According to the CDC, an estimated 60% of mothers don’t breastfeed as long as they intended. For many, this early departure from breastfeeding stems from an overall lack of support.
While breastfeeding is an entirely natural source of infant nutrition, it’s not as simple as a mother holding her baby to her breast. Even without complications like lip ties, the demanding breastfeeding schedule can put a strain on both new and experienced mothers.
The good news is that your partner doesn’t have to do it all alone. There are ways that you can provide breastfeeding support to both your partner and your baby. Read on for our guide for dads.
Understand the Commitment
A newborn baby will need to eat every two to three hours, with some showing hunger queues even more frequently. By two months, they may be able to go up to four hours without eating. By six months, they’ll need to eat every five hours.
Your breastfeeding partner won’t get a full night’s sleep for several consecutive months after giving birth. Throughout the day, she may be exhausted and have little time to rest or meet all of her needs, much less work, cook, clean, and run errands. The first step in breastfeeding support is understanding just how significant this commitment is.
Provide Emotional Support
Your partner may face a series of emotional complications after giving birth. One in seven will develop post-partum depression. Even those who don’t may struggle with their changing hormones, disrupted sleep schedules, and the difficulties that can come with breastfeeding.
Remind your partner often that you see how much they’re doing to take care of your baby. Offer them words of breastfeeding encouragement every day and make space for them to talk about how they’re feeling. Staying emotionally connected is crucial, as breastfeeding can feel like an isolating experience for mothers.
Assist with Caretaking
Make as much time as possible to assist with additional caretaking. This includes changing diapers, bathing, putting your baby down for naps, and taking strolls. When the time comes, help your partner to maintain a consistent feeding schedule with bottle feeding.
We often think of breastfeeding as the primary form of bonding with a newborn, but dads can also take steps to bond. Talk to and play with your baby often. You can also cradle your baby skin-to-skin and carry your baby in a sling to create feelings of closeness and safety.
Assist with Chores
Regardless of how you divided household chores before the baby was born, now is a great time to take on more of the daily load. If your partner has a particular way of doing things, talk to her about how you can get involved.
Taking a few things off her plate, like doing a load of laundry, picking up prescriptions and groceries, or tidying up the home, can make a big difference. The goal is not only to give her more time to rest but to reduce her mental burden.
Make Sure Mom’s Needs Are Met
We all have basic needs that we strive to meet each day. This includes things like the need to eat, the need to hydrate, the need to rest, and the need for basic hygiene. Because mothers are needed so frequently for breastfeeding, they don’t always have time to check their own boxes.
Create a comfortable space for breastfeeding and provide things like water and breastfeeding snacks. Set aside what you’re doing to look after the baby while your partner takes a shower, a nap, or has a bit of me-time. By keeping the line of communication open, you can allow your partner to tell you what she needs, rather than trying to guess.
Respect Her Threshold for Touch
Some breastfeeding mothers can feel averse to physical touch because they are so often sharing their bodies with their babies. Others may experience an increased need for physical comfort. The best way to assess your partner’s threshold for touch is to talk about it, read her body language, and respect her when she needs physical space.
It is understandable if your partner’s aversion to touch is difficult for you to handle. You might crave a feeling of closeness or connection during this time. Remember that this is temporary and find alternative ways to stay connected to your partner.
Facilitate Social Time
Between getting limited sleep and needing to provide round-the-clock care, many mothers of infants don’t have the opportunity to socialize. While being surrounded by family and friends may prove overwhelming, your partner may appreciate the chance to spend a few hours with loved ones. Particularly in the early months, this may require her to breastfeed at some point during the visit or outing.
If and when your partner breastfeeds in front of others or in public, show that you’re comfortable with it. Sit by her side and continue to make conversation, signaling to her and anyone else involved that what she’s doing is perfectly natural. If necessary, remind others that breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states.
Discuss Additional Breastfeeding Support
Many mothers can benefit from additional breastfeeding support and breastfeeding tips from a lactation professional. Whether the baby isn’t latching, their milk supply isn’t sufficient, or they can’t seem to get on a consistent schedule, lactation consultants can help.
As a dad, you can learn more about available resources and help schedule appointments. Remind your partner that seeking professional assistance is nothing more than a sign of love and commitment to the baby.
Talk to a Lactation Consultant at KBC
So often, we think of breastfeeding as an act of caretaking that only involves two people. The truth is that dads can provide a great deal of breastfeeding support during this busy and emotional time.
At Kentucky Breastfeeding Center, we offer personalized lactation consultants for prenatal, new, and experienced mothers. Together, we can address the many difficulties and complications that come with breastfeeding to create a better outcome for the whole family. Schedule an appointment today to get started.