Breastfeeding seminars

Janine Gard: Breastfeeding – how you can support your partner

Fathers can do many things with their newborns to support their partner.

Janine Gard is a qualified birth educator (2005) and founder of the Bellies to Babies prenatal and postnatal classes. She has helped over 3700 parents prepare mentally, emotionally and physically for their journey to parenthood and loves what she does. This week, Janine explains how to support a breastfeeding partner.

When it comes to breastfeeding, you might be wondering what, if anything, you can do to support your partner and your baby? The truth is you can make a huge difference.

For many women, their partner is their main source of breastfeeding support. Many breastfeeding women give up sooner than they want. You can be an integral part of maintaining breastfeeding. The more supportive you are, the longer your partner is likely to breastfeed and the more confident she will feel.

While breastfeeding is a natural process, it is also a learned skill. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy at first and can take a few weeks for mom and baby to get used to it. Some nursing mothers go through a difficult time, but good support and encouragement from you can help them get through it.

Why is breastfeeding important?

If your partner is breastfeeding your baby – or planning to – that’s great because breastmilk has many benefits for babies.

For example, breast milk can help reduce your baby’s risk of getting infections and illnesses. It also contains hormones that support your baby’s development. It may also contribute to lifelong protection against several maternal cancers and other serious health conditions and diseases.

Breast milk provides abundant and easily absorbed nutritional components, antioxidants, enzymes, immune properties and live antibodies from your partner. Mom’s more mature immune system makes antibodies against the germs she and your baby have been exposed to. These antibodies get into her milk to help protect her baby from illness. Breast milk also contains substances that naturally soothe and calm them.

Overall, breastfeeding will have a positive impact on your baby’s health. Moreover, it can also influence their health in adulthood.

What should I know about breastfeeding?

You may find it helpful to know how breastfeeding works and what is normal behavior for breastfed babies. Here are some quick and practical facts —

● Babies are happiest if fed as soon as they show signs of hunger

● Babies usually feed frequently (eight to 12 times or more in 24 hours) in the first few weeks, especially in the evening

● Some babies eat slowly at first, but become faster (efficient) as they get older

● The more a baby suckles, the more milk is produced by the mother, because it is the extraction of milk that determines its production.

● The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least your baby’s first six months and up to 2 years of age, along with solid foods. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for toddlers as it gives them a health boost every time they nurse. So your partner can breastfeed your baby for as long as they want.

● Sore or sore nipples during a feed can be a sign that a baby needs to adjust his latch. If there are any aches or pains while breastfeeding, talking to a healthcare professional or lactation consultant can help

● Your partner will enjoy feeding more when they are comfortable and relaxed

● Breastfeeding makes travel easier. Breast milk is always clean and at the right temperature

● The physical/emotional bond between mother and baby is increased. Breastfeeding promotes more skin-to-skin contact, and more latching and stroking.

What can I do to help my partner breastfeed?

● Build your partner’s confidence by encouraging them and being positive about their progress. As with learning any new skill, reassurance and praise go a long way.

● Listen and talk honestly about how you each feel to find your way with your new baby

● Be involved with your baby in other ways so care is shared

● Helps reduce household chores so your partner can feed your baby for as long and as often as they need

● Try to help your partner relax by giving him a massage

● Moms don’t need to eat anything special while breastfeeding, but it’s a good idea to encourage your partner to eat and drink regularly

● Help her get specialist help if she is having trouble breastfeeding

● Try to remember that with your support, breastfeeding can quickly become another part of your family life

Why Breastfeeding Can Be Difficult

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. It may take time for new moms and your newborn to learn this skill. Your partner will be exhausted and sore after labor and delivery, and your baby will probably want to eat several times a night in the middle of the night for the first few weeks.

Your baby’s belly is about the size of a marble. They need small, frequent feedings for the first two weeks. In fact, a typical breastfed baby will eat eight to 12 times over a 24 hour period. Consider talking to a lactation consultant to help with any breastfeeding issues that arise.

Some breastfeeding mothers feel “affected” and want less contact with their partner. Others want more affection from their partner because they give so much to their baby. Some breastfeeding mothers don’t like their breasts to be touched sexually and others don’t have a problem with it. Keep the lines of communication open and remember that this is all temporary. You will likely return to your old relationship over time.

Practical advice

● Find out

● Be supportive

● Get breastfeeding help if needed

● Talk to your partner and be open about your feelings

Sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out for a variety of reasons, but keep in mind that you both did what you could to be successful. Consider pumping and bottle feeding as an alternative if you still want to provide breastmilk. Above all, relax. Love your new family and enjoy all the new experiences you will have with your baby.

■ Bellies to Babies prenatal and postnatal classes, baby massage classes and first aid classes for babies and infants, 2087 Pakowhai Rd, Hawke’s Bay, 022 637 0624.

Medical Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.