How you can support a breastfeeding parent and baby

Establishing a good breastfeeding relationship can be a challenging time for a new parent, even if things are going very well.  Adjusting to being a parent, learning all about your new baby”s likes and dislikes, balancing your partners needs, and possibly balancing the needs of other children can be really taxing and overwhelming for a new parent.

Often the partner can feel left out as so much attention is focused on the birth parent and the new baby.  The partner is also adjusting to all the changes that a new baby brings to a family.  As the partner of the lactating parent your main job is to support your partner.  You are their world of support both physically and mentally.  As they heal from childbirth they will need help making sure that they are well nourished both physically and mentally.  They need a sounding board as they figure out how to breastfeed, how to trust their parenting instincts, and how to navigate the healthcare system to advocate for them and their baby.

So, what can you do to help?

  • First of all listen.  Listen to their wants and needs and fears.  Empathize with them as they make order of their new world.
  • Bring them healthy snacks and drinks.
  • Offer to hold and rock your sleeping baby so your partner can rest.
  • Find out the contact information for local breastfeeding support.  La Leche League Canada is a great resource for peer support.  Find your public health breastfeeding clinics and your local IBCLC.  All of these are great resources to help figure out any breastfeeding issues they may be having.
  • Encourage them to ask for breastfeeding help early on if things don’t feel right.  It is a lot harder to solve breastfeeding issues if they have been going on for weeks as opposed to days.
  • Do not offer to feed the baby by bottle so they can sleep.  This sabotages the establishment of their milk supply and can lead to many breastfeeding complications.
  • Encourage them to practice breastfeeding in many situations.  Encourage them to breastfeed in public.  Asking them to cover up in front of family, friends, and strangers only makes breastfeeding seem like something shameful that needs to be hidden.  It also makes it another barrier for parents to get out of the house.
  • If you need to return to work soon after the baby is born, help arrange for some assistance  with the household chores.  Taking care of a new baby is overwhelming and time consuming.  Having help with cooking, cleaning and older children for the first few weeks is very useful.
  • Most of all bond with the new baby yourself.  Skin-to-skin snuggling with you is just as important as it is with the lactating parent.  Wear your new baby is a wrap or sling, change diapers, give baby a bath.  All of these are wonderful ways for you and baby to get to know each other and establish your own rituals and routines.

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