One of the most stressful parts of breastfeeding is how much time it takes from mom’s day. It isn’t that we don’t appreciate having a moment to sit and “relax,” or that we don’t enjoy bonding with our new baby. But as most new mothers will tell you, it starts to feel like all we do is sit and breastfeed the baby. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed by our ever growing to-do list and make us feel discouraged about breastfeeding. Formula starts looking like the easier option. However, we all know that breastfeeding comes with financial and health benefits, and is often more convenient than dealing with bottles and formula. So, if you are a spouse looking for ways to help mom be successful, here is a list of suggestions:
- Do Diaper Duty
Just do it. Mom has already experienced and encountered a wide array of grossness just by giving birth and dealing with postpartum healing. She is likely now spending the majority of her days covered in milk (that is leaking out of her) and spit up (spoiled milk that leaked out of baby). If you know baby has a dirty diaper, change it! It can get messy, but you will survive. Mom, hand baby to dad!
- Burp Baby
If you are sitting nearby and your wife starts to burp the baby, offer to take the baby and do it for her. Many moms will feed baby from both breasts during a single feeding, burping the baby halfway through a nursing session when they switch between breasts. This is perfect for you. By burping the baby for her in the middle of a feeding, you can be directly involved in the process, meaning baby will associate you and mom with meeting this basic need and comfort. This is a great way to bond with your baby!
- Sanitize Supplies
Pumping is incredibly time consuming, especially when done on top of nursing, and it is absolutely zero fun. However, most families need to have milk on hand, especially families with working moms. So, if mom is pumping (exclusively or otherwise), sanitize the pump supplies for her. And while we are one the topic of pumping, offer to do the bottle feeding when you are around.
- Cook & Clean
Household duties like cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. pile up really quickly and stress out new moms. Stress can decrease milk supply. It can also make your wife turn into a snappy angry woman you no longer recognize. If you can’t help directly with baby, for whatever reason, tackle mom’s to-do list for her. Make sure she knows that you don’t mind (so she doesn’t feel like she is failing you by not already having everything done), and reassure her that her top priority right now is the baby.
- Child Care
If you have older children, especially preschoolers or younger, this is probably the most helpful thing you can do. Newborns require constant time and attention. So, do your wife a favor, divide and conquer childcare by becoming primary caretaker of the older kids when you are home. As the baby gets older it will be awake more and need mom less. Offer to take him/her so mom can have alone time or one-on-one time with your older child. Feeling torn between self-care, caring for a newborn, or caring for older children is very stressful. Again, stress is bad for breastfeeding. Switch things up so mom gets balanced time alone and with the kids.
The most important thing you can do is offer your love and support. Breastfeeding comes with ups and downs, and sometimes it is just plain hard. Even the most experienced mommy will go through tough phases and encounter new problems with each baby. If she starts talking about quitting, just let her know you will support her no matter what and ask what you can do to make things easier for her.