There's a saying that it takes two to make a baby and a village to raise one.
Partners and families can make the difference in a long list of areas - and breastfeeding is no exception.
The early weeks with a new baby are incredibly joyful - but can also be tiring, overwhelming and stressful. All of these emotions are normal for the entire family.
Spend time figuring out how you can support the new mom and baby:
- Create the family team: Mothers and babies need time to recover from birth and learn how to breastfeed. A supportive network of loved ones can make a huge difference to a successful feeding relationship.
- Arrange to take time off work after the baby is born to help the new mother recover and care for the baby. It's especially important for a support person to stay overnight with the new mom in the hospital after the baby is born.
- Bond with your baby through skin to skin contact, bathing, changing and spending quality time together.
- Understand the importance of breastfeeding and educate yourself on the basics, such as supply and demand - the more the baby feeds, the more milk the mother makes.
- Don't be afraid to ask your families for help.
The gift of listening
When a new mother shares her worries and frustrations, she isn't necessarily asking for advice - she might just want you to listen and understand how hard it is to be a new mother. When you see your partner struggling with breastfeeding, you may be tempted to say "Why don’t you just give baby a bottle?" This can be discouraging! It might be more helpful to say "I know you are tired, but you are doing a great job. What can I do to help?"
Support your partner with positive comments and share the joys and worries that new babies bring. Find time to be together even if it is for a walk with the baby or a cup of tea while the baby sleeps on your chest or in your arms.
Lower your expectations of yourself and your partner. Caring for a new baby is a 24 hour job. Offer practical help with baby care and household tasks. If you can’t be available, find someone who can. Ask family and friends to help you support your partner so it doesn’t fall completely on your shoulders.
When breastfeeding is not going well, mothers can feel like giving up. If your partner becomes overwhelmed:
- Ask her what she needs to feel supported.
- Remind her that she does have a choice - and even though you have confidence that she can overcome her challenges, she can still be a good mother if she decides not to continue. If she feels like she has a choice, it may be easier to continue breastfeeding.
- Remind her that breastfeeding does not have to be 'all or nothing'. Any breastfeeding is better than none. She could choose to breastfeed and offer some formula or express milk for a day.
- Help her set small goals - breastfeeding is not forever! Small goals could be getting through the next feeding or trying to breastfeed for another week.
- Take the baby out for a walk and let the new mom sleep.
- Praise her for how hard she's working.
- Discuss her choices and what life would look like if she made those choices. Sometimes mothers stop breastfeeding because they think it takes up too much time. However, they discover they spend more time making formula and preparing bottles and have to find new ways to comfort their child.
- Help her find the support she needs. For more information about support for breastfeeding, click here.
- Let her know that you will love and support her through any decision she makes.
Bonding Without a Bottle
Some dads and partners worry that they won't effectively bond with their baby unless they can bottle-feed. In fact, there are so many other ways that partners can bond with their little ones and support the baby's need to breastfeed. Try skin-to-skin cuddling, bathing, changing, walking, reading to, and burping your baby. You have an amazing opportunity to build a relationship based on fun, not food!
Resources & Links:
HealthLink BC: Sleep Rest and Breastfeeding
Find detailed information about how, and where, to find health services and resources across BC with the HealthLink BC Service Locator. Staff at your local public health office will be able to help you access pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding and parenting support and resources in your community.