It is very common for a partner that is not carrying the baby to feel less emotionally attached during pregnancy, and to take a little more time to bond with the baby after birth, especially when the mother is breastfeeding.
Knowing that this is normal, and being committed to showing up for your partner, will make all the difference in the breastfeeding experience! Preparing for the journey and providing support will benefit her well-being and state of mind, which also has an impact on her having a better nursing experience.
Below are 5 simple ways you can show support while breastfeeding/pumping:
1. Learn about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience and a huge undertaking. The more you learn about what your partner will experience, the better you can support her.
Learn about milk production, the hormones involved and their impact, the possible pain points and how to manage them, feeding positions, feeding cues (signs your baby is hungry), feeding frequency, using a breast pump, hands-on pumping, cleaning a breast pump, storing breast milk, preparing a bottle and most importantly, understand the benefits of breastmilk.
Having this knowledge will help you empathize with this additional element of change that your partner is going to experience, and may help her feel less like it is her own journey to navigate. You will be able to authentically encourage, support, and understand her decisions about how long she chooses to breastfeed, and any potential change of initial goals she set.
2. Prepare alongside her
Since you don’t have the baby growing inside of you, you may have a more difficult time preparing for the baby’s arrival. During pregnancy, make sure to spend time with your partner educating yourself on what to expect, share an interest in shopping for baby items, ask her how she is feeling, learn about the baby’s growth, and find ways you can begin to bond with the baby while it is still in the womb.
Learn what happens during delivery and communicate with your partner on the birthing and feeding plan. Once the baby arrives, be an advocate for the wishes you and your partner have when it comes to skin to skin, breastfeeding, and rooming-in. The exhaustion of labor may make it difficult for your partner to communicate her wishes.
When the timing is right, have your own skin-to-skin session soon after the delivery and as often as you want in those first few months. With your shirt off, you will hold the baby against your chest which will release hormones in you that help encourage bonding, just like mom!
During the hospital stay, practice changing diapers, handling and bathing the baby, learn feeding cues, check-in with your partner on how she is feeling and how you may be able to help her recover from delivery, and continue taking opportunities to bond and have skin to skin time with your baby.
3. Lend a hand
Once home, many partners report feeling a little helpless in the newborn phase, especially if your partner is breastfeeding. Unsure of how to help, or what your role is until the baby can be tossed around the room and is laughing with you, may cause you to unintentionally go about your normal routine.
Be assured that there are a lot of ways you can help! While at first your baby may want the breast or be sleeping the majority of the time, keep in mind all the responsibilities that your partner can no longer get to. Her entire routine, including sleep, is now occupied by the baby. This is where you can step in.
Do more household chores, change diapers, take the baby for a walk while mom gets in a nap or shower. Wear the baby for a nap while mom gets some time alone, give bottles and wash pump parts. Sit with her while she nurses, offer snacks/water, help pay attention to feeding cues and bring her the baby when it is the ideal time to feed.
Learn with your partner, share concerns and bonding moments.
Above all, ask her how you can help!
4. Provide Emotional Support (to each other)
Let’s be honest, you and your partner’s life is about to be turned upside down! As exciting as it is, and as much love as you will have for your new baby, the daily routine and calendar you have will now look completely different. This is very emotional and stressful. Coupled with a shared lack of sleep, recovering from delivery, adjusting to breastfeeding, and hormones fluctuating – the amount of change can be overwhelming.
Acknowledging that it won’t be easy in advance can help. Have open communication and daily check-ins on how you both are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. Share the frustrations and communicate your needs.
Try your best to give each other small moments of alone time just to breathe and feel like an individual again.
This is all easier said than done, and there will be bumps, which is normal, but knowing the appropriate tools to manage such a huge life change in advance, will help you navigate it all more smoothly!
Something to mentally prepare for is how fast a newborn’s habits and routines can change, and therefore your schedule will too.
You may think “Ah ha! I finally understand what my baby needs!” and bam, the next day is different. These changes may also have an impact on the ways you and your partner need support emotionally and around the house.
Remain flexible and understand that what she/he begged for the days or weeks prior in terms of support, may suddenly be completely different.
As the baby’s routine and needs change, so will yours. Adapt accordingly, communicate, and work together as a team!
We hope these tips will help give you some extra confidence in knowing how to support your partner while breastfeeding/pumping. If you have some additional tips from your own experience, please share them below.