Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't always come as second-nature. For some moms, myself included, it takes a lot of practice, patience and support. When your baby is born, your body is still recovering from childbirth and your mind is trying to understand how your heart can so desperately love this new little creature. But before you can take it all in, a nurse is stuffing your nipple into a crying baby's mouth while a room full of people stare and throw out advice. When this is going on, the one thing a partner can do to help breastfeeding moms is simple: be your partner's advocate.
What does it mean to be your partner's advocate? It means doing what is best for your spouse according to her wishes.
It means that when you hear someone giving your partner unsolicited or unwelcome advice, you kindly intervene on her behalf. And, even if your mom adores her new grandchild and wants to come over every day, you ask her in the gentlest way to limit visits so that your partner can have time to rest and bond with the baby. It means doing the same for when well-meaning great aunts and chatty long-distance cousins call.
Being your partner's advocate is loading the dishwasher, or tossing in a load of laundry without being asked. It is making her favorite meal, or ordering take-out so that she doesn't have to juggle a newborn baby and a frying pan. It is taking the baby for a walk so that she can take a long hot shower or nap for an hour.
Advocating for your partner is being supportive in her decision to exclusively breastfeed, to pump, to supplement with formula or to stop breastfeeding altogether. It means not making her feel like a failure if she can't ever get the hang of it, nor making her feel like a hippie-dippy crunchy mom for nursing passed a year.
Even though it is only one thing, being an advocate is many things.
It is still seeing her as beautiful, even if has leaky milk stains on her tee shirt, greasy hair, and bags under her eyes. It is appreciating all that she has sacrificed -- sleep, her figure, perky breasts and her once tiny and perfectly round belly button, to bring a life into this world.
It is loving her more today than yesterday, and showing her that you do by doing the little things that make a big difference.