It can be hard for new dads and co-parents to know how to help when a new mom’s exclusively breastfeeding, but there are plenty of ways to get involved. Amy O’Malley, RN, MSN, director of education and clinical services at Medela, Inc., and David O’Malley, operations manager at J & A Cartage, share their advice for the nonnursing half of a baby-raising duo.
Learn about breastfeeding
Get schooled on different ways to breastfeed and common challenges that come with a new baby, such as finding the right position and establishing a milk supply (and the worries that often follow with having enough milk in the early days). Understanding what mom is struggling with means you can figure it out together.
Take baby while she pumps
Mom may choose to pump breast milk for when she goes back to work or to offer you the chance to bottle-feed, an important role that not only gives her a break and some emotional support, but also helps you learn baby’s hunger cues. Designate pumping sessions as your special one-on-one time with the baby; it’ll become a ritual you both look forward to and help mom know she can stay focused on the task at hand.
Be on cleanup duty
Watch for breast pump parts, nursing accessories and bottles to pile up in the sink (it will happen quickly and often in the postpartum period!), then pitch in with cleanup, so it’s all ready to go when needed. It’s one of the easier ways dad can remain a helpful breastfeeding partner. (You can also get older children in on helping with this baby-care task. Just ensure they have clean hands and are able to follow safe bottle-cleaning procedures properly.)
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Get up at night and help where you can
Support mom during those late-night feedings by bringing baby to her (and changing that diaper after) or offering to take on a bottle session, so she can pump instead. You can also offer to fetch a glass of water (she’s always thirsty!), burp baby intermittently, or get him back to sleep after a few cuddles. Just being present during the night hours is meaningful—not to mention helpful—to a new mother. If you’re unsure where to plugin at night, have a discussion with her and see where she most appreciates the assistance.
Give her space to catch her breath
First-time moms—especially breastfeeding moms—need to take five minutes periodically to be alone and recenter. (Better yet, take baby on a walk around the block and give her 30 minutes—and the house —to herself!) This instantly helps her feel less overwhelmed and is important to practice over the course of her breastfeeding journey.