Dad-of-three Rodney Farry explains how you can support your breastfeeding partner, including what to say, what not to say and the importance of buying breastpads.
For over four of the last six and a half years (or around 1500 of the last 2400 days), my wife has been breastfeeding our three kids.
Our first child fed for 18 months, while her twin brothers have lain claim to their mammy's mammaries for the last two and a half years. One of the boys appears to be self-weaning at present but the other is showing no signs that his seemingly unquenchable thirst for breast milk will ever be sated.
In the days after our daughter was born, while overjoyed at her arrival I found myself feeling a bit surplus to requirements. My partner was determined that she was going down the breastfeeding route and had to devote a significant portion of her diminished energy resources into mastering the technique while also recovering from a Caesarian section.
While it may be ''the most natural thing in the world", for many new mothers it can be a challenging process requiring patience and perseverance through such bodily delights as cracked nipples, thrush, and engorged breasts.
There are a number of things, however, that partners can do to make their other half's life easier during these sometimes fraught first few weeks.
Do a bit of research.
You don't have to become an expert, but learning the basics about breastfeeding will give you a better understanding of what your partner is going through and how you can help her. Biology was never my strong point at school and when I learned about the wonder-juice that is colostrum it blew my mind. Mother nature is some woman for one woman.
If your partner is one of those new mums who is finding nursing difficult, it's highly likely that some well-meaning family and friends will be telling her that no-one will think any less of her if she stops and starts using formula.
That's true, but if your partner has chosen to breastfeed then what she needs to hear are words of encouragement. This is where you come in. Not only can you offer support but you can also tactfully tell these people that while you realise that they are coming from a place of love, their advice is not helpful at this point. Breastfeeding isn't for everyone, but a mother has to be given the space to make this decision herself.
It is understandable that people want to visit in the first weeks to marvel at your little one, but many new mothers are understandably reluctant to breastfeed in public, especially when they are still trying to master the process and running on empty.You may want to show off your newborn to the world, (show me a parent that doesn't), but in the first few weeks, your priority has to be your partner and their wellbeing.
Give her breaks.
Bring your newborn, and your other children if you have them, out for regular walks or drives to give your partner a baby-free breather. For dads and non-breastfeeding partners, going for walks especially if you use a sling or a baby carrier is a great way to have some quality bonding time. As the non-breastfeeding partner, you should also take the lead when it comes to nappy changes (especially the night ones), baths and burping.
Whether you fancy yourself as a budding Jaime Oliver or can just about manage to make a sausage sandwich if your partner is spending a good chunk of her days and nights feeding your child, the least that you can do is make sure that she isn't going hungry herself.
I found that batch cooking and freezing things like curries, pasta bakes, and stews were a great way of ensuring that there was always something nourishing and tasty in the house.
Brush up on your housekeeping skills.
Aside from recovering from childbirth, in the early days breastfeeding is all-consuming leaving new mothers with little time or energy for anything else. Unless you have family and friends living nearby who are willing and able to chip in, the bulk of the domestic duties will fall on your shoulders.
It's important to remember that while you may not be able to share in the breastfeeding duties, by being supportive you can have a significant impact on what sort of nursing experience your partner has. Think of yourself as the primary caregiver to your child's primary caregiver.
Ps: Whenever you are in a pharmacy pick up a
few packets of breast pads, you can never have enough breast pads!