Supporting your breastfeeding partner or co-parent
Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn’t always come easily. Breastfeeding can be demanding for the parent feeding – both physically and emotionally. You can help to make it a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. For the difficult days, and for all the others, there is lots of free support available.
Why is it so important that you are involved in breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a decision that you and your partner or co-parent can make together. If you do choose to breastfeed, you are one of the first people your partner will turn to for support. Without your support, your they are more likely to give up breastfeeding earlier than they had planned. Your help is important to help them achieve their breastfeeding goals.
There are lots of ways that you can help.
Be part of the conversation.
Breastfeeding can be exhausting and overwhelming. Sometimes when we feel this way, we find it difficult to retain new information – it happens to everyone! You will receive lots of advice about breastfeeding from different healthcare professionals – you should be part of all of those conversations.
Attend antenatal appointments and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions! You can also help by making notes during appointments and doing extra research if needed.
Know when to get support.
Your midwife and health visitor are available to support you both of you. If you have any concerns, you can contact them for support. There are also lots of free local and national helplines that you can call for advice, day or night.
Give your partner a break.
Your newborn baby will eat and sleep a lot in those first few months. Some partners and co-parents worry that they might feel like a spare part. But there are lots of ways that you can spend precious time together and give your breastfeeding partner a break after feeding.
You could wind your baby between feeds, give them a bath before bed, take them for a walk, or visit friends and family. Skin-to-skin contact with you is also a really easy way to help calm your baby and bond during those early days.
Create a safe space
For many families, having a new babies means lots of visitors! Although it is wonderful to introduce your baby to your loved ones, having lots of people in your home can disrupt your breastfeeding schedule. Noise and lots of activity can unsettle your baby and mean they’re less likely to have a successful feed.
It’s important that your partner and baby are given time, space, and quiet to establish feeding in the early days. If your baby or partner seems tired or overwhelmed by visitors, ask friends and family to rearrange their plans.
Take parental leave.
Every parent is entitled to paid time away from work to be with their new child. Even if you do not live in the same house as your breastfeeding parent, you are still entitled to parental leave.
Being available for emotional and practical support during the early days can really help get breastfeeding off to a good start. Do your research, speak with your employer, and make sure you know your rights.
Enjoy some skin-to-skin time
Sometimes young babies can get frustrated when trying to feed. Skin-to-skin contact with you can help to clam them down.
If your partner and baby are having a challenging feed, try taking baby for some quiet cuddle time with you. Feeling warm skin next to theirs will calm them. You might find that they will latch better next time around.
Help keep the house ship-shape.
We all know how tiring it can be to keep on top of the household chores. Many birthing parents stay at home with their baby for longer than their partner or co-parent. They can end up feeling overwhelmed and unhappy about the pressure of juggling breastfeeding with keeping the house clean and tidy – especially when they might get lots of unexpected visitors popping by to see the baby!
Are there ways you can help reduce the pressure? Could you arrange for a family member to do the shopping while you’re at work? Or ask someone to pop by to do a couple of loads of washing? If you live separately to your baby and co-parent, could you book a grocery delivery or arrange a regular day to cook dinner?
Support with expressing.
Lots of people choose to start expressing when they return to work, or if they live separately from their baby’s other parent. Expressing involves manually removing milk from the breast (some people use a machine, and other people express by hand). For many parents, expressing enables them to continue giving breastmilk to their baby for longer.
If your partner is expressing, you could feed your baby the expressed milk using a bottle.
What to expect
For many parents, breastfeeding is a skill they learn together with their baby. Almost everyone experiences challenges to start with. However, with the right support, it will get easier over time.
Research shows us that the same or similar things happen to most parents and babies when they are breastfeeding. From milk supply, to discomfort, to teething – find out what to expect at key stages of your breastfeeding journey.