World Breastfeeding Week came and went without any comment here at Tinkerbell Road. We were busy having a baby! Little boy arrived in the morning on Thursday. We are over the moon. It wasn’t long, however, until we were back to square one with getting life organized with a newborn in the house. Having a toddler here too is a new thing. More on that later. One of the first challenges with any newborn is breastfeeding. That is pretty much all they do aside from sleeping and dispatching the breast milk.
My focus is on how the nursing partner, in my case Dad, can and should support the mother as she gets in the swing of feeding the little one. There are a number of resources on the subject. I hope that you did a lot of research before the baby was born. All you dads to be should also find a breastfeeding class to attend. It was enlightening for me. These resources aside, I am going to share with you ways I try to support the nursing mother in our house. (If you think the other people in the house don’t have a role to play in breastfeeding you are quite mistaken. Nursing mothers need and want support.) During the birth you were a birth partner. Now, you are a nursing partner. Here are five things you can do:
- Boost her confidence.
Even if you have a mother who has done it before the worry about the child’s latch and her milk production will raise its head. These worries are also topped with postpartum feelings, emotions, and moods that only add more complexity to the issue. Remind her she is doing a great job. Quickly dash any negative self talk. You know her. Provide the type of positive reinforcement that connects with her.
2. Take the child when she is not nursing. Do the breastfeeding Tango.
Breastfeeding is a dance. The partners trade off when needed to get the other one sleep and rest. The mother will have more work to do because she is feeding the baby and you can’t. So when the child is done, ask Mom to let you burp and hold the baby while she sleeps. This is when Mom should try to rest. You have to nurse on demand so that baby will be back at it soon. Hand the baby back over for feeding and you get in your rest.
Also, try using assertive language. “Let me take him for you,” demonstrates that you are willing and anxious to help out. “Do you want me to take him?” sounds less committed like you really would rather sleep. I mess this up alot and quickly regret my use of questions. Mostly because there are times it is true I would rather have her deal with it, I want her to say no and carry on. Bad nursing partner behavior. I try to take polite action and toughen up for my role in all of this.
3. Know the signs the child is hungry and wants to eat.
This is fairly straightforward. The child will root, suck, chew on fingers, bob his head like a little chicken when it is ready to eat. This is also a trap. A SERIOUS trap for the nursing partner, especially dads. Ever take a baby and then tell the mom “I think he’s hungry again, you should take him,” minutes after Mom thought she had a break? False hope, take it away is one of the worst forms of torture. Do this and you will not only make mom mad and frustrated, but you will let down all of fatherhood too. “I just give her to mom, she hops on the boob and I can drink a beer.” Don’t be that guy. Try to soothe your child to sleep one more time before handing her over.
All of this aside, you should breastfeed on demand. So if the baby really is hungry back to back, pass her over and stay by mom’s side to quickly take baby when they are ready. This is our situation. Both kids were cluster feeders. Don’t go out and start doing the dishes or changing the laundry. Stay close. One of the things that can happen is mom enjoys holding the baby after feeding and passes baby off at the end of its little sleep cycle, missing the chance to get a solid 10-20 minute block of time without the baby. If you can be there to help burp and swaddle right away mom can get more rest.
4. Keep track of time and manage the schedule.
These little new dudes need to eat at least every 2 hours in the beginning. It can be a good job for the nursing partner to keep track of feedings so the stressed and sleepless mom doesn’t have to. Again, be polite when you ask when the baby last ate and when it is time to go again. Most of the time they will root well before the two hour mark, but there will be times they sleep too long and need a nudge.
5. Help manage her pain relief and water intake.
All mothers I know benefit from a schedule of Ibuprofen and Tylenol weeks after birth to help recover from labor. If you don’t know already, breastfeeding will heighten any cramping she has after birth. If the mother hasn’t taken any pain reliever nursing can be more painful. Not to mention, when her milk comes in and breastfeeding increases she will experience more pain. Here is another thing the mother has to manage. Help her out. You keep track of her pain relievers and make sure that she is taking them at the right intervals. Water too. Keep up with making sure she has enough water. It was a big deal as birth partner, its a big deal as nursing partner too.
There is more to share about what I am doing as a nursing partner, or am trying to do (I can’t say I am batting 1,000), but I am doing this on my nap time and need to get to it.