Here’s one for the Dads. Partners have a huge role in breastfeeding, but at face value, it seems like there’s not much you can do because you don’t have the goods.
So here’s some amazing facts about breastmilk and tips on how you can get involved. You may even be able to teach your wife something she doesn’t know:
- Human milk is for human babies. And no formulas come close to replicating it.
- Breastmilk adapts to your child’s age and health needs. If bubba is sick, Mama’s body picks up on that through feedback between the nipple and saliva, and the milk will adapt to make the antibodies baby needs to get better. The same thing happens if Mama is exposed to a bug so that baby has some protection. It’s cheap, and requires no preparation.
- Breastmilk with its healing properties can be used on gunky eyes, rashes, in the bath-tub for silky soft baby skin, and I’ve known parents who drink it to cure sore throats. It is 100% nutritionally complete, and baby needs no other foods or fluids for the first 6 months of their life.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of Mama developing breast and ovarian cancers, and reduces bub’s risk of SIDS, infections, childhood obesity and dental malocclusions (Australian Breastfeeding Association).
These are some of the practical things you can do to help and be involved in breastfeeding:
1 – Keep Her Comfortable & Nourished
This one’s all about the practical things, that seem simple and easy, yet to a Mama will mean the world, and will make for a more enjoyable journey learning how to breastfeed.
When she’s feeding, she’ll get really thirsty and probably peckish – bring her a drink and some snacks. Mama might be stuck under a snuggly feeding baby for quite some time – help her get comfy with a pillow under her arms, the TV remote, and her phone for mindless Facebook scrolling and replying to the dozens of messages.
Through the night you could get up to grab baby and bring them to Mama while she gets herself settled in and comfortable. Or maybe do a quick nappy change while she gets ready to feed.
Personally, my ultimate, number one, hands down the most helpful thing Hubby would do for me was cut up my food. You can just about guarantee baby will want to feed as soon as you sit down for dinner. With Hubby’s help, I got very good at sitting on the sofa, baby on one side feeding, and a plate on the other side that I could just stab at with my fork.
2 – Cheer Her On
Breastfeeding comes easily to some, but many women will tell you it can be tough. Particularly in those first several weeks.
Nipple pain, cracks, blisters, cluster feeding, learning how to position and latch babe, worries about supply – there’s so many different hurdles that can come up.
The good thing is that more often than not, they are all able to be overcome with the right help and information (from an expert/IBCLC) and with the right support (from YOU!).
Never underestimate the value of a compliment. Tell her how proud you are, how much you appreciate what she’s doing for your child, how you recognise the effort it takes and that you are in awe of her! A few genuine, kind words can make all the difference.
Maybe Mama is about to break, and your encouragement is enough to get her through another day. In those hard times, it always helped me to remember the saying ‘never give up on your hardest day’.
3 – Choose Positive Ways To Help
Remember that if Mama is breastfeeding and giving it a red hot go, it’s probably because it is important to her and that’s ideally what she wants for her baby.
If Mama’s having a tough time, whether it be due to sheer exhaustion, postnatal hormones, processing the birth, difficulty getting confidence in breastfeeding, pain, a cluster feeding baby (the list goes on), instead of suggesting you give bub a bottle of formula, try this instead.
- Contact an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for professional support. Midwives can be helpful too, but we have nowhere near the amount of knowledge of an IBCLC – breastfeeding is their area of expertise.
- Research different positions baby can be fed in – side-lying is a great one for Mama to relax! There’s lots of videos on YouTube That can help you to help her.
- Learn about common problems and strategies to overcome them, instead of suggesting formula. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has lots of helpful information about tongue ties, lactose overload, painful latch, common concerns and so on. They also have a free 24/7 Helpline 1800 686 286
- Wash up breast pump parts and bottles – after all the time it takes to feed, pump and settle a baby, there’s nothing worse than having to do the clean up.
- Support her to have the confidence to breastfeed while out and about, sometimes parent rooms aren’t accessible, and it’s her legal right to feed wherever and however she chooses (Sex Discrimination Act 1984).
Of course, it’s important to listen and support your partner if she’s certain that she’d no longer like to breastfeed, but always encourage her not to make that decision on her hardest day.
You can also use positive affirmations, like our Breastfeeding Affirmation Cards, to help promote positive thoughts and support her through this time. You can find them here:
4 – Find Your Own Magic
One way to make breastfeeding easier for Mama, is to take pressure off of her in other ways. Find your own magic with bub.
You might even find that only you can get them to burp the best and relieve their sore tummy. Dad’s also have a special way of settling babies after Mama has fed. You don’t smell like breastmilk, and you have a strong heartbeat and warm body. That makes for one cosy, content baby.
You could even have your own special song that only Daddy sings, keep bath time as bonding time for Dad and babe, or get good at occupying the older kids while Mama feeds.
5 – Get Savvy
The more educated you are about the ins and outs of breastmilk and breastfeeding, the better you can support and help Mama.
It’s statistically proven that women with good support from their partner are far more likely to breastfeed for a longer duration and have a more positive experience.
You can find good information through the Australian Breastfeeding Association (website), Pinky McKay books (IBCLC/Author), The Milk Meg (IBCLC/Facebook), and hear from other Dads through YouTube videos like “Dads Know Breast Is Best” which you can view here.