When your partner is breastfeeding, your support impacts how long they continue nursing. Here’s what you can do to share the load, and help promote longer lasting and successful breastfeeding for the parent and baby you love.
When your partner is breastfeeding, your support is vital. After all, producing milk and nourishing a baby takes significant time and energy. And that's on top of other baby care tasks the breastfeeding parent completes.
Partners of breastfeeding parents have a strong influence on how long the breastfeeding parent continues nursing their baby. Whether you're the baby's dad, mom, parent, or even a grandparent or other caregiver in the home of someone who is breastfeeding, there's plenty you can do to share the load, and help promote longer lasting and successful breastfeeding for the parent and baby you love.
Here are some of our favorite ways you can support a breastfeeding partner.
1. Learn about breastfeeding.
Learning what to expect when your partner breastfeeds is one of the best ways to support them. The more you know, the more support you can give. This may involve attending breastfeeding classes together, attending lactation consultant appointments with them, talking to medical professionals, or reading up on your own (we've got plenty of articles on breastfeeding to help you out).
2. Create a dedicated feeding space for your partner.
Create a nursing area that lets your partner get comfortable and that has everything they need to breastfeed. You'll need a comfy chair or sofa, pillows, and a table. Set the table up so your partner can easily reach from their nursing seat. On that table, prep a reusable water bottle, snacks, and anything your partner says they would like within arm's reach during nursing.
3. Introduce a bottle to baby, and cover some feedings.
One easy way to share the load of feedings is to introduce a bottle to baby, after breastfeeding is well-established. This way, your partner doesn't have to feed baby every single time that baby is hungry, and can use that time for work, exercise, or self-care instead. You can even bottle-feed baby for the late night or early morning feeding, allowing your partner to get some much-needed sleep.
4. Assist your partner before and during nursing.
Whether you introduce a bottle or not, there's plenty you can do to help your partner right before and during breastfeeding sessions. You can bring your little one to your partner, help position baby for nursing, and make sure baby has a good latch.
And during the feed, be ready to grab anything your partner might need during nursing, whether that's cold compresses, tissues, water, a snack, cream, nursing pads, or something else.
5. Get to know your little one's hunger cues.
Knowing when baby is hungry means that you'll know when to hand baby to your partner for nursing – or when to grab a bottle and feed them yourself.
Baby is likely hungry when they:
- Turn their head to look for the breast or bottle
- Open and close their mouth
- Move their fists to their mouth
- Smack their lips
- Suck on their hands
- Become more active (fidget)
Look for and respond to these signs before baby starts crying, as crying may make it harder for baby to latch onto your partner's breast successfully.
6. Give some kangaroo care to baby.
Kangaroo care (also called skin-to-skin contact) is an awesome way for any parent to bond with baby, and provides a wealth of benefits for both you and your little one. Enjoying some bonding time with baby right after your partner breastfeeds lets your partner take that time to relax. This is also a great lead-up to help baby wind down, so you can then put them down for a nap after a feed.
7. Do tummy time with baby.
Tummy time is a fun playtime where baby is placed on their tummy and is encouraged to move around. This helps baby build the muscles they need to sit up, crawl, stand, and eventually walk. It's another great way to interact with baby while your partner takes some much-needed time for themself.
For activities to do with baby during tummy time, check out our tummy time guide.
8. Help with other baby care tasks.
There's plenty you can do to care for your little one beyond feeding, including:
- Changing your baby's diaper
- Giving baby an age-appropriate bath
- Holding baby and rocking them, talking to them, or singing to them
- Burping baby
- Changing baby's clothes
- Putting baby down for naps, as well as for their nighttime sleep
- Going for a walk with baby in a stroller, carrier, or sling
- Introducing solids once your baby and your partner are ready (the first solids intro will happen alongside continued breastfeeding!)
Helping your partner with these tasks will give them much-needed time to rest and recover – and give you more chances to bond with baby, too. This will help baby feel secure around both of you, and develop a lifelong attachment to both of you.
9. Take on other household responsibilities.
Whether it's cooking, vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, or other chores, taking on household responsibilities will help your partner focus on caring for baby and help them not feel overwhelmed. It's vital to share this load all the time, but when your partner is breastfeeding, they have a lot more on their plate.
Especially if you work outside the home, you can also ask friends and other members of the family if they would like to lend a hand with these tasks.
10. Spend time with your other child(ren).
If you have at least one older child, keep them occupied so your partner can focus on breastfeeding. Read them a story, walk with them, play a game, play outside, or even cook or bake with them. Your kid(s) will appreciate this focused time with you, too!
11. Get food and water ready for your partner.
Successful breastfeeding takes nourishment, so cooking nutritious, filling meals is an excellent way to support your partner. They'll also appreciate it if you bring them healthy snacks before, during, and after their nursing sessions, to keep their energy up.
Also, make sure that your partner is drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Good hydration is essential to maintaining milk supply. Filling up glasses, or a reusable water bottle, for your partner throughout the day will remind them to keep drinking water.
12. Respect their basic needs.
This is one of the simplest items on this list, but arguably the most important. The basic needs of food, rest, bathing/showering, self-care time, and time alone become even more precious when someone is giving so much of themself to their baby.
Regularly check in with your partner to make sure their needs are met, and ask what you can do to help if they are having trouble meeting those needs.
13. Set and honor boundaries.
Setting boundaries means limiting guests so your partner can rest, as well as answering the phone and door on their behalf and saying that your partner can't talk right now.
Be sure to honor your partner's personal boundaries as well, particularly when it comes to physical touch. Some might want more affection since they're giving out lots of love to their baby. But others don't want much physical touch during this time. Listen to what your partner prefers.
14. Speak up on your partner's behalf.
If a family member or stranger makes discouraging comments about your partner's decision to breastfeed, speak up to counter those comments and support your partner. Remind those people that it's your partner's choice to breastfeed, and it's only up to your partner to make that decision.
15. Be your partner's cheerleader.
Remind your partner often that they're doing a great job, and that you're proud of them. A little encouragement goes a long way!
16. Encourage your partner to seek other help if needed.
If your partner struggles with breastfeeding, encourage them to see a lactation consultant. You might also help them connect with parents who have experienced similar difficulties.
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