Every nursing journey is unique – but one thing that they all have in common is the need for care and understanding. Which means that looking for how to support a breastfeeding partner is always a great idea!
Here at the moms at odds, we have over 80 combined months (that’s over 6 years!) of breastfeeding experience! So believe us, we know what we’re talking about.
A supportive partner is a huge help while breastfeeding. Unfortunately, many people are pretty unfamiliar with breastfeeding and don’t know quite how to help and be supportive.
So if you’re searching for how to support a breastfeeding partner, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s dive right in.
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How to Support a Breastfeeding Partner
Here are 10 great ways you can support your nursing co-parent.
But remember, there’s not a magical formula that works best for every breastfeeding journey. What may be a helpful method how to support a breastfeeding partner for one individual might not be beneficial for another.
Experiment with what works best and, above all, listen and be there for your partner.
1 | Diaper Duty
A great way to help your breastfeeding partner and bond with baby is to take over the diaper changes.
Since the breastfeeding partner is spending so much time with the baby, it can be easy for the support person to be unsure of their role or even feel left out.
Diapering may not be glamorous, but it is an essential task. It offers ample time for bonding too since newborns require frequent changes. This could be your parenting time to shine.
OK, so you may not be super thrilled about diaper duty, but consider that taking this stinky job off your exhausted partner’s plate can be a sweet way to help.
My husband and I would joke that I handled the input and he handled the output, but it was a system that worked pretty well.
2 | Can I Get You Anything?
Ask this simple question while your partner is breastfeeding, “can I get you anything?”
Or better yet, try “what can I get you?”
Nursing a newborn can take up a surprising amount of time since they need to feed so frequently and are often slow and sleepy eaters. Getting a newborn latched can also be really challenging starting out and figuring out breastfeeding holds with a squirmy baby can make your partner feel like they don’t have enough hands.
All of that means they spend a lot of time stuck in one spot, possibly without any free hand. It can get uncomfortable. They get thirsty, hungry, itchy, and even bored.
They are pinned down and the remote is out of reach, the magazine slips to the floor, and their phone buzzes but it’s sitting across the room.
Understand that it is not easy for them to just hop up and quickly grab anything. Help them out by making sure they have whatever they need whether it’s entertainment, a drink, a tissue, or an extra burp cloth.
3 | Water
Drinking water is essential when nursing. After all, breast milk is 90% water!
Breastfeeding individuals should aim to drink 128 oz of water per day. Problem is, when you’re busy taking care of a newborn, it’s easy to forget to get yourself a drink.
Bring your partner some water when they sit down for a breastfeeding session or any other time they look like they need one.
Drinking water by itself can get boring, so make it fun by infusing it with fruit (try pineapple and parsley!) or getting yummy flavored varieties from the store.
I also found it extremely helpful to have a water bottle marked with time guides so I was able to keep track of my water intake throughout the day. Consider getting a fun motivational jug as a surprise gift!
4 | Learn About Breastfeeding
There is a steep learning curve to breastfeeding so your partner is likely putting in a lot of time and effort into learning everything. While it might seem like you don’t need to know this stuff too, after all you’re not the one breastfeeding, sharing this knowledge is incredibly helpful.
For instance, you could take a breastfeeding class together or read the same book about it.
One reason to do this is so you learn the terms, like ‘latch’, ‘let down’, ‘plugged ducts’, and so many more, so you’ll be able to have conversations with your partner and understand what they’re talking about. Also, it keeps your partner from constantly having to explain things to you. This might not seem like a big deal, but it shouldn’t be their responsibility to teach you about breastfeeding. They are busy feeding a baby and don’t need that extra burden of educating you as well.
Knowing what to expect in terms of feeding frequency and duration can also help avoid unrealistic expectations. Plus, there is just so much information to remember and two heads can be better than one.
Ultimately, learning about breastfeeding is really important, not only because it shows your commitment to supporting your partner, but also makes it easier to know how to continue to help them.
5 | Emphasize
Breastfeeding can be an incredibly emotional, frustrating, beautiful, difficult, and rewarding experience… all at the same time. It’s a constant roller coaster.
Being a 24 hour all-you-can-eat buffet is exhausting. Encouraging baby to latch correctly can frustrate you to the point of tears. But seeing them smile up at you while nursing makes your heart melt.
It’s also incredibly stressful! You worry if your baby is getting enough to eat, when the next feeding will be, and how on earth you’re supposed to get anything else done when you’re sitting down nursing 6-8 hours per day.
As a partner, it’s impossible to truly “get it” and understand. But empathy goes a long way.
Be there to listen to your partner vent. Don’t immediately try to jump in with a solution. Listen, emphasize, and make them feel valued.
Most importantly, remind them they are a wonderful parent and are doing an amazing job. Also that you’ll be there for them, and whatever they need, throughout the entire journey.
6 | Food
Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories. Which means that when you’re breastfeeding, you feel hungry ALL. THE. TIME.
Help them fight those munchies by bringing a snack to your partner when they sit down for a nursing session. Make sure it’s a snack that’s easy to eat one-handed.
On a similar note, make sure the house is stocked with snacks (both healthy and otherwise). In particular, be sure to grab some delicious breastfeeding snacks (like Munchkin Milkmakers Lactation Bars – yummm!)
7 | Clean Pump Parts
Cleaning and sanitizing pump accessories is by far the worst part of breastfeeding. And, yes, that includes latching struggles and getting bit… repeatedly.
One of the best ways how to support a breastfeeding partner is to share in the responsibility of cleaning the pumping parts and bottles.
Parts need to be thoroughly rinsed daily and kept in the fridge. They should be sanitized every couple of days.
8 | Offer to Take a Feeding
I’ll be honest, this method for how to support a breastfeeding partner can be controversial. It’s a huge help for some, for others it can come off as offensive.
Offer to give your partner a break from nursing for a feeding.
If your partner is pumping, you could give baby expressed milk in a bottle. If not, formula could be given for the occasional feeding.
However if your partner is still establishing their milk supply, they’ll have to pump to make up for the missed feeding (which is why it might not be super helpful).
My husband and I had a great system to help me get a few extra hours of sleep when our first baby was young. I would pump right before going to bed and he would take the first night wake up. This would guarantee I got at least a couple hours of continuous sleep before the second wake.
9 | Lighten Their Load
Since breastfeeding is so time-intensive to start out, taking over some of your partner’s usual responsibilities can be incredibly helpful.
Your partner is likely going to be super busy with breastfeeding for a while. This leaves a lot less time for them to tackle any cleaning or cooking or walking the dog or whichever chores they’d normally handle.
Some things can often slide a bit, but some, like feeding everyone or caring for older children, simply can not be ignored. These can cause a lot of stress as your partner tries to do everything while breastfeeding.
Taking over the household tasks is an amazing way to support your breastfeeding partner. It makes their life a bit easier so they can focus on feeding the baby.
10 | Have Their Back
If you’re very lucky everyone in your lives will be supportive of breastfeeding, but that is not always the case for everyone.
It can be hard and awkward when criticism, judgement, or even just intrusive questions
come from friends and family. Showing that you’re supportive and a united front about breastfeeding can help your partner face discouraging remarks and may even help limit these comments.
If your partner wants privacy while feeding, be willing to be the one to kick out the visitors. If they’re nervous breastfeeding in public, sit with them and ward off any busybodies.
Wrapping Up How to Support a Breastfeeding Partner
So there are 10 of the best ways for you to be involved, help and support your breastfeeding partner.
Did we miss anything? If you breastfeed, how did your partners support you? What were the most helpful things they did?
Share your ideas for how to support a breastfeeding partner in the comments!