The benefits of breastfeeding are both immediate and lifelong – it provides on-tap nutrition as and when baby needs it and creates the building blocks of brain development and immunity that will carry your child through life. The fact that something is natural doesn’t mean that it comes naturally or is easy and breastfeeding is no exception. It takes practice and persistence and, more importantly, it takes support. If your partner, friend or relative is breastfeeding, there are a few things that you can do to make things a little easier for her. Some of these tips are also worth bearing in mind when you’re sitting beside a breast-feeding mom in a café. Sometimes all she might need is an understanding smile or a nod (rather than the downcast eye because you think looking in her direction could be perceived as creepy or rude!).
It’s worth having a discussion before the baby arrives about what the expectations are. If your partner intends to breastfeed, she will be doing all the night feeds to begin with so talk about what you can do. By bathing baby every evening, for example, you will have some one-on-one time with them and your partner can take a nap. Plans made in advance usually run more smoothly than those made during periods of major changes and sleep deprivation! After baby has fed, if he needs to be winded or changed, that could be where you offer to step in. Never under-estimate the value of doing what seems like a mundane task or enabling your partner to have free hands, even if only for a few minutes. Acknowledge that it’s a tough job but she’s doing it brilliantly. It may seem like a moot point but when you’re bleary-eyed from tiredness and your body feels like it belongs to someone else, the smallest amount of praise can really spur you on.
Have a think about the physical things you can stay on top of for your partner or friend too. Keep her topped up with fresh water (think hangover thirst on a hot day – that’s how much hydration a breastfeeding mom requires), healthy snacks, comfortable pillows and within reach of TV remotes, books etc. Look up what you don’t understand – a quick google search can often yield a new insight when you or your partner are feeling a little overwhelmed.
Breastfeeding might all be new to you but the payoff is tremendous so invest some time and thought into supporting its ongoing success.
For quality-assured information on breastfeeding, log on to www.breastfeeding.ie