Nikki C is wearing the 'Everyday Bra' in alaska, the 'Casual Tank' in lavender and the 'Classic Maternity Leggings,' in aspen.
When you first have a child, there are so many new things thrust upon parents…we must quickly become experts at car seat installation, bottle sterilization, nappy changing, rocking, burping, bathing (the baby that is, not you!) and for many of us ladies – breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is often perceived to be the ‘woman’s job,’ but this shouldn’t be the case - there are many things a partner can and should do to help a new mum on her journey. A supportive partner can easily transform breastfeeding into a solid ‘team effort.’ Nursing is not always easy, and for many women it can be painful initially, as well as mentally and emotionally draining. A woman’s former life of complete independence has come to a grinding halt…for now…so help her find her new ‘normal’ as soon as possible…then watch her grow into a confident, butt-kicking mama!
Here are 10 things you can do to help your partner positively adjust to breastfeeding:
1. Help care for the baby – be a dad! Feeding is only one of the many tasks involved in taking care of a newborn. There are many other ways to interact and care for your baby; such as bathing, massaging, cuddling, playing, changing, burping or even just being the ‘mattress’ in which your bubs sleeps on for a few hours at a time! Doing these things will not only enable you to bond more effectively, but it will also give your partner the freedom to do whatever she needs to do in the short space of time she has ‘free’ until the next feed.
2. Encourage her: Breastfeeding is a learned skill, it’s not always instinctive and can take a bit of getting used to! Mum and baby have to learn how to do this together. Encourage your partner, tell her how well she’s doing! Comment on when you think the baby has put on weight (she will love that!), marvel at the size of his/her latest poo (seriously…as weird as it sounds it’s a visual indication she’s giving the baby exactly what it needs), and also if things aren’t working out, let her know that it’s 100% okay if she decides to mix feed, or to put bubs on formula full-time…she gave it a shot, good on her!
3. Make her comfortable: In the early days, your partner could be feeding anywhere from 40m-1hr at a time. Go get her water bottle (she will be VERY thirsty), a snack (one she can eat with one hand is handy!), her phone, the remote, and maybe a few more pillows or cushions so she can get cosy. She will love you even more!
4. Curb the anxiety: Remind your partner that she doesn’t have to do this alone and there are people who can help her if she needs it. Lactation consultations, midwives, nurses, experienced mums, friends, sisters, nanas etc. might be able give her a tiny bit of advice (like changing the feeding position) that could make all the difference.
5. Educate yourself: Often women do a lot of the research when it comes to breastfeeding…but perhaps having some knowledge on nipple shields, creams, holds, stats etc. might be welcomed by your partner! Having a bit of a clue will definitely make her feel like you’re in this together.
6. Be a breastfeeding advocate: Turn people away if they want to visit (especially in the first six weeks) as your partner may prefer to feed in private, or needs sleep to recuperate. Voice your support to well-meaning people who make statements like, "are you sure he has enough milk?" Your answer, “yes because he has six-eight wet nappies a day and put on 250grams last week!” YES DAD! Encourage your partner to feed in public, she should feel totally confident doing this. Give the ‘evil eye’ to anyone who lets off a negative vibe towards her! Buy her some breastfeeding clothing! The number one item she’ll need is a nursing bra – check out the bras on offer at Cadenshae – they’re perfect for lounging around the house or getting active in.
Nikki is wearing a 'Bamboo Workout Tee.'
7. Do more around the house, so she has the freedom to feed: You’ll soon go back to work so make your presence known while you’re home and get things sorted! Put up those frames she’s been asking you to do for a year, make the meals, do the washing, clean the car, stock the fridge, mow the lawns…just get stuff done!. Breastfeeding will take up more time than you think, so you’ll have the freedom to do these jobs – plus the instant gratification of achieving something will be good for you too.
8. Love her: Give your partner at least three hugs and kisses a day. Let her know that you support her breastfeeding and that you love her.
9. Learn to bottle feed: After about six weeks, your partner might choose to pump so you can bottle feed your baby too. Get involved! It’s not scary and a lot of fun. Men often bond more with their babies when feeding them, it’s a special experience. Show an interest, and show some initiative, learn about how many millilitres or ounces a baby needs at the various stages, learn how to sterilize properly and the best way to heat bottles. Take ownership, this way, your partner will feel more confident to get out of the house and have some much needed ‘alone time,’ not to mention you could do a feed at night to give her more of a rest if need be.
10. Look after yourself: And last, but by no means least - look after yourself. Get the sleep you need to get through the nights and days, exercise, eat well, take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Having a baby is a huge adjustment for not just the mum, but the dad too – and sometimes society forgets this. We see you…take care of yourself daddy, you’re so needed and loved!
Written by Ellen Chisholm in conjunction with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant - Julia Daly.