While breastfeeding is championed as a low-maintenance way of feeding a newborn, you need much more than a boob and a baby to make it work. In fact, without a proper support system nursing becomes exponentially more difficult. For example, I had a hard time getting even the basics down. And because I was simultaneously suffering from postpartum depression (PPD), nursing was a never-ending uphill battle. That's why the tiny ways my partner showed me he appreciated me when I was breastfeeding went a long way. Those small acts of compassion and kindness were the difference between me quitting nursing altogether, and continuing to work toward my breastfeeding goals.
I can't describe my time spent breastfeeding as pleasant, And, sadly, I can't say it was successful either. I did all the things I was told I need to do — talking to the lactation consultant, practicing the perfect latch, breastfeeding as often as possible — and I still felt like a lost amateur at best. And in the end, and due to my postpartum depression, I did ultimately stop breastfeeding. It became too much of a struggle, interfered with the bond I was trying to establish with my baby, and made it damn near impossible for me to practice anything even remotely resembling self-care. And while I did pump so I could feed my baby breast milk via a bottle, I carried a lot of guilt with me because I wasn't breastfeeding like I was "supposed to."
But during those months when I stuck with it, and struggled to nurse the way I had planned, my partner did some small but ultimately important things to remind me that I wasn't in it alone. I never forgot those things, and still cherish the moments when I felt 100 percent supported. No matter what.
He Sat With Me
One of the most supportive, kind things a partner can do for their breastfeeding partner, especially if they want to show their appreciation, is to just be there. Breastfeeding is exhausting and all-consuming. Meeting the demands of a newborn takes every bit of time, energy, and emotional labor a mom can give. So when my partner woke up in the middle of the night after a long day at work, I knew he wanted to be there for me the only way that he could.
He Offered Me Water
Offering water or a snack might seem like a minuscule action, but breastfeeding meant I was tied to a specific position and spot for a length of time I couldn't anticipate. If my partner brought me something to eat or dink, without me asking, I knew it was his way of thanking me.
He Gave Me Massages
I got all kinds of kinks in my neck and shoulders from breastfeeding. My daughter didn't get the latch right for a the first couple weeks of her life, and I could never get the breastfeeding pillow positioned correctly so we were both comfortable. I'm grateful my partner sensed my discomfort and stepped in to relieve my sore muscles so I 'd be fresh for the next session.
He Asked How He Could Help
I don't think it's impossible for a partner to look around, assess the situation, and figure out how they can help a breastfeeding mom all on their own. As lactating women with a baby forever attached to our bodies, we shouldn't have to tell another grown-ass human being how they can be supportive.
But when your partner is already helping as often as he or she can, and they ask what else they can do to relieve your stress, be more involved, and be a better partner, it's obvious that they want to go the extra mile. I know that my partner was thankful for the hard work I was doing, and he wanted to respond in kind.
He Picked Up The Slack Around The House
Life doesn't stop just because you're breastfeeding. We still had laundry to wash, meals to cook, errands to run, and every other tedious responsibility of adulthood to consider. Thankfully, there were plenty of times my partner jumped in to do the work — again, without being asked — so that I could focus on the baby and my own self-care.
He Ran The Errands
When I was postpartum I didn't want anything to do with leaving the house unless it was absolutely necessary. So when my partner did all the things I'd normally do — go to the store, the post office, the bank — it took such a load off my list of responsibilities and, as a result, made breastfeeding a little easier.
He Constantly Praised My Efforts
My postpartum depression took one look at the breastfeeding plans I had made, laughed, and then threw those plans out the window. There were many days I wasn't sure if I could pull myself out of bed, let alone breastfeed. But I took great comfort in my partner's ability to make me feel like I was making the right decisions, doing the best I could, and being the mother my daughter needed.
And that, dear reader, made all the difference.
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