I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have, but I didn’t understand (how could I?) how much work breastfeeding would actually be. That is, until I started actually doing it, and I found that I understood all too well. I'd heard over and over again that having a supportive partner was one of the keys to breastfeeding success, but I couldn’t really imagine what support I'd need or what form that would take. Did it just mean that you needed a partner who wouldn’t be a jerk about it and constantly suggest that you try formula? Did it mean a partner who would listen to me talk about all of my feelings about breastfeeding and assure me that I was doing a good job? I honestly had no clue.
After I started breastfeeding my baby, I realized that while those things were important, the support a good partner could provide was more that just emotional. Partners, it turned out, could also provide very real physical and material support for a new breastfeeding parent. My own wife was extremely supportive, and while of course she listened to me and comforted me and never waved bottles in my face, the most important breastfeeding support my partner gave me may seem simple, but it's a huge part of what made it possible for my breastfeeding relationship with my son to thrive — she gave me food.
Yep, you read that right. The best and most powerful thing my wife has done to preserve the breastfeeding relationship between me and our son has been simply feeding me.
When I started breastfeeding (and even now), the breastfeeding hunger completely took over my life. If you’ve breastfed, you know what I’m talking about. Eating regularly and often is a huge, huge deal. Most breastfeeding parents actually need more additional calories to make all that milk than they ever did to gestate a fetus. Which roughly translates to: Oh, honey you thought you were hungry while you were pregnant? Just wait!
She did the only thing that a supportive partner could do in that situation: She fed me. My wife took care of me all throughout my miserable pregnancy and we'd both hoped that my needs would get a little less intense once the baby was on the outside. But that wasn’t what happened, and she — admirably and bravely — stepped into the void and gave me the only thing I needed.
From the moment my milk came in, I felt like I was starving all the time. Which is to say nothing of the thirst, which was also intense as hell, because breast milk is literally fluid that comes out of your body and it needs to be replaced. A dehydrated, hangry, and often dizzy, new mother simply cannot bring her best game for her new baby — and that was exactly what happened to me at first. I was pretty miserable. When I didn’t eat enough, or often enough, I was a total mess. It made it harder to care for my baby, it made it harder to breastfeed, and it made the postpartum depression that I was already suffering from a hell of a lot harder.
And so she did the only thing that a supportive partner could do in that situation: She fed me. My wife took care of me all throughout my miserable pregnancy and we'd both hoped that my needs would get a little less intense once the baby was on the outside. But that wasn’t what happened, and she — admirably and bravely — stepped into the void and gave me the only thing I needed. With smoothies and veggie burgers and fruit juice and ice cream and all manner of delicious snacks, she cared for me once again. When she wanted to be cuddling her newborn, when she may have even felt jealous of the closeness of our breastfeeding bond, she ferreted food up to me from the kitchen, and delivered it to me where I sat, forever wrapped in my breastfeeding pillow.
I thought that we were going to save money by choosing to breastfeed rather than spending all that money on formula, but let me tell you, I think in real life we ended up spending all that money on extra food to keep me from passing out.
Beyond just nourishing my body, her nonstop snack runs were a constant reminder that she was 100 percent on board with this whole breastfeeding adventure, and that she had my back in every possible way.
And so we settled into a routine. She fed me, and therefore I was able to feed the baby. It wasn’t just something nice she was doing for me (though it was very nice!), it was what she did to make sure her baby was fed. Without that care, I’m honestly not sure that I would have been successful at breastfeeding long term. Beyond just nourishing my body, her nonstop snack runs were a constant reminder that she was 100 percent on board with this whole breastfeeding adventure, and that she had my back in every possible way. It also was a simple, if not always easy, way she could communicate that she appreciated all of the work I was putting into breastfeeding. Because breastfeeding is freaking work. So when she offered to grab me a snack, or make dinner, or grab takeout, I felt seen and loved and understood.
These days, thankfully, it isn’t quite as intense. Our child is now old enough to enjoy solid foods as well as regular breastfeeding sessions, and I’m more or less used to my body’s different needs. Some nights I can even volunteer to make dinner. But if our baby is teething, or not feeling well, and he goes back to breastfeeding on demand around the clock, I’m right back to being the hungriest person on earth. And on those days? My partner still has my back, and the number of the pizza delivery place, and that makes all the difference in the world.