All about partners: supporting the breastfeeding mama & bonding with your baby
Many partners expecting a baby struggle with envisioning how they will bond with the baby & how they will support the breastfeeding mama. Not to worry, partners! You are an integral part of this family & you are so needed. Here are a few reminders of all the ways you can help support your partner's breastfeeding journey while nurturing an amazing relationship with your baby!
Attend breastfeeding classes with your partner & read all the breastfeeding books. Especially for the mamas who are breastfeeding for the first time, they will need support remembering & replicating all the breastfeeding positions, identifying a deep vs. shallow latch, wrangling baby's arms if he is getting in his own way, cleaning the pump parts, etc. You can support your breastfeeding partner by sharing the burden of knowledge with her and being a great resource for her during those middle-of-the-night feedings when she can't remember anything that she's learned. Make some "cheat sheets" to stick on the fridge with pictures of positions, notes about how many poops/pees to expect each day, and other helpful information that you learn along the way. Learn about common challenges & how to address them. Ask your doula or care provider for information about resources in the community so you know who to call if you need help.
If you're not sure where to start with research, I recommend the following:
Feed & Hydrate Mom
This is an oldie but a goodie. You don't realize how much time breastfeeding moms spend holding & feeding their babies until you see it for yourself. This means a lot of time with no hands available & feeling stuck wherever you are because baby finally latched or is sleeping. Make sure that mom is eating regularly & always has a full water & snacks nearby. She may not even realize she's hungry or ask for food, but if you offer she will usually say yes. I recommend easy snacking fruits and vegetables, like apple slices with peanut butter, grapes, and carrots. But make sure that she gets some "real food" every day, too!
Take Care of the Setup
There are often a lot of pillows, blankets, heating pads, and sometimes pumping equipment that need to be set up before a nursing session. If you're having a hospital birth, pay attention to where the nurses shove the pillows under mom's arms and back while she's feeding in various positions so that you can replicate this at home. If you're having a homebirth, ask your midwife or doula for tips about how to set up a comfortable nursing space for mama. Become the setup master so that you can create her pillow fort and bring the baby to her, and all she needs to do is settle in & feed the baby.
Changing the baby is also very helpful, particularly if he gets sleepy in between switching sides & needs to be woken up. If you're tracking feedings & poops, you can also start the timer & help with the dirty diaper tracking.
Bonding with Baby
That little baby needs you. While feeding makes up a big chunk of how babies spend their days, they also have plenty of precious time throughout the day when they need snuggles, kisses, and playtime. Here are a few ways that you can bond with & provide crucial loving attention to your baby when he isn't eating:
Skin-to-Skin: skin-to-skin contact is shown to help dads bond with their babies, and also has endless benefits for the baby like regulating body temperature & soothing a fussy baby (see this article for more details). So take off your shirt, put a blanket over the two of you, and hold your baby.
Bath Time: I often hear Dads worry that babies will hate them because dad is associated with diaper changes, which most babies don't enjoy. But many babies do enjoy bath time! And this is another great way to calm your baby
Wear the Baby: Babywearing isn't just for moms, and even the BBC acknowledges that #babywearingdad is the hottest thing on the internet, so get in on that action! Madison Babywearing is an amazing place to start, they have several meetings every month where you can try out different equipment & get help with using your own, and they also have a private Facebook group where you can post pictures of you wearing your baby & ask if you're doing everything right!
Playtime: Put all those baby toys you got as gifts to use! If you're not sure how to play with your baby, check out this great article from MamaNatural.
You've got this, partner!