When talking about breastfeeding we naturally spend a lot of time and energy working with, talking to, and sharing about women and babies so it may come as a surprise to you to hear that I feel breastfeeding is not a women’s issue, rather a humanitarian issue. Which means it’s a men’s issue too. Breastfeeding may seem like it’s about moms and babies but in reality breastfeeding is about the family and all of humanity. It matters not just to those doing it and those receiving it but the value of breastfeeding extends to those that used to breastfeed, those who support those who breastfeed, those who know someone who breastfeeds, those who love someone who breastfeeds, and those that helped make the baby that breastfeeds.
Partners, this post’s for you.
I thought about having Jeremy write a post on dads and breastfeeding related to Father’s Day but that was about the equivalent of saying “hey, it’s the holiday to celebrate you… here’s more work for you to do!” Instead we’re heading down the “brag about your partner” path.
Recent research suggests that one of the most important contributing factors in a woman reaching her breastfeeding goals is the support she receives. Those closest to her and health care professionals can have the most impact on her breastfeeding experience. Partners, this means you! Your role in breastfeeding, even though you’re not the one putting the baby to your breast, is not to be minimized. You matter, a lot. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you help support a mom according to her needs, she will fall more in love with you. Check out this thread on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page to see more about that. Women are strong and determined and are equipped to breastfeed just fine on their own without support but when we don’t have to… it’s a beautiful thing.
I’m confident I could breastfeed just fine without The Piano Man’s support but I am grateful I have my partner’s support non the less. With so much emphasis put on being a “real man” in culture today it could be easy for him to not be willing to support me breastfeeding or think there’s no room for his involvement but his role is important, valuable. Real man? There is little I find more attractive than an involved partner, equally parenting in a setting of equal support and respect for each other’s contribution in the family. That’s sexy. And totally worth celebrating.
Eighteen ways to support your breastfeeding partner and bond with your baby
- bath time- a favorite recommendation for the non-breastfeeding partner is bath time. It gives mom a break, accomplishes an important tasks, creates an opportunity for skin-to-skin, and can’t be multitasked.
- play time- even from the time they are first born, babies play. The method just changes. As newborns, talk to them, hold a toy steady for them to examine, holding them securely rock and dance with them. As they grow, the play becomes more active. I love watching my husband play with our children no matter what their age, they bond, I get a break, and I see the tender, fun-loving side of my husband that I love so much.
- get her water and make her be comfortable for feedings- breastfeeding is primarily between the mom and baby but there is no reason others can’t be involved. Sit with them, talk with them, physically support her and metaphorically support her, be involved in the connection. Even if it is 2am. By taking care of her by getting her water, snacks, pillows, or anything else she needs, you are involved in the feeding and care of your child.
- learn about breastfeeding- read the science behind breastfeeding and encourage her by sharing that information. Find resources and share them with her, learn what a proper latch looks like, and ask her what you can do to help. If she’s pumping, help set up the pump and wash parts. You don’t have to be left out but you may have to involve yourself.
- encourage her- think your partner breastfeeding is amazing? TELL HER. Do you think the expression on her face when she looks at your baby at her breast is beautiful? Let her know. Are you proud of her? Respect her? Communicating your support and doing so often goes a long way in her feeling like you’re really present.
- make the call- is she struggling with breastfeeding? Is she in pain? Worried? Find the name and number of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and make the call. Then get her to the appointment. You could be responsible for saving that breastfeeding relationship.
- run interference- is there an annoying individual pressuring her to use formula? Find ways to keep them at bay. Has someone criticized her breastfeeding? Ask her if she wants you to say something or just wants your quiet support while she stands up for herself. In those early days, help her get the rest she needs and hold the boundaries for her to heal from birth well so she can focus on establishing her milk supply.
- adjust expectations- things have changed, her body, the family dynamic, sleep, you name it. Having your expectations remain the same simply isn’t realistic and it could greatly damage your relationship. For everyone, have a discussion about realistic expectations in everything from financial decisions to responsibilities, from conversations to chores, from physical intimacy to sleep. Be real and be flexible and you will all end up stronger.
- massage- offer to give your partner a back rub and even if she’s touched out, she’ll probably welcome that physical closeness. Learn infant massage and give your partner some space to herself while you soothe and care for your child. Massage is powerful.
- send her away- if baby is fed, consider sending your breastfeeding partner out of the house for an hour or so while you take on all the care. Bonding with your baby while she’s gone and giving her some time to hear her own thoughts can strengthen you all.
- cosleep- while it may not be for everyone, done safely, cosleeping provides the space for some deep connections for the family. Do your research before making the decision and if you cosleep make it an intentional choice (not falling asleep on accident on the couch with your newborn) and you’ll find it simplifies breastfeeding at night and puts you right there to not miss out on any of the night time parenting opportunities.
- get up- maybe you could sleep through all the night time feedings but if you wake and help get baby (if they aren’t right there in the bed with you already) then you become the promise of milk for your hungry baby. It can be pretty lonely feeding a baby in the middle of the night, don’t miss out on the chance to be present with them. Get up, change the diaper, hand baby to mom, get her a drink of water, and keep her company before you go back to sleep. Everyone will think you’re pretty awesome.
- solids- when it’s time to introduce solids, get involved in the action! However you decide to get your baby started on solids (check out baby led weaning or baby led solids- SO fun!) there’s lots of room for the non breastfeeding partner to take the led. You’ll have a blast and so will your baby and chances are strong your partner will love watching you help your baby explore new tastes.
- do some chores- think about it this way, if you help with the stuff around the house like dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc., you free up more time for all of you to connect and rest. This will help your bond with your child by modeling healthy adult behavior and balance and by making sure their mother isn’t too drained and stressed. This will help your bond with your partner because while doing the dishes isn’t exactly sexy, her NOT having to do them is.
- diaper changes- sure, it’s poop and pee but it happens regularly and is a great opportunity for face to face interactions. Hearing my husband talk to our baby or make silly faces that make them laugh as he changes their diaper always makes me smile. I love that he’s such a good dad.
- cook- whatever it is, learn to cook something and do it regularly. Humans bond over food which is part of why breastfeeding is such a bonding experience but it doesn’t stop there. Cooking for your partner and your children forges deeper connections, sharing that meal together (and expressing gratitude for the one that prepared the food!) is sharing a nourishment that reaches the soul.
- soothe- if, for some strange reason, the breast can’t soothe your upset child at some point, take a turn trying to soothe them. I’m not sure how but my husband has a magical soothing touch and there has been a point with all of our children where he is the only one that can comfort them and get them to settle to sleep. Even the boob won’t work. When he gets them calmed, I’m calm knowing they were in the arms of someone that loves them as much as I do.
- babywearing- all the celebrities are doing, wearing a baby is the trendiest accessory these days. Seriously though, get a carrier you feel comfortable in and take turns with your parter having your baby attached to your body.
My friend Jamie Grumet from I Am Not the Babysitter celebrates these involved partners too and I just love her “Real Men of AP” series highlighting attached dads, see her post about her husband Brian, A Real Man of AP. From babywearing to breastfeeding support, Real Men of AP are the partners that aren’t afraid to forge deep connections with their children, biological or otherwise, even if it means bucking what society tells them is required to be a “real man.” Nurturing, giving, and in tune, these guys step up their manliness factor not in spite of but because they participate in tea parties, run the vacuum, and with lots of cuddles.
This post went live Thursday and then vanished as a result of some technical problems. Preparing our eldest daughter to leave for the rest of the summer, I tried to juggle the issues with the site and having my attention focused on her and getting her ready to leave on Father’s Day. The Piano Man encouraged me to let it go and just be present with my family. So this post is late, very late, but somehow it feels right that it’s so late because it was my very own Real Man of AP that saw my stress in the midst of it all and reminded me of what’s really important and I took the time needed to pour into my family and it was good for my heart. When I think of the guy I co-parent with I see the guy that helps me be the kind of parent I want to be even when external circumstances make that challenging. A man that reminds me it can be ok to disappoint others in some areas so I can be so present with my family. Today that’s what I think of when I think of my Real Man of AP.
The Leaky Boob is teaming up with Jamie and Beco Baby Carrier for a great giveaway and sharing information about how to form strong connections with our children. We want to see the Real Men in your life and how they are attached and connecting with your children, whatever that looks like. Then on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10am Central, we’re having a live chat sponsored by Beco Baby Carrier with Jamie Grumet from I am not The Babysitter about developing those attachments with our children, babywearing, discussing attachment parenting, and taking a look at parenting beyond a theory or philosophy in the real world. Share your images and stories of a Real Man of AP and enter for a chance to win one of 3 Beco Soleils (retail value $130/each) and attach drool pads, a coordinating hood, and an infant insert with accessory pack (retail value $40/each) and you can keep the attachment going with a carry-all bag (retail value $25/each) that attaches to the carrier. Let’s show the world what a Real Man of AP looks like, use the hashtag #RealMenofAP on twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and FB so we all can see (and tag us!) and we’ll share our favorite images on the Facebook pages of I Am Not the Babysitter, Beco Baby Carrier, and The Leaky Boob and visit the Real Men of AP tumblr.
Quick info on the Beco Soleil:
- 3 carry positions: front, hip, and back.
- Built-in waist belt pocket, key and toy ring
- Carries 7-45lbs
- Carrier weight 1.1lbs
- Material: 100% cotton
- Seat: 16″ and 17″ tall
- Shoulder straps extending from 18″ to 45″
- Waist belt extending from 27″ to 59″
- Recommended fit for adults 5′ to 6′ 5″
- Compatible accessories: hood, drool pads, infant insert, carry-all
Good luck and we look forward to seeing and hearing your pictures and stories! See the widget below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway