Partners Can’t Breastfeed

When expecting a baby, many partners find themselves in unfamiliar territory.  The physical changes are all happening to the mum – the belly is growing, the skin stretches when the baby’s foot kicks and the mother often feels very different.  Partners on the other hand, don’t usually feel any different physically but do start taking on other various roles – like protector and support person.

It is these roles that can really make a huge difference to a mother and baby’s success at breastfeeding.  Research by the World Health Organisation suggests that a mother who’s partner is supportive of breastfeeding is more likely to reach their breastfeeding goals.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that when the baby’s parents are on the same page about breastfeeding, it helps them to make informed decisions about what is best for their baby and how to access support if there are breastfeeding challenges.

Before a baby arrives, a partner can

  • Go to a breastfeeding education session
  • Learn about what’s normal for breastfed infants
  • Talk to the mother about what their breastfeeding plan
  • Know where to get help if it’s needed

After the baby arrives, a partner can

  • Advocate for your baby.  This means that the partner can be the ‘gate-keeper’ to the baby for hospital staff and visitors.  It may mean that you ask for information before making decisions, ask about alternatives, organise the visitors so that the mother can spend her time and energy on getting breastfeeding off to a good start and generally trying to make sure the mother and baby are supported.
  • Do all the nappy changing (I can hear you groan, but she DID carry the baby).  This helps the partner to be aware of the fact that what goes in must come out.  It is often the partners who suggest that the baby is ‘always hungry’ and this can help them to see what the baby is really getting.
  • Settle the baby after/between feeds.  Babies quickly learn that love comes from people other than their mother (and that love is not always associated with food).  Partners often develop a wonderful way of settling babies that is very different to the way a mother settles them.  This can really help the mum feel nurtured and the partner feel important and necessary in their baby’s life.
  • Take the baby while mum sleeps.   This means that the mum can catch up on some sleep while the partner spends time bonding and getting to know their baby.
  • Bath the baby.  Many partners find that bath time is a special time for them to spend with their baby.  It’s a great time to look at their little fingers and toes and see just how much they’re growing.
  • Put the baby in a sling/carrier and go for a walk.  Even very young babies enjoy being out of the house – the backyard is a good place to start.  Make sure they are dressed appropriately for the weather.
  • Have your support numbers handy.  Before you even have the baby, get your hands on the contact numbers in case you need breastfeeding support.  Put them on the fridge or obvious place and RING THEM if you have questions.
  • Recognise the amazing effort.  Mums often feel like beginners at parenting and breastfeeding or that it is not as easy as they thought.  This can be the perfect time to point out what an amazing job they are doing and to encourage them to keep going or seek help.

So no, you can’t breastfeed your beautiful new bundle of joy, but you can help your little baby get all the benefits of breastfeeding just by stepping up a bit and getting involved.  If you would like more information on breastfeeding please contact me to discuss your situation or arrange a consultation.



Image by Dynamite Imagery

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