How to Support Your Breastfeeding Wife

May 19, 2020

How to Support Your Breastfeeding Wife

Welcoming a new baby is a huge learning curve. There are so many new skills you have to learn and you do so with less sleep than is normal. If your partner is also breastfeeding, this can add to the number of things you have to learn and do in the beginning. Having a wife who is breastfeeding can leave you feeling like you are unable to help. We would like to share how to support your breastfeeding wife.

How to Support Your Breastfeeding Wife

Index
In the hospital
The first week home
Nighttime
On the go
When problems arise
Supplementing or pumping

 

In the hospital

When your baby is first born, your wife will probably try breastfeeding for the first time. While some babies will latch immediately and feed easily, not all of them will. During the hospital stay your wife will be healing while also learning the cues and needs of your baby. Learning to breastfeed isn’t always easy. If it is important to her you will want to try some of the following ideas to encourage her to succeed.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife in the hospital

  1. Help her get situated - As a new mom is learning to breastfeed she will learn new holds to best breastfeed her baby. This will mean she may need items like pillows to help her with positioning in the right way. Take some time to help her get all of her pillows in the right place so that she is in the best position to feed the baby. This might also mean helping to support the baby’s head until she figures things out.
  2. Be her advocate - Many hospitals will push a new mom to opt for formula if she is struggling. If you know your wife is only wanting to breastfeed, this is the time to advocate for her. Make sure the nurses who enter the room know that formula is not an option. This might mean pushing for a lactation consultant or removing formula from the equation if needed. If your wife wants to exclusively breastfeed, these first few days are essential.
  3. Encourage her - Becoming a new parent can be extremely overwhelming. If breastfeeding doesn’t go the way she planned it can be very defeating for her. Add to this the hormonal flux that comes with having a new baby and it can be very hard on her. This is your time to step up and encourage her. Remind her why she wants to nurse and celebrate successes with her. If she feels like she is failing, point out the wins so she knows she can do this.
  4. Help in other ways - When your wife is breastfeeding it can be tempting to go back to sleep as you feel you can’t help. Instead, it can be helpful to offer to handle diaper changes or to soothe the baby when they cry. While you may not be able to assist with breastfeeding, you can help with other areas so that mom can rest and focus on learning to nurse. Some other options to help might include seeking a nurse if your wife needs one, cleaning up after the baby’s diaper changes, or helping mom to keep a feeding log.
  5. Make sure she is fed and hydrated - When your wife is breastfeeding, staying properly fed and hydrated can help with milk production. Many moms will become sleep deprived and forget to take care of themselves. One way that you can support your wife with breastfeeding is to make sure she is staying fed and hydrated. This may mean refilling her water, making sure she places a food order, or reminding her to have a drink. If she is not properly hydrated, she may not produce milk as effectively.

The first week home

Breastfeeding in the hospital can feel simpler because there are medical support staff on hand if needed. When you go home, it becomes a bit more difficult to access help if your wife struggles. This is where you will be able to support and encourage her to succeed. While this first week home can feel like a lot, there are some simple ways to ease the transition and be a big help to your wife. Here are a few tips for the first week home.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife on the first week home

  1. Help her to get situated - In the same way she needed help with getting situated at the hospital, she will probably need assistance at home. This can mean making sure she has a pillow or boppy on hand. However, this can also mean holding the baby so she can get in the right position to successfully nurse. Take a bit of time to help her get situated and you will help her to have a better chance of success.
  2. Pick up the slack in the house - Breastfeeding a newborn can feel like it is all she does. She can spend multiple hours of her day simply feeding the new baby. This is where picking up the slack in the house can be a huge support. Do a load of laundry, pick up around the house, or do some dishes. By doing these chores, she is able to relax and focus on breastfeeding.
  3. Know who to contact for support - Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. A new mom can become overwhelmed fairly quickly. Take some time to put together a list of contact people to reach out to if she is having a hard time. This might mean talking to a lactation consultant, doctor, or even an organization like the La Leche League. Knowing who to reach out to and get her support can help her to have a better chance of succeeding and feeling confident.
  4. Help her to get rest - Many new moms will work themselves to exhaustion trying to be present for everything. Take the baby and encourage mom to grab a nap during the day. Being better rested can help her to thrive when she is awake. This might mean that you take on diaper duty or soothing a fussy baby occasionally so she can get some much-needed rest. Helping her to get adequate rest can help her to be ready for feedings when she wakes up.
  5. Be her encourager - The first week home can be overwhelming in its own rite. When you add breastfeeding to it, it can feel impossible. However, it is not. In fact, your wife is perfectly equipped to care for your baby. Take some time to encourage her when she is feeling defeated. This might mean reminding her of how good she is doing or reassuring her that the baby is doing well. Be her encourager in this first week and you will help her to feel confident in her ability to breastfeed and to parent. 

Nighttime

Nighttime can feel the most powerless for the spouse of a breastfeeding mother. She is in charge of all of the feedings and there is not much to be done. While this may be how it feels, this not actually true. There are ways you can support your breastfeeding wife at night. Here are some tips to help you be involved in the nighttime care of your nursing baby.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife at night

  1. Offer to help with before and after feedings - While you can’t breastfeed the baby, you can help with diaper changes and soothing the baby if the baby doesn’t go back to sleep after a feeding. During the first week or two, your baby will need to nurse every hour or two. This will mean that your wife may only get one hour to a two-hour clip of sleep before she is woken up to feed the baby again. Taking some of the non-nursing duties can help her to rest when she isn’t feeding the baby.
  2. Bring her anything she needs - Sometimes a breastfeeding mom will get hungry or thirsty at night. Make sure she has a snack or drink if she asks for it. This simple gesture can be not only an encouragement but can keep her hydrated to better support milk production. Some parents will keep bottled water and snacks by the bed. Having these on hand can help her to have access to them at night.
  3. Remind her of her why - Nighttime feedings can be exhausting and some moms will consider quitting breastfeeding at this time. However, most moms make this choice out of exhaustion instead of because it is what they want. If mom is feeling defeated, take some time to remind her of her why. Why is she breastfeeding? Why does it matter to her? This simple reminder can reassure her and help her to keep going.
  4. Be available - Many dads sleep through the nighttime routine if their wife is breastfeeding. Some moms will become bitter as their partner sleeps soundly while they breastfeed at all hours of the night. One way to support your wife is to wake up with her for some or all of the nighttime feedings. Knowing that she is not alone can mean the world to most moms.
  5. Help her to keep track of things - Sleep deprivation can make even the best person forget things. When doing nighttime feedings it can be easy to forget which side she nursed on first the last time. Help her by keeping up with the little things. This might mean logging when feedings happen or helping her to remind which side to feed on. By helping with these small things, you are enabling her to focus on feeding the baby.

On the go

Breastfeeding while on the go can be a new experience for many moms. The first few times can be extremely overwhelming and leave some moms opting for a bottle. However, there are ways for you to support your partner when she is nursing on the go. Even better, many of these ways are simple and involve minimal work on your end. Here are a few ways to support your breastfeeding with when she is nursing on the go.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife on the go

  1. Make sure she has what she needs - Before leaving the house, make sure the diaper bag includes things she will need for breastfeeding. Some items might include nursing pads, nursing covers, and burp cloths. Having these items on hand can take some of the stress out of the experience. Some moms also pack a second shirt in case of spit ups or in case of breastmilk leakage that goes through the nursing pad.
  2. Find nursing friendly locations wherever you go - While it is completely legal to breastfeed anywhere she wants, not all women are confident with public breastfeeding. Take some time when you get to a new place to help your wife find locations where she can nurse privately. This might mean a dressing room at a store, a room at a friend’s house, or the patient room at the pediatrician. Having a woobie to set down is definitely recommended. Help her to find these places to set up before it is time to feed the baby so that she is set up to succeed.
  3. Stay with her - The first time breastfeeding in public can be overwhelming for some moms. Stay with her in case she needs your help with the baby, with positioning, or with other needs. This may mean sitting with her in a dressing room or other nursing area. Having you there to support her can make a world of difference. While you can’t always be there, having you there at first can help comfort her and show her that she can successfully breastfeed in public.
  4. Advocate for her - Some locations will be less kind about public breastfeeding. Her job is to focus on feeding the baby. This will mean that you may need to advocate for her. Speak up if someone asks her to nurse elsewhere or cover-up. She should not have to worry about the opinions of others when she is working to feed the baby. Speak kindly but advocate for her so she can focus on feeding the baby.
  5. Encourage her in front of people - When she is feeding in public, there is a chance she could be insecure. Not all moms are but some definitely are. Take some time to encourage her. Let her know she is doing a fantastic job and you are proud of her. That simple encouragement can mean the world to her. Knowing that she is supported can help her to succeed at breastfeeding.

When problems arise

Breastfeeding can be a beautiful bonding experience between a mom and her baby. Sometimes it doesn’t go as planned though. When those times arise, dads can feel helpless. While it may seem like there is nothing you can do, there are actually five ways you can support your breastfeeding wife. Here are some simple tips to help you encourage and support your wife when problems arise.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife when problems arise

  1. Know who to contact - When she is struggling with breastfeeding your wife may not remember who to reach out to for help. Take some time to put together a list of contact people to reach out to if she is having a hard time. This might mean talking to a lactation consultant, doctor, or even an organization like the La Leche League. Knowing who to reach out to and get her support can help her to have a better chance of succeeding and feeling confident.
  2. Make an appointment and get her there - Sometimes the best thing you can do when you have problems is to make an appointment with a lactation consultant. Once you set the appointment, make sure to help your wife get to the appointment. Speak to the consultant you are meeting with to find out if the baby should come fed or if an appointment should be made near feeding time. Each lactation consultant will have a different view.
  3. Know when your baby is or is not getting enough - If the baby is getting enough milk the baby should be wetting at least six diapers a day after mom’s milk comes in. The baby will also start to gain weight. If your baby is not getting enough milk, baby will continue to lose weight and will wet fewer than six diapers in a 24-hour period after mom’s milk comes in. If you are concerned about whether or not the baby is getting enough, scheduling a weight check can be an option.
  4. Research ways to better breastfeeding - When a new mom is struggling with breastfeeding it can be easy for her to feel defeated. She may not want to spend time researching information about bettering breastfeeding. This is where you can speak to a lactation consultant or do research to help her find alternative holds or other ways to succeed at breastfeeding. Sometimes giving her a simple tip can help her to find a more successful approach.
  5. Accept her choice - For some moms, breastfeeding isn’t an option. There may be low milk production, inverted nipples, or a tongue-tie with the baby. While your wife may mean to breastfeed, she may decide to stop at some point. Please keep in mind that this is her body and her choice. If she decides breastfeeding is not what is best for her and the baby, then this is a choice you will need to respect. Make sure she is 100% sure of this choice and then support her in it. She needs to know she is not a failure.

Supplementing or pumping

Not all moms choose to breastfeed exclusively. Some will choose to supplement with formula while others will choose to feed pumped breast milk. With these options, you are given a bit more of an ability to assist with the process. This gives you additional ways to contribute to feeding your baby and caring for their mom. Here are a few ways to support a mom who chooses to supplement or pump.

5 Ways to support your breastfeeding wife when she supplements or pumps

  1. Take over the bottle feedings - Many babies will not feed on a bottle if a breastfeeding mother is nearby. Take this time to help with feeding while also bonding with your baby. This might mean taking on a nighttime feeding or handling a feeding so that mom can grab a shower. This simple task can help mom to focus on pumping or on self-care.
  2. Care for the baby while mom pumps - Many moms will pump instead of feeding or after feeding. This is a good time for you to step in and care for the baby so mom can focus on pumping. Change the baby’s diaper, soothe the baby, or simply spend time with the baby during this time. By keeping the baby cared for, you are freeing mom up to focus on pumping. It also gives her time to properly store milk for future use.
  3. Make sure mom is fed and hydrated - If a mom is pumping and breastfeeding, she will need to make sure she stays well hydrated. This might mean that you need to bring her a snack or a drink while she is either breastfeeding or pumping. Helping to stay well hydrated can assist with milk production and help her to avoid frustration. It is also a simple way to meet her needs.
  4. Clean bottles and storage containers - For a mom who is pumping or supplementing, she will also have to care for the bottles and breast milk storage. Take some to learn about proper bottle care and breast milk storage so you can help with these. This might mean that you are in charge of washing and drying bottles. However, it could also mean helping to properly store breast milk for future usage.
  5. Be encouraging - In the mom world, many moms are shamed for choosing not to breastfeed exclusively. Your wife needs encouragement as she makes the best choice for herself and the baby. If she is receiving negative feedback from friends or relatives, be her encouragement. This may mean standing up for her to family to telling other people how proud of her you are. Simple encouragement can be a game-changer for most moms. 

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