People often ask how I came to be an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. My usual response is that it started with personal experience gained as a mother that grew into a passion supporting families breastfeed. That’s certainly true, but there is definately more to my story. I owe major props to my partner. If it wasn’t for my partner’s encouragement to breastfeed, both during my pregnancy and after our babies arrived, I honestly wouldn’t have continued breastfeeding past day 4, past 6 months or a combined total of nursing our children for 7 years.
After my first baby’s birth, I recall the nurse asking if I was going to breastfeed? I said “Sure, I was going to give breastfeeding a try”. Baby was put skin to skin, latched and breastfeeding seemed to be working. The next few days I realized breastfeeding was not that natural. Or at least the episodes of A Baby Story, sure didn’t showcase the how to’s and how not to’s of breastfeeding. My early days of breastfeeding were getting harder with sore nipples, engorged breasts, sleepy baby and baby losing weight. My husband and I were at a loss as we were told breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt…well it did!
My husband grew up on a farm with animals nursing their young like pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs. I remember him saying, “Nature chose breastfeeding long before we did. This really can’t be that different from milking a cow. We just need the instructions.” At 4 days postpartum I was in NO mood to be compared to a barnyard animal, yet I knew that he was on to something and that he wasn’t going to give up until we had the breastfeeding help we needed.
Protect and Support
Find trusted evidence-based help: This may be from a Nurse, Doctor, La Leche League group or your local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. My husband and I sought breastfeeding help with a home breastfeeding consult and attended a breastfeeding clinic. It was following this breastfeeding consult that I learned how to position my baby closer to my body and my nipples started to heal. Note: it is important to involve your partner in a breastfeeding consult. A second set of eyes and ears help recall breastfeeding tips later.
How many times are you going to feed the baby? Does your baby sleep through the night? When are you going to wean? Partners can support by sharing accurate information on the norm of breastfeeding input, output and recommendations to well meaning inquiring minds.
Don’t you want your partner to bond with the baby by giving expressed breast milk? Some families find this can complicate breastfeeding. There is lots that a partner can do to bond with baby by bathing, dressing, taking baby for a walk, carrying baby in a baby carrier and feed baby their first solids around six months. Notice I didn’t suggest just diaper changes? Although I think it’s fair to split that duty too!
Share the load: At times I would find myself literally wiped out from nursing through growth spurts/fussiness/teething/illness or more likely trying to do too much overall. After baby is satisfied from nursing, pass baby to your partner and off to bed you go for a nap or sleep shift. Discuss ahead of time to bring baby to you when baby shows early feeding cues. In my house we called this daddy/baby time, “The front seat of the bus”. My husband would put the kids in a front carrier and do laps around the house, surf the internet or do light chores. I called it, time for some shut eye.
Education: Partners can support breastfeeding before baby arrives by attending a Childbirth Education Workshop and Prenatal Breastfeeding Workshop. Together you will learn how often baby will nurse and how to tell baby is getting enough.
Comfort: I often hear lots of moms say, “I don’t care if I’m comfortable as long as my baby is latched.” Trust me moms, your comfort is key to breastfeeding. Partners may suggest mom to sit back into the couch, chair, bed with shoulders back, feet elevated and pillows added to comfort.
Food: Mothering the mother is an awesome way to help with breastfeeding. Partners can bring mom water, healthy snacks, remote, phone or a book.
Childcare: Big brother or sister at home? Having your partner take them to the park or the store for an outing can make all the difference in the household vibe.
Lower your standards: This one is real. If you can accept the things you cannot change, things will go much smoother. As in, you cannot maintain a perfect house while you are getting to know your new baby and learning how to breastfeed. I remember telling a friend that I was annoyed at how behind I was in my household chores. My friend’s response, “Sleep when the baby sleeps and fold laundry when the baby folds laundry”.
Our partners are not us of course, so we can’t expect them to do things in the same way. It’s going to be different, maybe even messy, but truly accept the help. Appreciate the help. If you’re anything like me you’ll get a few laughs along the way and learn to let go a bit by sharing responsibilities. After all you are in this together, enjoy the ride.
- Marijean Amesmann, IBCLC, RLC, CLE