Contrary to popular and cultural belief, men are more than capable of being part of the breastfeeding process. They may not be involved in the same ways because, well, they don't have the physical ability to breastfeed. However, that doesn't mean they should be any less involved than they're able. In fact, there are many things men can do help their partner prepare for breastfeeding, so that their partner feels more confident and able to give breastfeeding a solid go.
Of course, this isn't to say that a man has to be involved in order for a woman to breastfeed. Women are more than capable (obviously) and sometimes what a woman needs most in order to breastfeed, is space and the ability to listen to her body and learn her baby. Still, and personally, I found breastfeeding too difficult to do on my own. Being a first time mom, exhausted and tired from labor and delivery, I was overwhelmed (to say the least). Thankfully, my partner served not only as emotional support for me throughout the entire process of breastfeeding, but even assisted me in preparing for it so when the time came to give it a shot, I didn't feel completely out of my element. He was proactive, helping me find ways to cope with different things I could potentially endure in an attempt to ease my worry (and any potential pain and stress I might inevitably feel). As a result, I felt like I could handle breastfeeding, despite the many difficulties I could ( and did) encounter.
Nothing bad ever came from showing a mother you support her and her choices. Plus, breastfeeding is an opportunity for bonding; not just between a mother and her baby, but between a mother and her partner. So, if your partner plans on breastfeeding, here are the ways you can help her prepare for the journey ahead.
Be Completely Supportive Of Your Partner's Choice To Breastfeed
Support is important, especially when you're about to start breastfeeding. If your partner does not feel supported, they may not feel like they can handle the task or any of the potential complications.
So, be supportive of them and their choice to breastfeed from the very beginning (like, before your baby is even born). In the end, whether or not a woman decides she wants to breastfeed is entirely her decision (as it is her body), so knowing she has a supportive partner behind your, who doesn't question her choice, will give her confidence in her decision.
Regularly Gives Her Positive Affirmations
Your partner may have doubts about their breastfeeding ability, before they've even started. They may be confident right up and until the moment they give birth, only to be filled with self-doubt when they're handed this tiny human and told to feed them with their body. I mean, that's a lot of responsibility and it can feel like a lot of pressure.
Be their biggest cheerleader. It will truly mean a lot to them. Self-doubt and motherhood go hand-in-hand, more often than not, so having someone to remind us all that, yes, we can do it, helps.
Constantly Boost Her Self-Confidence With Body Positive Mantras
When you are pregnant (and regardless of whether or not you're planning to breastfeed) your breasts are going to experience a significant change. It can be extremely difficult to remain body positive throughout a pregnancy and when you're experiencing these specific changes. After all, your partner has been used to her breasts looking one way and now, all of a sudden, they may look completely different. That can be a lot to handle.
So, be aware of how your partner is feeling about her body, and remind her that her body is beautiful because of the changes it's experiencing and the miraculous thing it's doing.
Don't Be Weird Or Make Awkward Jokes About Her Breasts And Breastfeeding
Don't be that guy, dude. Just, don't. Breastfeeding isn't sexual and breastfeeding isn't "inappropriate" and breastfeeding isn't something to shame, even in the name of "humor." Be an adult about it. Please.
Take A Breastfeeding Class With Her
Personally, if I want to feel more confident about my knowledge of a subject, I take a class or do research on it. Taking a breastfeeding class not only helps you and your partner learn the basics and necessities of breastfeeding, but also gives you an open opportunity to learn and grow together.
In other words, breastfeeding classes can be fun. They're just another thing you two are doing before the baby is born, to prepare for a pretty drastic life-change. Any one-on-one time is a good thing, trust me, so why not learn something simultaneously? Win-win.
Researches Potential Complications, And Breastfeeding Positions That Could Help
There's nothing wrong with doing your own research, just be somewhat careful and weary of the information you're receiving. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's automatically true.
However, if you're getting your information from a reputable site, your partner will be grateful. In times of panic (like when a milk duct is clogged or she can't get the baby to latch) another source of information, and one that doesn't involve Google or calling her mother, will be priceless.
Be Proactive With Learning Ways To Increase And Decrease Supply
It's impossible to know what your breastfeeding partner is going to encounter during her journey, but it doesn't hurt to prepare. If oversupply or undersupply ends up being an issue she is forced to encounter, she'll appreciate the fact that you stocked up on supplies that could help with supply, or other potential issues (like sore or cracked nipples).
Help Her Learn How To Use Her Pump
Pumping can be confusing. Putting together the pump can be confusing. Everything about that contraption (especially for a first-time mom that has never seen let alone used one before) can be confusing. Figure it out together. Your partner won't feel alone in her efforts, and you'll be able to assist her at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night, when she has to pump or her (it feels like) her boob will burst.
Encourage Her To Start A Routine That Will Allow Her To Get Plenty Of Sleep
When you're breastfeeding, you have to stay well-rested in order to be able to replenish your supply. After all, you are producing milk inside your body; that's a work out if I ever heard one!
By assisting your partner in setting up a routine that allows her to get plenty of rest (or as much as she can get with a breastfeeding newborn), no matter what the circumstances, you encourage her to put her needs first and make sure she is taking care of herself. That, my friends, is vital.
Help Her Find A Support Group
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your partner will need support from other breastfeeding moms who are literally going through the exact same she is. Gentlemen, don't take this personally, as this most certainly doesn't mean you've failed at providing your partner with the necessary support she needs. This simply things that she needs some assistance, support and perspective from fellow women, and in the end, no one knows more about breastfeeding than breastfeeding women.