Breastfeeding can be a struggle that takes weeks, and sometimes months, to master. In fact, it took me three whole children to finally get into the "it's no big deal" phase of breastfeeding. So if you have a partner, it's vital that they remain consistently supportive. And how can our partners be supportive if us breastfeeding moms don't tell them what we need? I want to help, my newfound friend, so I'll share the things every every breastfeeding mom wants her partner to know. In fact, she doesn't just want her partner to know the following, she needs her partner to know the following.
I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that not all breastfeeding people identify as moms, or that there isn't a whole galaxy of people out there who breastfeed and who span the great length of the gender spectrum. So really, whatever a breastfeeding mom wants her partner to know, applies to any person who breastfeeds and has a partner. Yay inclusivity, right?
So now that we got that out of the way, first thing's first: there are some things that your partner will just never be able to get if they've never done it before. So you may just have to settle for your partner acknowledging that they don't know what you're going through, while accepting and supporting you anyway. Personally, I choose my battles. Some days I really need my partner to get it, get me, get the bodily autonomy I'm consistently giving up from the day I start breastfeeding (hell, let's face it, from the day I first became pregnant). On those days, this is what I need my partner to know about breastfeeding:
Sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, sometimes just in the things I give up to make breastfeeding happen (including bodily autonomy), nursing isn't always some beautiful, pleasant experience. Sometimes it's painful, and it ways that are difficult to imagine until you have a tiny human being attached to your boobs at all hours of the day and night.
It Helps If You Don't Talk To Me
Not all the time, but a lot of the time what a breastfeeding mother needs is silence. Especially if the baby is distracted, I really need to focus on getting them to latch instead of whatever story you've randomly decided to share. I know that probably feels like I'm not listening to you, or don't value your stories, and I'm truly sorry for that. But I sacrifice my body for this child, so you can sacrifice my undivided attention. You can support me by holding your thought until I have the mental capacity to listen.
Pumping Is Torture
Yes at first it's physically almost unbearable, but the torture I'm speaking of is that emotional torture. It's dehumanizing to be connected to a machine for months on end. It's demoralizing to have your bosses judge you — while insisting they don't judge you — for needing to take a break every 2-4 hours. It's exhausting to never actually have a break from work or life because all those breaks are taken up with pumping or breastfeeding.
I Will Eat More
Did you know you burn 300-500 calories a day while breastfeeding, according to Women's Health Magazine? Some people who breastfeed (author raises hand) actually get hunger pains that rival even the most ravenous of pregnancy cravings. Take it in stride. If your partner is just starting her breastfeeding relationship with your child, perhaps you should think about spoon feeding her while she does it. I'm not even semi-joking.
Breastfeeding is actually exhausting work. That exhaustion doesn't go away the longer you do it, either. So it's safe to assume that when a child is attached to my boob, was just attached to my boob, or is about to attach themselves to my boob, I am tire AF.
I Could Always Use A Nap
Relatedly, I could always use a nap. I know you're tired, too, but please don't make me ask for a nap all the time. Offering one will get you all the existing brownie points.
I Love It, But I Hate It
This wasn't always the case, but I truly love my breastfeeding relationship with my child. Each breastfeeding relationship is filled with ups and downs. It's complicated and no one person has the same experience twice. These above things may be true for your partner, or they may not be. Or they may be true with one child, but not the next. So if you want to know what your partner really needs you to know about breastfeeding? Ask them.
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