by: Adrienne Koznek, IBCLC
It feels incredibly intuitive that support is necessary when caring for a new baby, but in fact, there is research that shows this. Studies show that informal support – from a partner in particular – tends to have more influence on breastfeeding initiation and continuation than formal support from a healthcare provider. In the early days of having a newborn, the non-breastfeeding partner may feel concerned that they can’t do much to help with the baby. On the contrary, there are plenty of things to do to support the breastfeeding mother – here are just a few of them.
- Bring snacks. One-handed snacks like nuts, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, and fruit are ideal because generally one hand is occupied when nursing the baby. Breastfeeding moms are a hungry bunch – they require about 300-500 additional calories. Snacking becomes a way of life when breastfeeding.
- Bring water. Breastfeeding can make a mom very thirsty – the initial letdown is sometimes like a switch gets flipped and they need water NOW.
- Help her get comfortable. A successful breastfeeding session starts with the mom’s comfort. Pillows behind the back, a stool for the feet, or a blanket are all ways to increase comfort. Not to mention mom will probably be there for a while (babies can nurse for anywhere from 10-40 minutes).
- If any breastfeeding tools are being used (supplemental nursing systems, nursing pillows, etc) give a hand in helping get them ready. It makes a nursing session much easier if these things are at the ready when it’s time to sit down.
- If mom is pumping breast milk, washing pump parts is one of the nicest things a partner can do to help. If there is a pumping plan in place or if mom is working outside the home, having pump parts ready to go is greatly appreciated.
- When the baby wakes in the middle of the night to nurse, change the diaper. It’s a great opportunity to work as a team – the non-breastfeeding partner changes the diaper so the breastfeeding partner can focus on feeding the baby.
- Bring the baby over. If the baby is in a separate sleeping space, a very supportive action is to get up and bring baby over for mom. It’s one less thing mom has to worry about, which is always helpful.
- Give encouragement. Breastfeeding can be difficult – especially in the early days, and especially when you’re sleep-deprived. Moms want to hear that they’re doing a great job, and a wonderful thing for their baby.
- Give mom a break. After a 2-hour cluster feeding session, mom may want a hot bath or a moment to rest. Talk to your partner about tag-teaming and make sure everyone is getting at least some rest.
- Help mom find support. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally, and many moms need additional support in the beginning. Find local resources like the nearest IBCLC, mom’s groups, or Baby Blues Connection and have a list available if she needs them.
Consider these ways to be involved in the breastfeeding journey – your partner will be grateful for the support and encouragement.