Supporting your breastfeeding partner: why it’s important
If your partner is learning to breastfeed, your enthusiasm and support can make a big difference.
And if your partner is finding it hard to breastfeed, you can boost your partner’s confidence and help with overcoming challenges. This can make it more likely that your partner will breastfeed for longer.
If you’re bottle-feeding your baby with breastmilk or infant formula, you and your partner can both be involved in giving baby the bottle and cleaning and sterilising equipment.
What to do first: learn about breastfeeding
One of the best things you can do is learn about why breastmilk and breastfeeding is good and how to breastfeed. You could also go to face-to-face or online breastfeeding education classes together. This way, you’ll be able to help your partner remember breastfeeding information and manage breastfeeding issues.
Here are key things to know about breastfeeding:
- Breastmilk is a nutritious, natural food for your baby. Breastfeeding gives your baby protection against infection and disease.
- Breastfeeding reduces your partner’s risk of diseases like breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding is free and convenient.
- Most newborns feed 8-12 times a day, and breastfeeds can vary in length. In the early days after birth, each feed can last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
- Breastfeeding takes time, practice and patience to learn. Getting attachment right and finding a good breastfeeding position are important.
Common breastfeeding issues that your partner might face include:
- blocked milk ducts, mastitis and breast abscess
- breastmilk oversupply and breast engorgement
- breast refusal and baby biting
- not enough breastmilk supply
- sore nipples and nipple infections.
If your partner is having trouble with breastfeeding, you can encourage your partner to get support from a midwife, child and family health nurse or GP. These professionals can also help your partner find a lactation consultant. You could offer to go to appointments with your partner, if you can.
You can also phone the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268 or use the ABA LiveChat.
With the right support, most breastfeeding mothers can overcome breastfeeding issues and produce all the milk their baby needs. Your encouragement will help breastfeeding go well for your partner and baby.
How to help with breastfeeding babies
You can bond with and be close to your baby even though you’re not breastfeeding. Here are ideas:
- Carry your baby in a sling or baby carrier, or just hold your baby. Cuddling skin to skin can settle your baby and help you 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 your partner’s breasts instead of calming down.
- Burp your baby or change your baby’s nappy after a breastfeed.
- Take your baby for a walk or play gently with your baby in between feeds. This will give your partner some time to rest.
Caring for your new baby is an important job, and looking after yourself gives you the energy you need to do the job well. Looking after yourself involves eating healthily, being physically active, getting enough sleep and accepting help from others.
Caring for your breastfeeding partner
It’s normal for your breastfeeding 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 during breastfeeding sessions. Offer to bring your partner a glass of water, healthy snacks or another pillow. Remove distractions like older siblings, visitors or the family pet.
- Bring your baby to your partner in bed for night feeds and settle your baby 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. Your partner is probably tired from feeding, carrying and settling your baby many times a day.
- Take on extra housework, and try to make sure you’re home as much as possible to do things like cooking and washing. This is especially important in the evening, when your baby might want frequent feeds.
Let your partner know how much you appreciate their breastfeeding efforts and achievements. If breastfeeding doesn’t work for your partner, reassure them that it’s OK.