From a Partner's POV
By Ceres Chill dad and Chief Marketing Officer Jarrod Gerhardt and guests
Photo by Mariel and Joey
As a boy growing up in a large family, I was always comfortable around pregnant women, babies, and breastfeeding. It was all very normal. But it was considered rude for me to take too much of an interest. It was believed that the men just wouldn’t have much to offer. That discomfort around men and breastfeeding is only the beginning of the mystery and taboos that surround it.
Fast forward to the birth of my first daughter. I wanted to be a good “modern” dad and husband. I thought I was doing all the right things. I took off all the time I could from work, took night shifts with our baby, changed a lot of diapers and bought whatever products I thought would make life easier for my wife and daughter. In short, I tried to be there for them.
However, when it came to breastfeeding, while I did my best to be supportive, I still believed I just didn’t have much to offer. So, when my wife started to experience the challenges that many breastfeeding parents do, I didn’t have any idea how to help and didn’t think it was my place to weigh in even if I did.
Photo from Janelle, MammaEase Founder
I started to realize that just as parents are embarking on this hugely challenging new phase for their family, they are inundated with messaging - both before and after birth - that sets up unrealistic expectations and creates feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. The culprits range from the process-driven medical community to eager companies marketing every possible breastfeeding elixir and breastmilk alternative. Unfortunately, the medical industry is just that: an industry looking to make a profit.
First things first: a supportive and involved partner makes a huge difference in the success of a new mother’s breastfeeding journey. AND...
1. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. In general, your partner's body is super in sync with the baby's needs and produces the perfect amount of breastmilk for baby.
2. Colostrum is breastmilk produced immediately after the baby is born and it's full of amazing nutrients. Even though it seems like it couldn't be enough, it is the perfect amount for a newborn baby.
3. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby. While sometimes it can be a rocky path, making sure that you support mom through it all will help her meet her feeding goals.
4. There are many sources available for good, basic breastfeeding information, including Ceres Chill's Baby Feeding Central.
5. Lactation professionals like certified lactation consultants and doulas are phenomenal resources who are well worth the investment to help new moms through the potential issues of breastfeeding. They're also great at just being reaffirming and telling her that she's doing a great job.
Ceres Chill dad Rick
Being endlessly supportive, empathetic and encouraging to your breastfeeding spouse goes without saying but here are a few more ways that you can help:
- Be present. Breastfeeding can feel very isolating at times, so let mom know that you are here for her.
- Pay attention. Both parents need to be fully aware of what the doctors, nurses, and lactation consultants are saying.
- Do the research. The more educated and informed you are, the better you will understand what is happening and how to help answer mom’s questions.
- Offer breaks. Breastfeeding can be very exhausting so offer to hold baby and let mom take a shower, eat hot food, or even go to the bathroom alone.
- Set boundaries. If family members want to visit your partner and baby, make sure that they are ready for that. Communicate with your family about days and times that work, and don't just leave it up to mom.
- Provide sustenance. Make sure mom gets the food and hydration she needs by cooking nutritious meals and keeping her favorite one-handed snacks and a full water bottle at her side during feeds.
- Encourage. Take the time to get to know the special new person mom has become and make sure to tell her how much you still love and are amazed by her.
- Get help when needed. If mom is stressed or in pain with breastfeeding, book an appointment with a local IBCLC for quality lactation care.
- Clean. If mom is pumping, make sure you know how to take apart, clean, and put the pump together and keep her favorite breastfeeding-friendly clothes clean.
- Let her sleep. Sleep is very important for rest and recovery so talk to your partner and figure out the nighttime schedule that works best for your family!
- Celebrate! With a new baby, each new milestone is a huge success, so make sure to celebrate even the smallest of wins.
Jarrod and his girls!
Being hands off or blithely supportive is not enough. Education is the key. To be a good partner, I needed to listen to the doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and doulas when they were explaining things to my wife. It’s a firehose of information and she shouldn’t have to try and take it all in on her own. As partners, we need to educate ourselves so we can be there for them, and eventually, for our daughters when they have children.
Well, suffice to say, we survived the challenges of breastfeeding our oldest. By the time our second child was born, I was much more involved because we should be the first line of defense to ensure our moms and babies are happy, healthy and confident.