When it comes to breastfeeding, the first thing to know is that it’s not just about feeding a hungry little belly, but also about responsive parenting — allowing and assisting a new mom and baby to develop that trusting bond, reassurance, and closeness during those early weeks.
For some parents, nursing comes easy and naturally, while for others, the struggle is very real! Partners play a critical role in breastfeeding outcomes and therefore it is important for them to understand how breastfeeding works — not just to support their breastfeeding partner, but also so that they can be vocal allies for breastfeeding women in general. Here’s a worthwhile read that breaks it all down — everything from the benefits of nursing to the key things you should know if your partner is having difficulties, to why there is still a stigma around nursing in public.
When a new mom has a significant other who is educated about and supports her choice to breastfeed, she is much more likely to be successful at it!
Here are a few ways dads and allies can be lactation cheerleaders and help out:
1. Be the Gatekeeper at Home
Set limits with visitors, especially during those first few weeks when everyone is eager to meet the new family addition. It’s more than okay to reschedule visits to allow mom to settle into her new role and have that extra time to recover from birth and establish a nursing routine.
2. Pay Attention
Learn your baby’s hunger cues so when you see them, you can bring your baby to your partner for a nursing session.
3. Feed Mom Too
Though it doesn’t look like much, nursing is an around-the-clock job and often moms are so busy keeping their babies happy and full, they forget to feed themselves. Help out by cooking and nourishing her with healthy meals and ensure she is well hydrated too!
4. Take Your Paternity Leave (and Enjoy It)
Research finds that while half of fathers think men should take paternity leave, only 36% actually take all their permitted time off. When fathers take leave, it not only gives them a chance to bond with their child, it also supports gender equality in the workplace. Here’s a great article on how mandated equal parental leave benefits us all.
If there are new moms at your office and you are planning a long meeting, make sure to provide a 30-minute break to give moms a chance to pump. If work is done offsite, don’t wait for breastfeeding moms to ask for support— instead, find out — in advance — where lactation rooms will be located and share this information with all attendees. This ensures that those who need to pump know where to go and also helps normalize breastfeeding.
Speak with HR and show your support when it comes to lactation at work. Advocate for safe and comfortable spaces to pump, adequate time for mothers to pump, and hospital-grade breast pumps.
7. Squash the Criticism
Offer encouragement to pumping moms and speak up when things are wrong. If you notice that someone is pumping in a closet or having to pump in their car during work hours — speak up! — so those moms don’t have to. If you see a mom being forced to dump her milk at airport security — speak up! — so that mom isn’t on her own. If you see a woman being ogled or shamed for breastfeeding in public is wrong — speak up! — so that mom doesn’t have to breastfeed and defend herself.
Partners and dads play an incredibly important role in a child’s life from the very beginning and should be empowered and encouraged to be a part of the breastfeeding team! Their support is essential. And, when it comes to normalizing breastfeeding, we need men as allies.
Is your partner on board when it comes to supporting your decision to breastfeed? Let us know how best they can help!