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Breastfeeding: how partners can help

Breastfeeding: how partners can help

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Why it's important for partners to support breastfeeding mums

Breastfeeding is something that you and your partner can do as a team.

Your knowledge, enthusiasm and support can be crucial as your partner learns how to breastfeed. And if your partner is finding it hard to breastfeed, you can boost her confidence and help her overcome challenges. This can make it more likely that she'll breastfeed for longer.

What to do first: learn about breastfeeding

One of the most important things you can do is learn about the benefits of breastfeeding and how breastfeeding works. This way, you'll be able to help your partner remember important information and identify and manage breastfeeding issues early.

Here are key things to know about breastfeeding:

  • Breastmilk is a nutritious, natural food for your baby. Breastfeeding gives your baby extra protection against infection and disease, and reduces your partner's risk of some diseases. It's also free and convenient!
  • Breastfeeding isn't always quick. For new mums, each feeding session can last anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour. Most newborns feed 8-12 times a day.
  • Breastfeeding takes time to learn, and it isn't always easy. Getting attachment right and finding a good breastfeeding position are important.

Your partner might face one of these common breastfeeding issues:

  • not enough breastmilk supply
  • too much breastmilk
  • breast refusal and baby biting
  • sore nipples and nipple infections
  • mastitis and blocked milk ducts.

If your partner is having trouble with breastfeeding, you and she can get support from your midwife, child and family health nurse or GP. These professionals can also help you find a lactation consultant.

You can also phone the ABA's National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.

How to help with a breastfeeding baby

Although you're not breastfeeding your baby, there are many ways you can help out with your baby and nurture the bond between you:

  • Carry your baby in a sling or baby carrier, or just hold your baby. Cuddling skin to skin can help settle your baby and bond with your baby.
  • Bath your baby or massage your baby. This can be soothing for your baby and a great time for bonding between you.
  • Settle your baby. This might be easier for you than your breastfeeding partner. When your baby is fussy, the smell of milk on your partner can make your baby search for her breasts instead of calming down.
  • Take your baby for a burp and nappy change after a breastfeed.
  • Bottle-feed your baby expressed breastmilk occasionally. This might be something you do after 1-2 months, when your partner is feeling confident and comfortable with breastfeeding.
With a new baby in your family, it's easy to forget about your own needs. But it's important to look after yourself with healthy eating, some physical activity and sleep when you can get it. This will give you the energy you need to be the parent you want to be.

Caring for a breastfeeding mother

New breastfeeding mothers have a lot to deal with. It's normal for your partner to feel anxious, tired and physically uncomfortable, as well as excited and happy about your new baby. Here are ways you can help:

  • Look for practical ways to care for your partner while she's breastfeeding. Offer to bring her a glass of water, give her another pillow if she needs one, or remove distractions like older siblings, visitors or the family pet.
  • Bring your baby to your partner in bed for night feeds and settle him back to sleep if you need to. This will be a big help to your partner, even if you only do it for some night feeds, or on some nights.
  • Be patient if your partner doesn't feel like being intimate with you. She's probably tired and distracted from feeding, carrying and settling your baby many times a day.
  • Encourage your partner to drink plenty of water, and make sure there's plenty of healthy food at home for her to eat. Breastfeeding will make her hungry and thirsty.
  • Take on extra housework, and try to make sure you're home as much as possible to do things like cooking and washing. If you can do household chores without being asked to, it means your partner doesn't have to worry about them at all.
Let your partner know she's doing a great job and that you appreciate her breastfeeding efforts and achievements. And if breastfeeding doesn't work out despite her best efforts, reassure her that it's OK.