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10 ways (and more) dads and partners can support breastfeeding mums and newborns

Having a new baby can be very exciting but can also be daunting and exhausting.  They might be small, but they require full time care – feeding, changing, settling.  If breastfeeding, the mother must shoulder a lot of the caring responsibility.  So, it is understandable that a husband, partner, or support person/s may ask what they can do to help.


How to support breastfeeding

Many think that taking over a feed or 2 during the day or night might be the answer.  But this could actually cause more issues than it solves.  Breastfeeding is about more than just feeding the baby – the mother needs to have the milk removed from the breast, so that her body knows how much it needs to make.  So, if a feed is done away from the breast, she should express to maintain her supply, and reduce mastitis.

 

But then you have the effort of setting up a pump, washing parts, and potentially not expressing enough for the next feed – which can cause distress. (Note: low expressing output does not automatically mean that the mother is not making enough milk overall – if you are concerned about this you should seek expert advice from an IBCLC).

 

The effort of expressing may negate the helpfulness of someone else doing the feeding.

 

So, what can be done instead?

 

Being a mother and a midwife for more than a decade, I have a good idea of what could be done, but I wanted to know what other mothers and support people thought on this, so I asked my Facebook and Instagram followers for suggestions.  A big thanks to those who gave their suggestions!  (If you have any others here is the FB post)

 

Here is what they had to say (plus I’ve added in a few others):

  • Filling water bottles while feeding and before bed

  • Running a bath

  • Holding the baby while showering

  • Entertain other children

  • Making sure the car always has enough petrol

  • Wash pump/bottle parts

  • Settle after the feeding

  • Overnight change the baby and bring to mum for the feeding

  • Shopping, cooking/meal prep, cleaning around the house or organise someone else to come do it, emptying the bins, looking after pets, etc

  • The bedtime routine until the baby is ready to feed – eg, bath, dressing, reading a story, etc

  • Emotional support – listen, be understanding even if they don’t fully understand – having a baby comes with big emotions and hormonal fluctuations.  Roles change, patience and understanding might be needed on both sides

 



I especially like the suggestion of keeping petrol topped up!


Above all else, keep communication open and flowing – sometimes assuming that you know what is needed might not be helpful or appreciated.  But also take responsibility – there are some basics in life that need to be done, like the laundry, shopping, eating, etc.

 

Do you need to feed the baby to bond with the baby?

Often breastfeeding is praised as a wonderful bonding experience for the mother and baby – it is understandable then that fathers/partners think they need to feed the baby to bond with them.

 

This is not true.

 

No one ever needs to feed a baby to bond with them!

 

There are many things those around the baby can do to bond with them – simply holding them while they sleep is enough.

 

But here are some other suggestions:

  • Bath time

  • Read a book – it doesn’t have to be a baby book, you could choose your favourite novel, a non-fiction book or even a magazine on your favourite topic

  • Take baby on a walk

  • Settling after a feed

  • Do an activity that is just for you and the baby

 

If breastfeeding is taking some time to establish or there are issues, being supportive and helping find solutions can also be very helpful.  Mothers don’t always have the answer – they may not be able to tell you exactly what they need or want, so ask.

 

If you are in Perth and need help with breastfeeding, or if you’re due to have a baby soon and want to know more about what to expect, please get in touch – www.cherishedparenting.com.au/breastfeeding-support-and-education

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