompanying your partner to prenatal classes.
- Read about baby behaviour so that you know what to expect when baby arrives.
- Encourage skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby during the first hour after giving birth. This goes for moms that had C-sections as well.
- Consider asking the hospital for rooming-in so that you and your partner can have more quality time together with baby and start establishing a routine.
- Hold baby against your bare chest to promote skin-to-skin touch. This is an excellent way for dads to bond with their newborns.
- Be on standby to assist mom and baby when they are still getting the handle of nursing. This means asking a lactation expert or nurse for assistance. Listen to what they have to say and remember it to help mom later.
- Give your partner some private time to nurse and sleep. This means having to tell visitors to come visit at a more convenient time. There is a good chance that your partner does not want other people to be around while she is still getting familiar with the breastfeeding process. It can be incredibly uncomfortable at first, especially when she is still trying to get the baby to latch. She does not want people to think that she has no clue what she is doing. Nursing takes getting used to and the last think she wants is people hanging around and everyone trying to give advice. Breastfeeding is an opportunity for bonding time and intimacy for you as a new family.
Back at home:
Newborns feed between 8 to 12 times a day and sleep for short periods in between. Keep an eye on your baby and try to adjust your timetable during the first weeks.
- Check for hunger signs
You can learn to identify hunger cues and help your partner by bringing the baby to her when it is time for feeds. Babies latch and feed easier when they are not over hungry. This will also assist your partner’s body to make the required milk your baby needs.
- Make sure you are encouraging
Re-assure your partner of how proud you are of her and when she feels discouraged, remind her that she can do it and that it is worth it.
- You can make her more comfortable
Bring her water, a cold compress, a box of tissues, lanolin cream, fresh nursing pads, some snacks or anything else she might need when in the middle of breastfeeding. You can also place a pillow behind her back so that she is comfier.
- Mom needs her sleep
With a newborn this is not always possible. You can help by holding the baby after a feed and allow her to sleep while baby sleeps, change diapers, learn how to soothe baby when she fusses, and take care of household chores and meals. This give mom a chance to take a nap or to take a shower. This way you are helping her, plus you have more quality time with your new-born.
- Call in some reinforcements
If you are unable to be there for your partner, you can turn to friends and family who have offered their help. Even if it is just to do some of the cooking or household chores or hold the baby for a while so that your partner can take a shower.
- Check with her which side she is nursing next
This might sound strange, but during the first few months of a baby’s life, they require extra support. It is not always easy to try and figure out the best position for nursing, while supporting baby’s body and neck. Ask her which side she is nursing next and hand the baby to her when she is ready.
- Heat up her cold coffee for her
Nursing can be time-consuming, and it often happens that she is not finished yet with the cup of coffee or tea she made hours ago.
- Try not to sound judgemental
There are many dietary restrictions when you are breastfeeding, and it can be hard to stick to every single one. First it was the pregnancy and now nursing. Moms can drink caffeine, but in moderation. Try not to sound judgemental about what she is eating or drinking because she is trying to do the best she can.
Instead of telling her not to do something or asking her whey she is doing so, rather arm yourself with knowledge and make a suggestion about a possible substitute. Be supportive instead of making it sound like you are judging every move she makes.
- Burp baby
Burping the baby is an excellent way of how you can participate in baby’s feeding time. You get the chance to hold him and interact with him.
- Change baby’s diapers during the night.
If your partner is breastfeeding in the middle of the night, there is not much else you can do. However, pitching in to take care of the diaper changes can be a huge help. Raising kids should be a team effort and she will love you for it. Mom will also feel less resentful when she has to get up during the night while you are snoozing away.
- Babywearing – There are numerous benefits associated with babywearing. You can wear your new-born in a baby carrier or sling while your partner is taking a shower or taking a nap.
When your partner is going back to work:
Once your partner has to return to work, it is somewhat overwhelming and stressful at first. It is not easy to leave your newborn at home or with a day-care after spending so much time with him during maternity leave.
- Be accepting of the emotional rollercoaster
It can be incredibly emotionally draining to express milk at work. At home she probably expressed too but at least she had your precious newborn with her to hold and caress, or just watch her while she is sleeping peacefully. The thought of someone else feeding and holding her while she is pumping away at work is darn right depressing.
Your partner might be a bit on the emotional side and overly sensitive once she has returned to work. Be supportive and do your best to cheer her up. Show her that you know what she is feeling. Chocolate or her favourite flowers might help. Or print a picture of your baby to place on her desk at work. Just let her emotions be for now because they will eventually pass the influx of hormones has stabilized.<
- Cleaning the pump pieces
Expressing is no joy. To keep up a healthy pump supply you need to express often. No mom feels sexy while she is plugged in and strapped up to make enough milk for the next day. Often, while she is sitting there pumping, everyone else has gone to bed.
Being exhausted after a day at the office and expressing for at least an hour or two, the pump pieces must still be cleaned and sanitized, and the milk be stored in bags and labelled, before going to bed.
Taking this chore off her hands can be incredibly thoughtful. The same goes for dinner times. Many couples work as a team. Whoever cooks, does not have to clean, and vice versa.
- Volunteer to take over some of the feeds
Once your partner starts expressing more than she is breastfeeding, it gives you the opportunity to have some bonding time with the baby during feeds. It is incredibly important for dads to participate and have some bonding time with the baby from as early as possible.
- Encourage her to express and store her breastmilk
Once your partner has mastered the art of breastfeeding and her supply is set, she can start expressing about two weeks prior to returning to work. She might not get tons of milk at first, but the more you pump, the more your body will build up a healthy milk supply to keep up with the demand.
Breast milk can be stored in the freezer and used while she is at work. Regular pumping and nursing will keep milk supply up and your partner will feel more comfortable as well.
It is no secret that nursing a newborn can be challenging, time consuming and hard work, even if it does not appear so. A little assistance from the non-breastfeeding partner can be incredibly useful in giving your partner the support she needs now. Moms have it tough. They go through an entire pregnancy and once they have delivered the baby, they are dealing with all the challenges that goes along with becoming a new parent.
There are numerous ways to help your partner during her breastfeeding journey and to make it a joyful experience. You can even attend a nursing class with your partner. This way you will obtain first-hand knowledge about breastfeeding and the benefits linked to it. You can also learn more about what your partner is going through and how you can offer support while she is nursing.
New dads have a huge learning curve too, just like new moms. And when nursing is thrown into the mix, it is critical for partners to figure out the best methods for dads to assist their partners, and for both parents to feel invested in nursing. A dad’s involvement with his newborn is incredibly important. If breastfeeding is done as a team effort and when nursing moms feel helped and supported by their partners, they tend to breastfeed longer. They also feel more positive about expressing and banking milk once they return to work. They also have more confidence in their nursing capabilities.