If your wife or partner has decided to breastfeed your new baby, she has made a wonderful decision. Countless research studies have purported that the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh those of formula feeding. Decreased symptoms of colic, better sleep and improved digestion are just a few advantages of breast milk. Moreover, this optimal nutrition provides your baby with antibodies that can provide protection against a host of diseases and illnesses. In fact, there are hundreds of ingredients in breast milk that cannot be replicated in formula. Although you may agree that “breast is best”, you may also be anxious in regards to what the breastfeeding process entails and how to support your partner. Your support while your partner breastfeeds is more valuable than you may realize, and fortunately, there are a number of ways you can help to make the breast feeding experience a positive one for the entire family.
In the beginning, breastfeeding can be challenging for both mom and baby. The baby may have problems latching on, mom may have sore and cracked nipples and neither mom nor baby may be able to find a comfortable position. Due to frequent feedings every two to three hours and the associated exhaustion, it is no wonder that many moms give up on breastfeeding altogether. Hence, this is the time when your support is most critical. While you and your partner are still in the hospital, request to speak with a lactation consultation if the hospital has not already offered. Lactation consultants specialize in the art of breastfeeding and can answer all of your questions and concerns. Additionally, they can oversee a feeding and give new moms advice and tips. Make sure that you are involved in this consultation so that you are well informed and know what to expect. When you arrive home, remember that lactation consultants can continue to serve as an excellent resource. Feel free to call these specialists if your partner and baby endure challenges or if you have additional concerns.
It is also helpful to be involved as much as possible during feeding times. When your baby is waking up at all hours of the night, don’t assume that your partner will do all of the work while you snooze away. Sit up with your partner, keep her company and give her the confidence she needs. If mom and baby are struggling with a feeding, encourage her to keep trying and remind her of the suggestions made by the lactation consultant. Always ask her if she needs anything as well. For instance, it is important for nursing moms to drink an adequate amount of water in order to maintain their milk supply.
Once your partner’s milk supply is well established and the first few weeks have passed, breastfeeding may become much less challenging. Continue to encourage your partner and be sensitive to her needs in new situations. For example, some moms may be reluctant to breastfeed in public while others have absolutely no problems with doing so. No matter what issues arise with breastfeeding, support her choices and allow her to openly discuss her feelings with you. In addition, ask your partner how she feels about pumping breast milk in to bottles so that you can feed the baby. This can allow for “dad and baby time” and give her a much-needed break. Although the decision of how long to breastfeed is ultimately up to your partner, encourage her to breastfeed for as long as possible so that your baby can continue to thrive and be healthy.
Breastfeeding is a challenging yet rewarding experience that you and your family will not regret. Remember that you play an important role as a father during feeding times and that your support is vital to both the length and quality of the breastfeeding experience. Having a discussion with a lactation consultant, being involved during feeding times and providing your partner with undivided support and encouragement are indispensable components a happy and healthy nursing mom and baby.